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Archive for Thursday, December 30, 1999

JAYHAWKS TO PLAY AT KEMPER

December 30, 1999

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— Kansas hopes to atone for last year's loss to Saint Louis by beating the Billikens and high-scoring Justin Love tonight.

A double-digit loss to Saint Louis sticks out as one of the low points for Kansas University's men's basketball team a year ago.

"It was a painful game. It was miserable," KU junior center Eric Chenowith said, recalling a 78-64 setback last Dec. 23 at a sold-out Kiel Center in St. Louis, Mo.

To a man, the Jayhawks felt as if they'd let down senior guard Ryan Robertson, who lost to his brother Troy's team just outside the duo's hometown of St. Charles, Mo.

In addition, the deflating loss took place right before Christmas break, meaning the Jayhawks had to worry about their coach holding some killer practices upon their return from holiday vacation.

"They really kicked us," KU coach Roy Williams said. "It was 14 points and I don't think it was that close."

The No. 10-ranked Jayhawks (9-2) will definitely have revenge on their minds as they take on Saint Louis (7-3) in tonight's Sprint Shootout. Tipoff is 8:05 p.m. at Kemper Arena.

"Anytime somebody beats me I use it. You want to get that bad taste out of your mouth," Williams said. "If somebody beats us the last time, you don't want them to think it's going to become a normal thing.

"I used it against Nebraska last year and Nebraska beat us twice in a row. It doesn't make any difference. You've still got to play."

Last year, guard Justin Love scored 24-points on 7-of-10 shooting while playing just 17 minutes. His violent dunk at the end of the game brought the house down.

"We made him a hero last year. He was good from that moment on," Williams said of Love, a 6-2 senior from San Francisco and a teammate of KU's Ashante Johnson at California's Canada College. "It looks like he's picked up where he left off against us last year."

Love -- he scored 31 points in a one-point loss at Kansas State -- averages a team-leading 18.4 points on 46.8 percent shooting.

"He can shoot. He's a powerful kid. He takes it to the basket, mid range and will shoot the three," Williams said.

Love has hit 18 of 44 threes.

"Love is a guy who can shoot the jumper and nail it," said first-year Billiken coach Lorenzo Romar. He took over for Charlie Spoonhour who retired after last season. "He can flash to the basket and score in transition, post up on the block. He is our leader in assists (35) and steals (17)."

Just one other Billken -- 6-7 juinor Justin Tatum averages double-figure scoring (11.4 ppg).

Saint Louis has quality wins over Air Force (78-70), Alabama (78-70), Missouri (75-72) and Dayton (83-74) and losses to Kansas State (69-68), Cincinnati (79-64) and Louisiana Tech (68-60).

"Our team is evolving," said Romar, elated after the Billikens' pre-Christmas break win at Dayton. "We can take care of the ball a little better and defensively we can and will get better."

The Billikens have averaged 18 turnovers a game.

"It's definitely a challenge. We play Kansas, which is not only a top 10 team, but a team sitting and waiting for us at home," Romar said. "Any time you play a team once a year and they win the game, you know the next time you play you will not be able to just lay down and win the game. I'm sure they are going to come after us, be ready to go and be fired up."

The Jayhawks are refreshed mentally after spending three days with their family members over Christmas.

"It was good to get away from basketball a couple days," KU frosh Nick Collison said. The Jayhawks returned from a Christmas break and practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. "It was good for us physically and mentally to get a break. I think we're all ready to get out there again and play a game. We'd like to go to Kansas City and play well."

-- Gary Bedore's phone number is 832-7186. His e-mail address is gbedore@ljworld.com

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