In a classic David vs. Goliath matchup between the underdog San Jose State Spartans and perennial powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks, the only question may be whether KU will cover the spread. But wait–David did slay Goliath, right? And Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo just slapped on a big upset over the storied, 11th-ranked UCLA Bruins in Pauley Pavilion this past weekend. Hence, the phrase, “that’s why they play the game” is apt.
The Spartans enter Allen Fieldhouse with a 2 – 2 record, but they’ve won their most recent two, including a blowout of UC-Santa Cruz by a score of 94 – 54, which should leave the Jayhawks shaking in their boots. Chris Cunningham had a Dwight Howard-esque double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds. Reserve sharpshooter Nick Grieves knocked down six 3-pointers to garner 18 points against the Banana Slugs. Add leading scorer James Kinney who is averaging 21.0 points per game, and include DJ Brown, who averages 12.0 points per game, and it appears the Spartans can score.
Whether they will be able to on a consistent basis against the Jayhawks is another proposition–especially on Rock Chalk’s homecourt. The ranked Jayhawks are again loaded, after winning the Edward Jones CBE Hall of Fame Classic, and enter tonight’s contest with a 4 – 1 record. KU boasts a balanced offense, with four players averaging double figures: Ben McLemore (14.0), Jeff Withey (13.8), Travis Releford (11.8), and Elijah Johnson (10.2). But it is their suffocating defense that has prevailed in blowout wins over Washington State (78 – 41) and Saint Louis (73 – 59). Their only blemish has been a 67 – 64 loss to another ranked team, Michigan State.
Releford was named the CBE Classic’s Most Valuable Player, averaging 20.0 points in the wins over WSU and SLU, joining teammates McLemore and Withey on the All-Tournament Team. But the Jayhawks’ signature is their stinginess on the defensive end of the floor, where they average 8.8 blocks per game, with Withey leading the way in that category (5.0 bpg).
The Jayhawks represent match up problems for the Spartans at every position, with the possible exception of point guard, where the Spartans’ James Kinney is accustomed to competing against top-flight players. Kinney is a product of Champaign, IL, in the heart of Big 10 country. KU Coach Bill Self was the former head coach for the Illini, and will know what to expect from Kinney. A solid defensive game plan to slow down Kinney should result in a comfortable Kansas win.
But then again, that’s why they play the games.
Tags: Allen Fieldhouse Basketball Ben McLemore Bill Self Chris Cunningham College DJ Brown Elijah Johnson Featured James Kinney Jeff Withey Kansas Kansas Jayhawks Basketball KU Jayhawks NCAA NIck Grieves Popular Rock Chalk San Jose State Spartans San Jose State Spartans Basketball SJSU Spartans Travis Releford