Although coach Bill Self believes Kansas will receive its biggest test yet, there’s a chance this matchup with traditional power UCLA could be another blowout.
In a meeting between two of college basketball’s most storied programs, the top-ranked Jayhawks look for another decisive win as they visit a Bruins team off to its worst start in seven years Sunday in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.
Kansas (6-0), which received all but two of the 65 first-place votes in the latest AP poll, has rarely been challenged this season. The Jayhawks’ closest call was a 57-55 win over Memphis on Nov. 17, and they’ve outscored their other five opponents by an average of 44.0 points.
Their latest win was the easiest.
Kansas defeated unbeaten Alcorn State 98-31 on Wednesday, tied for the third-largest win in school history.
The Jayhawks scored 36 straight points early in the first half, one shy of the NCAA record for consecutive points, set by Utah State against Idaho in 2006. There was a huge difference of talent between the schools in this laugher, and Self took little stock in the win.
“Our guys, hopefully, will not buy into these last few games us scoring a lot of points,” Self said. “Our season is beginning Sunday (at UCLA) as far as the competitive aspect of it.”
The Bruins (2-4), who defeated Kansas 68-55 in the regional finals of the 2007 NCAA tournament, made three straight Final Four appearances from 2006-08, but they’re in a rebuilding season.
UCLA has lost three in a row and is off to its worst start since the 2002-03 team opened 2-5 under coach Steve Lavin.
“The Memphis game was a good test for us, but I think this is going to be a much more difficult game for us, going on the road,” Self said. “Also, when you’re UCLA or Kansas or Carolina or Duke and you have lost a couple games in a row and lost your last home game, you are going to come out fighting. We will get a great effort from them.”
UCLA hasn’t played since last Sunday’s 79-68 loss to Long Beach State in the seventh-place game of the 76 Classic. It was the Bruins’ first loss to the 49ers after winning the first 11 meetings dating back to 1970.
“We don’t expect to lose, ever,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “This is really hard.”
The Bruins will have to try to regroup without sophomore forward Drew Gordon, who is no longer on the team.
Howland said Tuesday he came to a mutual agreement to part ways with Gordon. The 6-foot-9 Gordon was the Bruins’ third-leading scorer, averaging 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds while starting all six games, but apparently clashed a few times in recent months with Howland.
UCLA will now need Michael Roll and Malcolm Lee to step up offensively, and the entire team to pick up its defensive intensity.
The Bruins allowed Long Beach State to shoot 53.6 percent and were outrebounded 39-30
“We’re going to have to go back and really evaluate what we’re going to do defensively because we’re really having a hard time staying in front of the ball,” Howland said.
UCLA now must face a Kansas team which has one of the top offenses in the country, averaging 91.8 points behind senior Sherron Collins and freshman Xavier Henry.
Collins and Henry each had 18 points Wednesday as the Jayhawks surpassed their season average in scoring for the fourth time. Henry and Collins have combined to make 32 of 67 (47.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Kansas’ defense also has been outstanding, limiting teams to 54.8 points on 32.6 percent shooting. Against Alcorn State, the Jayhawks forced a school record-tying 30 turnovers and allowed their fewest points since a 37-27 win over Oklahoma State in 1951.