New York Kansas UniversityÃ¢ÂÂs menÃ¢ÂÂs basketball players had a lot to be thankful for on Thursday.
The JayhawksÃ¢ÂÂ blessings included turkey and dressing and an up-close look at the festive MacyÃ¢ÂÂs Thanksgiving Day Parade from team headquarters at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.
Another item - perhaps No. 1 on the Ã¢ÂÂWhat weÃ¢ÂÂre most thankful forÃ¢ÂÂ 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.
Ã¢ÂÂThis game is over. WeÃ¢ÂÂve got a Top 10 team to play now,Ã¢ÂÂ sophomore Keith Langford said of KUÃ¢ÂÂs 5:30 p.m. consolation contest against No. 8 Florida, which will not be televised.
Ã¢ÂÂIf we keep sulking over this loss, weÃ¢ÂÂre going to lose again. WeÃ¢ÂÂve got to come out hard and get this game.Ã¢ÂÂ
While Kansas is grateful for the opportunity to rid itself of the sting of defeat, a victory wonÃ¢ÂÂt come easy.
KU, which hasnÃ¢ÂÂt 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.
Ã¢ÂÂLike us, I think Florida was expected to win. TheyÃ¢ÂÂll be hungry and weÃ¢ÂÂll be hungry,Ã¢ÂÂ 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.
Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂll be hungry for this game just like last year,Ã¢ÂÂ Hawkins said. Ã¢ÂÂWhen we lost to Ball State, we kind of figured itÃ¢ÂÂd be the easy win. I think (Wednesday) we thought itÃ¢ÂÂd be an easy win because they (Tar Heels) were playing three freshmen and two sophomores.Ã¢ÂÂ
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.
Ã¢ÂÂI canÃ¢ÂÂt tell why people are doing things,Ã¢ÂÂ senior forward Collison said. Ã¢ÂÂThis is going to change. Our team ... we all know last year we came back and played well (after losing to BSU). ItÃ¢ÂÂs what weÃ¢ÂÂve got to do this year.Ã¢ÂÂ
As said, it wonÃ¢ÂÂt be easy to right KUÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂThese guys had a taste of success, but I hope they are humbled by their performance,Ã¢ÂÂ said Florida coach Billy Donovan, who like KU coach Roy Williams was disappointed in his teamÃ¢ÂÂs play Wednesday.
Ã¢ÂÂNow you find out what type guys you have in your program. This can be a great experience. I hope it humbles our team. Now itÃ¢ÂÂs time to bounce back.Ã¢ÂÂ
For KU to bounce back, the Jayhawks will have to perform a lot better than last game and some recent practices.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve been disappointed in some things that have gone on recently in our practices and preparations,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said, Ã¢ÂÂand I had hoped we didnÃ¢ÂÂt have to have this kind of wake-up call but I guess weÃ¢ÂÂll find out in the next three or four weeks.
Ã¢ÂÂWe play what I feel is at least one of the toughest schedules in the country. If we play like we did (versus UNC) it doesnÃ¢ÂÂt make any difference if itÃ¢ÂÂs 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.Ã¢ÂÂ
Collison said he will take a major role in the Jayhawks bouncing back.
Ã¢ÂÂI take a lot of responsibility for that, not getting the guys ready to go,Ã¢ÂÂ said Collison. Ã¢ÂÂWe are going to be ready to play the next game.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 KUÃ¢ÂÂs running game.
Ã¢ÂÂWe didnÃ¢ÂÂt play well. We didnÃ¢ÂÂt make good decisions. They made us look silly,Ã¢ÂÂ Williams said. Ã¢ÂÂMaybe 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 couldnÃ¢ÂÂt finish because itÃ¢ÂÂs the first time weÃ¢ÂÂve been challenged all year.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs something weÃ¢ÂÂve 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.Ã¢ÂÂ
Collison hit 7-of-11 shots for 19 points, while Wayne Simien hit 5-of-14 attempts for 11 points.
Ã¢ÂÂThe only good thing that can come out of this is unfortunately this happened last year and we were able to bounce back,Ã¢ÂÂ Simien said. Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂll have to take whatever good we can out of this. We have another game to play and a lot more tough ones after that. WeÃ¢ÂÂve got to get tougher starting now.Ã¢ÂÂ