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Archive for Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Kansas gets groove back

Jayhawks rejuvenated entering Dartmouth clash

November 28, 2006

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Suddenly, everybody's hopping back on the Kansas University basketball bandwagon.

Just a couple of weeks after a shocking home loss to Oral Roberts, the Jayhawks take a 5-1 record - which includes Saturday's marquee overtime victory over defending national champion Florida - and new No. 5 national ranking into today's nonconference contest against 0-5 Dartmouth.

Tipoff is 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse, with a live telecast on channels 27 and 38 and replay at 10:30 on Sunflower Broadband Channel Six.

"I know it's not a downer, but people maybe have been a little disappointed how we started from a performance standpoint," KU coach Bill Self said Monday. "We made up some ground over the weekend. We're not where we need to be, but we're a lot closer."

Of course, a bad performance tonight undoubtedly would cause some to consider jumping ship again.

"We need to come back strong," Self said. "Hopefully our guys will be juiced and everybody excited for Dartmouth."

Florida hadn't been completely forgotten as of Monday. KU sophomore forward Julian Wright, who burned the Gators for 21 points and 10 rebounds, was named Big 12 player of the week for the first time in his career as well as ESPN.com's national player of the week.

"Julian was fabulous. He was as good as I've ever seen him," Self said of the Big 12's co-preseason player of the year. "For that one half there, I'm sure his efficiency level was as good as you can possibly have."

Wright had 17 points in the first half off 7-of-10 shooting.

"He made plays out of nothing. He made the easy plays. He let the game come to him the first half and still totally dominated," Self said.

"He did not have as many scoring opportunities the second half. He didn't force it. Everybody played well. Saturday was about as much fun as we've had here in a while."

Self - as one might expect - has received a lot of calls and text messages from friends since the big win.

"There were some. I got one text from a buddy that knows ball real well. He said that was 'big-boy ball' and that was. There were some high-level athletes on the court the other night," Self said.

Not as much tonight, with Ivy League member Dartmouth off to a winless start with as many as five players - including three projected starters - listed as "doubtful" because of injuries.

"I would say from a statistical standpoint they have had a rough start. Everybody knows they have had tons of injuries," Self said of the Big Green, coached by former Colorado assistant Terry Dunn. "They are well coached and will come in here excited to play like all teams."

Self said his players definitely were the most enthused and alert they've been all season Saturday against the Gators in Las Vegas.

"I'm pleased with our guys. After laboring around here two weeks being hot and cold and really putting it together in a way they did ... they had a different look and different poise level about them," Self said.

"Looking back, why does it happen to 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds? I have no idea. I do know when guys are thinking and playing ... trying to live up what people are saying all time they play tight and not to screw up. If we played that way against Florida it wouldn't have been a game."

¢ Caller wants Duke: A caller to Self's Hawk Talk radio show Monday made a plea for the Jayhawks to play Duke every year.

"I think (playing Duke) is what we'd love to do. Larry (Keating, senior associate AD) has worked hard on a home-home or neutral-neutral (court). It's not played out the way we wanted to," Self said.

"We want to play Kentucky yearly. We'd love to play Duke, Indiana. Arizona ... there's a good chance that (Arizona) will show back up on the schedule real soon. UCLA would be a great game. Times have changed. It takes two people to want to make a partnership."

Self noted many powerhouse programs don't want to play in Kansas if they don't recruit Kansas.

"Let's use Duke as an example. Coach K (Duke's Mike Krzyzewski) and myself talked about it this summer. The advantage of them playing Kansas is obviously the attention it'd bring. But they probably will not recruit this area a ton," Self said. "Can they play somebody of similar interest in areas they recruit? Look at it as a total big picture perspective. Hopefully these type of matchups will occur. We play a very good schedule, still it would be great to get a couple of those well-known traditional programs on the schedule yearly."

¢ Radio feed to China: Tonight's game will be broadcast in Chinese. The audio for the game will be streamed on kuathletics.com by a broadcast team from the KU Confucius Institute and will also appear during the radio and television broadcasts of the game. A gathering at Huazhong Normal University, KU's partner in the Confucius Institute, in Wuhan, China, will listen to the Chinese broadcast of the game.

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