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Archive for Sunday, March 18, 2007

Keegan: Kansas, UK both better

March 18, 2007

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— For what it's worth, which might not be enough to buy a couple of eggs from room service in this pricey town, just five Kentucky players who played in Allen Fieldhouse last season also played in the Wildcats' first-round victory against Villanova.

Those five players combined to make six of 30 field-goal attempts in the 73-46 loss to Kansas on Jan. 7, 2006.

Joe Crawford, a junior guard from Detroit, led Kentucky in scoring that day with nine points and made four of 12 field-goal attempts.

Sitting in front of his locker after Friday night's 67-58 victory against Villanova, Crawford was asked what he remembered from his last game against Kansas.

"They didn't miss a shot, and they were all over the glass," Crawford said.

Actually, Kansas scored the blowout despite hitting just four of 17 three-point field-goal attempts. The Jayhawks shot 50 percent overall and were led by Brandon Rush's 24 points and 12 rebounds.

"I've seen Kansas play on TV a lot this season," Crawford said. "A lot."

He's seen enough to form an opinion of freshman point guard Sherron Collins.

"He's a great point guard," Crawford said. "He's shown his ability already, but I think we're going to have ways to make things tough for him."

Randolph Morris, Kentucky's center, sat out the first 14 games of the 2005-2006 season because of eligibility issues relating to his having declared for the draft. The Kansas game was the 14th.

"He's the most important part of our offense," Crawford said of Morris. "He's a tremendous inside presence. He can score, and he can alter shots. And we're older, more mature now."

The first point is a good one, the second is not. Kansas has matured, too. A thicker, more physical, more skilled player than KU center Sasha Kaun, Morris poses problems for the Jayhawks. He had 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots against Villanova.

"He just showed how great a player he is," Crawford said. "He's a walking double-double. He gets it every night. He's a great player. We have him play like that, and we're going to be tough to beat."

Even with Morris as an anchor, Kansas has more offensive firepower than the Wildcats. Just how much of it will surface is the question because Kentucky plays terrific defense. The Wildcats have big bodies at every position and are schooled to play physically. Other than Kansas and Texas A&M, no Big 12 team can compare defensively to Kentucky.

Kansas, tired of all the attention paid to first-round exits in consecutive seasons, is hungry to keep the run going, but no hungrier than its foe. Kentucky's players are tired of hearing they aren't good enough to wear the prestigious uniform. They are tired of speculation on the long-range job security of coach Tubby Smith, who won a national championship at the school.

"After our tough schedule, we're ready for anybody," Crawford said. "This is an opportunity for us to show we do have players here and our coach is a great coach."

Kentucky will try to keep Kansas from running. If it succeeds in doing that, it should be a close game. The Wildcats are 2-6 in games decided by five or fewer points. Advantage Kansas.

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