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Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Keegan: Aggies to test karma

February 1, 2007

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Plenty of positive things have been happening inside Allen Fieldhouse lately.

For example, the Kansas University basketball team has an 11-game winning streak on its home court, and those victories came by an average margin of 25.3 points.

Not all the good numbers were produced during the action. At halftime of a recent game, student-athletes who understand why student is listed first were honored. A school-record 236 athletes earned 3.0 grade-point averages for the fall semester, and 37 graded out at a perfect 4.0.

All the positive karma will be put to test Saturday, and although it won't take perfection from the Jayhawks to defeat a hungry Texas A&M team, it will take a strong effort at both ends.

Most of the pregame hype will center on A&M's Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside tandem of Joseph Jones and Acie Law, KU guards Brandon Rush and Mario Chalmers and the presence of ESPN's army of celebrities, including Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps.

Yet, the player who thus far has been one of the biggest keys to how his team performs, among Top-10 schools, operates just outside the spotlight and just beyond the three-point arc.

His name is Josh Carter. It's no coincidence that in Texas A&M's three losses (LSU, UCLA, and Texas Tech), all away from home, Carter has had three of his quietest games of the season.

A 6-foot-7 inch sophomore from Dallas, Carter is deadly from the corner, among other spots.

Carter averaged 11.7 points and shot .537 on three-pointers in the Aggies' 18 victories. In their three losses, he averaged 3.3 points and shot .143 from outside the three-point semicircle. As great a job as the Aggies do of keeping teams from scoring, a few three-pointers from Carter can make a huge difference.

Unlike Marchello Vealy of Oral Roberts, who made seven of eight three-point shots against KU after making one of 13 all season a year ago, Carter won't have the surprise factor going for him. He'll have one of the nation's best defensive teams going against him.

KU was able to defeat Texas A&M at Reed Arena last season, 83-73, despite a hot night from Carter, who made four three-pointers and finished with 15 points.

Rush, KU's long-armed 6-foot-6 wing, likely will check Carter at times. What will be the key to doing that job well?

"Crowd him, get up on him, don't let him get open shots because he's a great three-point shooter," Rush said. "Guard him before he gets the ball, and if he gets it, don't give him any space where he can put it on the floor."

A victory Saturday would reinforce KU's role as the favorite to win the Big 12 title. Kansas not only is the best team in the conference, but the schedule falls in its favor, with the games against the three best teams from the South (A&M, Texas, Oklahoma State, which already lost by 30 points) all being played in the fieldhouse.

Having two extra days to prepare for the Aggies, who defeated Iowa State on Wednesday night, won't hurt. One of the most remarkable statistics in college basketball - KU's 31-game winning streak inside the Fieldhouse against Big 12 South teams - is at risk, but it will take an upset to end it.

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