University of Central Arkansas’ basketball players and coaches boarded the bus at 8 a.m. Wednesday for a long, but relaxing, seven-hour drive from Conway, Ark., to Lawrence — site of tonight’s Kansas-UCA game.
“Playing sports trivia is about the most interesting thing happening here,” Bears’ seventh-year coach Rand Chappell said via cellphone just after the halfway point of the 425-mile journey.
Here — albeit a little late — is a trivia question that surely would have stumped Chappell’s Bears, who will meet KU in a 7 p.m., tip in Allen Fieldhouse.
Q: When’s the last time the Jayhawks — who tripped Memphis, 57-55, on Tuesday in St. Louis — scored fewer than 57 points in a victory?
A: On Feb. 20, 2000, when Roy Williams’ Jayhawks nudged Oklahoma, 53-50, in Allen Fieldhouse.
KU has scored in the 50s just 11 times in the Bill Self era — winning five times (with 57 points once and 59 points the other four times). The lowest point total in a game in the Self era is 49 points (loss vs. Arizona, 2005). KU has scored 55 four times — last encountered in a 68-55 loss to UCLA in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.
“I know Memphis was able to play better defensively than anybody so far this year,” Chappell said. “They slowed the tempo somewhat. Kansas faced some adversity with Collins having to leave the game.”
KU senior Sherron Collins missed a six-minute second-half stretch because of cramps.
“We played stupid,” Collins said. “We didn’t take care of the ball. We rushed shots, didn’t run offense, didn’t finish running plays, kept breaking down on plays.”
The Jayhawks, who hit 46.5 percent of their shots, suffered 21 turnovers to Memphis’ 13.
“We don’t understand how to score, where to score from or where our shots are coming from,” Self said. “We’ll be so much better when the ball moves.”
It moved well in KU’s two exhibition games and in the regular-season opener versus Hofstra — games in which the (2-0) Jayhawks scored 100 points.
“We’ll get better. It’s all very correctable,” Self said.
Tonight, the Jayhawks meet a Southland Conference team that defeated Hendrix, 68-40, and lost to Tennessee Tech, 71-67. Mike Pouncy, a 6-1 senior from Cedar Hill, Texas, averages a team-leading 12.0 points a game. Tadre Sheppard (6-7 junior, Lubbock, Texas) and Jared Rehmel (6-0 junior, Jasonville, Ind.) average 11.0 ppg, while Carlos Dos Santos (6-8 junior, Brazil) contributes 10.0 ppg.
“It’s a unique opportunity. Not many people get a chance to play the No. 1 team in the country. Allen Fieldhouse is something they’ll remember a long time,” Chappell said of his players.
“Not going to the NCAA Tournament ... we wanted to offer our players some of these experiences.”
The Bears, who are in the fifth and final year of a transition to NCAA Div. I, will not be eligible to compete in the postseason until 2010-11.
Chappell has competed in the fieldhouse once before.
“I was a 24-year-old coach of the Southwest Missouri State JV team. We came to Kansas in 1987 and played the JV team. R.C. Buford was the coach for KU. My joke is that we really messed up his career that night. I’m 1-0 in the building,” Chappell said.
Buford, who was an assistant coach on Larry Brown’s staff at KU, is now general manager of the San Antonio Spurs.
Pippen alma mater:
Central Arkansas is the alma mater of former Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen.
“I’ve met him a few times. To say I know him well would be an overstatement,” Chappell said. “He comes on our campus for events and has his picture taken for our media guide.”
Other famous UCA sports alums: former Kansas City Chiefs receiver Willie Davis and former Washington Redskins linebacker Monte Coleman.
Self was asked if his squad “dodged a bullet” on Tuesday night.
“I guess it is fair to say that because they took a shot that could have won the game,” he said of Elliot Williams’ errant three before the final horn. “But dodge a bullet in November? I am not buying into that much at all. We dodged a bullet from a won/lost standpoint.
“Sometimes in basketball it looks good when the ball goes in and looks bad when it doesn’t. We didn’t play as poorly the last three minutes (as Memphis whittled down a 10-point deficit) as what it appeared because Memphis made some hard shots.”
Soph Tyshawn Taylor had seven turnovers versus Memphis against five assists in 33 minutes.
“It’s one of those games he was a little sped up. It was a fast-paced game and they pressured a lot,” Collins said. “He was trying to make the home run plays a little bit. He’s fine.”
Cramping his style:
Collins couldn’t remember another college game in which he’d suffered cramps.
“It happened like that in high school. It was pretty weird. It hurt. I had to get through it,” he said.
The Jayhawks, who flew charter to St. Louis, returned to Lawrence at 3 a.m. Wednesday.
Collins’ first class was at ... “9 a.m.” he said with a smile.