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Archive for Friday, November 29, 2002

Jayhawks eager for second chance

November 29, 2002

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— Kansas UniversityâÂÂs menâÂÂs basketball players had a lot to be thankful for on Thursday.

The Jayhawksâ blessings included turkey and dressing and an up-close look at the festive MacyâÂÂs Thanksgiving Day Parade from team headquarters at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.

Another item - perhaps No. 1 on the âÂÂWhat weâÂÂre most thankful forâ list - is a chance for the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks to play another game tonight, less than 48 hours after a depressing 67-56 loss to North Carolina in a Preseason NIT semifinal at Madison Square Garden.

âÂÂThis game is over. WeâÂÂve got a Top 10 team to play now,â sophomore Keith Langford said of KUâÂÂs 5:30 p.m. consolation contest against No. 8 Florida, which will not be televised.

âÂÂIf we keep sulking over this loss, weâÂÂre going to lose again. WeâÂÂve got to come out hard and get this game.âÂÂ

While Kansas is grateful for the opportunity to rid itself of the sting of defeat, a victory wonâÂÂt come easy.

KU, which hasnâÂÂt dropped two straight games in November in the entire Roy Williams era, faces a Florida team that is expected to contend for SEC and national championships.

The Gators were shocked by Stanford, 69-65, on Wednesday in the first NIT semifinal. Stanford will play Carolina for the title at 8 p.m.

âÂÂLike us, I think Florida was expected to win. TheyâÂÂll be hungry and weâÂÂll be hungry,â KU red-shirt freshman guard Jeff Hawkins said.

The Jayhawks are hoping modern history will repeat itself.

A year ago, KU won 13 in a row after a season-opening loss to Ball State in the Maui Invitational.

âÂÂWeâÂÂll be hungry for this game just like last year,â Hawkins said. âÂÂWhen we lost to Ball State, we kind of figured itâÂÂd be the easy win. I think (Wednesday) we thought itâÂÂd be an easy win because they (Tar Heels) were playing three freshmen and two sophomores.âÂÂ

The losing locker rooms after the Ball State and Carolina games were similarly somber, with one exception.

Last year, the Jayhawks were disappointed in their play, but also could point to cramps sustained by Nick Collison and Aaron Miles in a hot Maui gym as one reason for the shocking loss to the Cardinals.

A year ago there was no hint of any possible internal woes. On Wednesday, senior Kirk Hinrich mentioned this, thus far, had been a bad trip to New York with unnamed players showing late for scheduled team activities.

âÂÂI canâÂÂt tell why people are doing things,â senior forward Collison said. âÂÂThis is going to change. Our team ... we all know last year we came back and played well (after losing to BSU). ItâÂÂs what weâÂÂve got to do this year.âÂÂ

As said, it wonâÂÂt be easy to right KUâÂÂs wrongs against Florida.

The Gators boast Fab freshmen Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson, who had been sensational in averaging 23.0 and 16.5 points a game respectively in wins against Louisiana Tech, Eastern Illinois and Coastal Carolina.

However, Roberson, 6-foot-1 from Saginaw, Mich., hit just 1-of-13 shots and scored just five versus Stanford. Walsh, 6-6 from Holland, Pa., had 17 points off 5-of-11 shooting.

David Lee, a 6-9 sophomore forward from St. Louis, who considered Kansas two years ago in recruiting, had eight points versus Stanford. He averages 12.3 points and eight boards.

âÂÂThese guys had a taste of success, but I hope they are humbled by their performance,â said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who like KU coach Roy Williams was disappointed in his teamâÂÂs play Wednesday.

âÂÂNow you find out what type guys you have in your program. This can be a great experience. I hope it humbles our team. Now itâÂÂs time to bounce back.âÂÂ

For KU to bounce back, the Jayhawks will have to perform a lot better than last game and some recent practices.

âÂÂIâÂÂve been disappointed in some things that have gone on recently in our practices and preparations,â Williams said, âÂÂand I had hoped we didnâÂÂt have to have this kind of wake-up call but I guess weâÂÂll find out in the next three or four weeks.

âÂÂWe play what I feel is at least one of the toughest schedules in the country. If we play like we did (versus UNC) it doesnâÂÂt make any difference if itâÂÂs a wake-up call or not. If we bounce back and focus on what we are doing and get guys that are in the starting lineup to do the little things that I talked to them about doing, we have a chance to come back and be a very good team.âÂÂ

Collison said he will take a major role in the Jayhawks bouncing back.

âÂÂI take a lot of responsibility for that, not getting the guys ready to go,â said Collison. âÂÂWe are going to be ready to play the next game.âÂÂ

As far as the last game, North Carolina spread the floor and blew by the Jayhawks for many monster dunks on offense. Defensively, the Tar Heels had no problem slowing KUâÂÂs running game.

âÂÂWe didnâÂÂt play well. We didnâÂÂt make good decisions. They made us look silly,â Williams said. âÂÂMaybe we were believing what everybody was saying about how good we are. We got poor play from the bench, poor play from the starters. So many times we had it at point-blank range and couldnâÂÂt finish because itâÂÂs the first time weâÂÂve been challenged all year.

âÂÂItâÂÂs something weâÂÂve been worried about. I want us to be challenged at practice. Our big guys shot a terrible percentage. It was not a good game for us.âÂÂ

Collison hit 7-of-11 shots for 19 points, while Wayne Simien hit 5-of-14 attempts for 11 points.

âÂÂThe only good thing that can come out of this is unfortunately this happened last year and we were able to bounce back,â Simien said. âÂÂWeâÂÂll have to take whatever good we can out of this. We have another game to play and a lot more tough ones after that. WeâÂÂve got to get tougher starting now.âÂÂ

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