After playing nine games in Allen Fieldhouse and one in Kemper Arena, Kansas University's basketball players are more than ready to hit the road.
"I'm not ready to get away from our fans, but it's time. It's about time we get road-tested," KU senior Michael Lee said.
Today, he and his teammates will board a charter flight for Lexington, Ky. -- the first time the Jayhawks have flown together since a Labor Day weekend excursion to Canada.
"I'm excited," KU senior Keith Langford said of Sunday's 3:30 p.m. challenge against No. 8-ranked Kentucky at Rupp Arena.
"At Kansas, we pride ourselves on having the best fans, the best arena, best place to play. I'm sure Kentucky does the same. I've not been to Rupp Arena. I want to see it."
UK coach Tubby Smith's Wildcats enter with a 10-1 record, the only loss a 91-78 decision Dec. 4 at North Carolina.
"I look forward to going on the road to see how the team will adjust, will react," senior Aaron Miles said.
Especially the freshmen.
"It will be different for them," Lee said. "I think they'll be able to settle down and play."
C.J. Giles, Sasha Kaun, Alex Galindo and Russell Robinson figure to be OK if they follow the seniors' lead.
"It's not the freshmen's responsibility to handle adversity," Langford said. "It's the seniors' job. The main thing on the road is to handle adversity. We've had it before the season with injuries, during the season with two-a-day practices and injuries. The seniors have been in every road-type environment except Rupp Arena.
"We have to use every experience on the road to keep the team poised."
Smith was asked Friday if the Wildcats would benefit from KU playing its first road game at Rupp.
"I hope so, but they are very poised and disciplined," he said. "They've shown poise and ability to come back from deficits and win. Kansas will light it up if we don't guard on the perimeter."¢
Simien update: KU senior Wayne Simien, who had thumb surgery Dec. 20, will not play Sunday. Kaun, however, who has had problems with an infection that caused his face to swell following root-canal surgery, is expected to play.
"They've got the leash on me," Simien said Friday with a grin. "I feel good. I definitely want to get out there. I think they'll hold me out another week."
Simien, who shoots at practice, thinks he could play if necessary.
"I think I could go. I have a little trouble catching. Still, anything is better than nothing as far as me being out there," he said, indicating he hoped to return Wednesday at Iowa State.
"I'm always shooting for the next game," he said with a grin. "Iowa State ... they are contenders for the Big 12 Conference. It's always a tough game in Ames. I'm definitely shooting for that one."
Asked if there was any chance Simien could play Sunday, Self said: "No. He's not playing. He's not practiced or anything. All he's doing is shooting free throws and shooting."
Meanwhile, Kaun did not need oral surgery Thursday to relieve pressure on his face caused by the infection. He faces two root-canal surgeries Monday, however.¢
Padgett country: KU will be playing Sunday down the road from Louisville, the transfer destination of former Jayhawk David Padgett.
Had Padgett decided to transfer earlier than he did, KU likely would have landed junior-college big man J.P. Batista, who chose Gonzaga over the Jayhawks days before Padgett's transfer.
"It woulda been nice to get J.P.," Simien said with a grin. "I thought about that last night (watching him excel on TV). I wish that would have panned out."