Kansas allowed an unheralded player to make seven 3-pointers as it suffered a stunning upset in its last game. To bounce back, the Jayhawks will have to try and contain an explosive player who made seven 3-pointers in his last game.
The third-ranked Jayhawks (1-1) will look to slow down Towson guard Gary Neal when the Tigers (2-0) visit Allen Fieldhouse on Sunday.
Kansas was knocked off 78-71 by Oral Roberts on Wednesday night, as the Golden Eagles’ Marchello Vealy went 7-of-8 from 3-point range. He had connected on just 1-of-13 all last season.
Neal, who began his college career at LaSalle, will pose an even bigger threat for the Jayhawks. He’s the leading returning scorer in Division I at 26.1 points per game.
The senior guard scored a career-high 41 points to lead Towson to a 69-62 victory over Samford on Thursday. He made 13 of 24 shots, including seven 3s, to post the fourth-highest single-game point total in school history.
The Jayhawks, picked to capture the Big 12 title, are well aware of Neal’s ability.
“He can score,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I watched some tape on him and he can get it going both ways. We need to do a better job on the opponent’s best player. If we allow him to have a big night, he could score 40 points. Averaging 27 points a game is very good and he can obviously get the ball in the basket.”
Defense is Kansas ’ major concern after it failed to contain Vealy and Caleb Green, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
“Our whole team the other night was bad defensively,” Self said. “Whenever you don’t guard that well and force help, allowing the other team to play behind the help, that’s what makes it tough to defend when you’re playing against a great player. We all need to get a little bit better.”
It was a rough night offensively for Kansas sophomore Julian Wright, who had six points on 3-of-10 shooting to go with six turnovers. Wright had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the Jayhawks’ 91-57 victory in the season opener over Northern Arizona on Nov. 11.
Sunday’s game is part of the Las Vegas Invitational, a round-robin tournament in which teams play two games on campus sites before the scene shifts to Las Vegas next weekend, when the Jayhawks will face Ball State and No. 1 Florida.
“I think it will be the wave of the future,” Self said. “It allows you to play in an exempt tournament where it only costs you one game, but you play four. You will see more of these in the future. Even the preseason NIT is now the same way.”
Towson is coached by former Florida State and DePaul coach Pat Kennedy, who’s 0-4 against Kansas. This will be his third trip to Allen Fieldhouse.
The Tigers are 2-0 for the first time since 1989 .
Towson, which has never faced Kansas, lost five of its final six road games last season.