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Archive for Wednesday, February 14, 2007

KU expects help from crowd

5,000-plus Jayhawk fans typically fill Coors Center

February 14, 2007

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— Kansas University's basketball players consider Coors Events Center a home away from home.

"I love Colorado. We've got a lot of fans there. I've heard it called 'Allen Fieldhouse West' or something like that," KU junior guard Russell Robinson said of the 11,064-seat building, site of today's 8 p.m. KU-Colorado game.

It's a game 5,000 or more KU alums from Denver and Western Kansas have annually deemed a must-see on the schedule.

"Hopefully we'll have a huge turnout as we usually do," Kansas coach Bill Self said.

"People in Western Kansas and Colorado have done a great job of supporting us there. If it was a Saturday afternoon game you'd probably have 6,000 to 7,000 there. A game Wednesday night and late start, I don't think we'll have that many. Still we'll have a good contingent follow us out there."

In fact ... "I expect KU fans everywhere we go. We've got KU fans all around the country," sophomore Brandon Rush said.

The Jayhawks have won three straight games in Boulder and 14 of the past 15.

A year ago, KU prevailed, 75-63, in Coors Events Center, located 5,400 feet above sea level.

"You feel it the first five minutes. Once you get your second wind, there's no difference," Robinson said of the high altitude.

In fact, he feels rejuvenated playing in Boulder.

"The air is thinner. You might have more bounce," Robinson said. "I love to jump higher, hang higher, especially in the layup line. It makes me feel good. You notice you are getting up a little higher. It's easier."

Self, who played at CU during his college days at Oklahoma State, grinned when asked if he felt the change in altitude running the court.

"I noticed it. I was in such great shape," he cracked. "It's not something we'll make a big deal out of. Most of our players have played out there before, even our freshmen played in Colorado Springs in USA Basketball. There's altitude, but we have enough players to make sure everybody is fresh."

The Jayhawks (21-4, 8-2) hope to continue their winning ways on the road in league play. KU is 10-3 on the road the past two seasons - 4-1 so far this year.

"You forget about everything and focus on the right things. You focus on the game," junior center Sasha Kaun said. "You focus on your team and nobody else. You have those blinders on. There are no distractions."

"We like the road games," sophomore Julian Wright said. "The louder the crowd gets, the more focused we get. We take pride in that."

Self has noticed.

"We play well away from home. It's become a trademark of this team. I don't want to paint a picture we are great on the road or anything. We've played pretty well away from home for the most part," he said. "Winning at home is great. We should never lose at home with our crowd, (but) it's a pretty gratifying locker room when you win on the road."

Self said to win tonight the Jayhawks must be aware there are challenges in playing a team twice in such a short period of time. KU dumped the Buffs, 97-74, on Jan. 27 in Allen Fieldhouse.

"Every game is different," he said. "We'll see a totally different Colorado team at home."

The Buffs (6-14, 2-8) are 5-7 at home and 1-7 on the road. CU is 2-3 at home in conference play with wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State and losses to Texas, Texas A&M and Missouri.

"I think they are a dangerous team, especially at home. They get up and down the court. They play a little faster at home," Self said. "When the ball is going in the hole they can be a handful. When we played here (in Allen) they hung around, hung around, cut the game to single digits late. We finished strong. Our guys know they are capable."

The Buffs have eight freshmen, including Xavier Silas, their second-leading scorer at 11.9 points a game.

"The younger you are, the more inconsistent you look," Self said. "You want a true sign of that, look at Kansas, the level we can play at. We can look like we are not the same team at times. A lot is due to experience. But this late in the season if you are playing young guys they should be a little beyond their years. I'm sure we are. I'm sure Colorado is as well."

¢Assistant speaks: Colorado assistant coach Paul Graham worked with KU's Self as an assistant at Oklahoma State.

"I tease him all the time," Graham said. "I say, 'Bill you should quit complaining about your team. You have seven good players.' All his players ... every player Kansas will put on the floor is a stud player. Watching 'em against Missouri, it's the first time they've gone down there and blown out the Tigers on their homecourt," Graham added of Saturday's 92-74 victory. "When you play Texas and (Kevin) Durant, you know you have to contain him. You play Kansas, all five starters can explode for big numbers."

¢No letdown expected: The Jayhawks do not expect a letdown today after beating rivals Kansas State and Missouri last week.

"We have been put in the position, if we want to win the league, we have to take care of business just about every game," Self said. KU trails Texas A&M by a half-game in the Big 12.

"We'll approach this game like it's as big as any other game, which it is in the big picture."

"They are probably not going to fall too easily," Brandon Rush said of the first-place Aggies, who beat KU in the only meeting between the teams in the regular season. "We have to come out and win every game to stay in position behind A&M."

¢Sharp shooters: KU is second in the Big 12 in field-goal percentage (49 percent), right behind leader Texas A&M (50 percent). In league games only, KU is No. 1 at 49.8 percent to A&M's 46.4.

"We've been moving the ball around, getting high-percentage shots on offense. We've been getting the ball in the paint, and guys are converting," Wright said.

"I think our offense has been better," Self said. "We've been aggressive. We've been getting the ball in tight for close-in shots. We're getting the ball where it needs to be."

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