Conference Play Begins
No. 14/15 Kansas (10-3) opens up Big 12 play hosting No. 23/22 Kansas State (11-1) in the Sunflower Showdown presented by Dillons. Kansas has won 20-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season with eight of those at home. Additionally, KU has won five-straight Big 12 home openers dating back to the 2006-07 season. Kansas has won a school-record seven straight, 11 of the Big 12's 15 regular-season titles and an NCAA Division I-leading 54 conference crowns. Kansas State will be fifth ranked foe KU will have played in 2011-12.
No. 14/15 Kansas is 10-3 on the season after closing out non-conference play with an 84-58 win against North Dakota on Dec. 31. The Jayhawks take a 13-game home court winning streak into the Kansas State contest. Kansas averages 76.0 points per game and allows 59.8 for a +16.2 scoring margin. KU is using solid defense as seven opponents have scored 58 or less points this season. KU is outrebounding foes by 8.0 per game, and has outrebounded all but one team this season. Additionally, KU averages 16.1 assists per contest.
The Jayhawks are led by All-American candidate Thomas Robinson, who is the only player in the Big 12 Conference this season to average a double-double with 17.7 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. A three-time Big 12 Player of the Week, Robinson posted career highs with 30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota. It was the first 30-20 effort by a Jayhawk since Wayne Hightower in 1961. Robinson has a league-leading nine double-doubles on the season.
Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor is next in scoring at 15.3 points per game following his 18-point effort against North Dakota. Taylor leads Kansas with 68 assists. Junior guard Elijah Johnson is tied for the team lead with 25 three-pointers made and his 19 steals are a squad best. Johnson scores 8.3 points per game and he is second on the team with 48 assists.
Rounding out the KU starters are juniors Travis Releford and Jeff Withey. A guard, Releford averages 8.2 points per game after his career-high-tying 14 against North Dakota. Releford, who is tied with Robinson for second on the team with 18 steals, also pulled down a career-high seven rebounds against UND. Withey, KU's center, is averaging 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest. He leads the Big 12 with 2.7 blocked shots per game, including six against Howard (12/29).
Senior guard Conner Teahan, who has one start this season, scores 8.3 points per game and is tied with Johnson with 25 three-pointers. Sophomore forward Justin Wesley joins Teahan as the first two off the bench. Wesley averages 2.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest. Junior forward Kevin Young (4.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and freshman guard Naadir Tharpe (0.8 ppg, 14 assists) are the other KU regulars.
About Kansas State
Located in Manhattan, Kan., with an enrollment of 23,566, No. 23/22 Kansas State is 11-1 on the season after it defeated Howard 82-46 on Dec. 31. The Wildcats have won six-straight games and their only loss an 85-80 double-overtime thriller to future Big 12 foe West Virginia (12/8). The Wildcats recently won the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii (12/22-25), and average 77.2 points with a +15.5 scoring margin. Kansas State dominates the boards with a +7.1 rebound margin and forces 16.7 turnovers per game.
Junior guard Rodney McGruder leads KSU in scoring with 12.5 points per game. He averages 5.2 rebounds per game and his 15 three-pointers are second most on the KSU team in 2011-12. Senior forward Jamar Samuels leads KSU in rebounding with 7.2 per game, which is just ahead of freshman forward Thomas Gipson's 7.1 boards per game.
Samuels scores 11.8 points per outing, while Gipson averages 10.4 points per game. Sophomore guard Will Spradling leads the Wildcats with 23 three-pointers made and is tied for second with Samuels on the KSU squad with 11.8 points per game. Spradling, who is tied for the team lead with 32 assists, is making 80.5 percent of his free throws and has 12 steals this season. Junior guard Martavious Irving rounds out the KSU starters. He scores 6.2 points per game, is tied with Spradling with 32 assists and has 12 steals.
Junior forward Jordan Henriquez leads K-State with 30 blocked shots to go along with his 7.7 scoring and 5.7 rebounding averages. He shoots 60.7 percent from the field. Other KSU contributors include freshman guard Angel Rodriguez (7.3 ppg, 29 assists) and sophomore guard Shane Southwell (4.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
The KU-Kansas State Series
Kansas has won 42 of the last 45 meetings with Kansas State dating back to the 1994 season. The Jayhawks have won seven of the last eight meetings and hold a 181-91 all-time series advantage over the Wildcats. In Lawrence, Kansas has defeated Kansas State five straight times dating back to 2006, 16 of the last 17 meetings and holds an 82-35 record, including a 41-18 mark in Allen Fieldhouse against the Wildcats. Since the inception of the Big 12 Conference, Kansas is 27-3 in regular-season battles and 34-3 including Big 12 Championship meetings versus Kansas State. This series dates back to 1907.
--Kansas has outrebounded 12 of 13 opponents this season, including the last 11 games. The Jayhawks have five games with a +10 rebound margin: 34-21 vs. UCLA (11/2), 53-32 vs. Florida Atlantic (11/30) , 41-24 vs. Long Beach State (12/6), 39-29 at USC (12/22) and 42-29 vs. North Dakota (12/31).
--Four different Jayhawks - Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Conner Teahan - have led Kansas in scoring through 13 games.
--KU has shot a higher percentage than 11 of 13 opponents this season.
--KU has blocked four or more shots in nine of 13 games this season, including a season-high 13 against Florida Atlantic (11/30). KU had 12 blocked shots against Long Beach State (12/6).
--Kansas has 69 dunks to its opponents' 18 through 13 games. Thomas Robinson leads KU with 34 dunks, while Jeff Withey has 12.
--KU's bench has outscored its opponents' bench in four of the last six games and six times overall.
--Junior Thomas Robinson has scored 21-plus points in four of his last six games and has five 20-point efforts this season. A three-time Big 12 Player of the Week, Robinson had career highs with 30 points and 21 rebounds against North Dakota (12/31). It was the sixth-ever 30-20 in Big 12 history and first at KU since 1961 (Wayne Hightower vs. Missouri). Robinson is the only player in the Big 12 Conference who is averaging a double-double with 17.7 ppg and 12.2 rpg. His nine double-doubles, like his 12.2 rebounds per game, lead the Big 12. Robinson's 17.7 points are fourth in the league and he also ranks sixth in field goal percentage (52.8) and tied for 10th in blocked shots (1.1).
--Senior Tyshawn Taylor underwent knee surgery on Dec. 11 but returned to start the Davidson contest on Dec. 19, where he scored 15 points and had seven assists. His 18 points against North Dakota (12/31) were the most since his season-high 24 versus South Florida (12/3). Taylor's 15.3 points average per game are seventh in the Big 12. Also in the league, he is fourth in assists at 5.2 and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.4. In his last three games, Taylor has 19 assists and six turnovers. He has averaged 7.8 assists over his last five games.
--Junior Elijah Johnson led Kansas in scoring for the second time this season with 14 points at USC (12/22). He had 11 points and seven assists against North Dakota (12/31). He has averaged 12.8 points in his last five games and is averaging 10.2 ppg for the year. Johnson has started every game this season for KU and is tied for the team lead 25 three-pointers made. He is second in assists with 48. Johnson is 10th in the Big 12 in assists at 3.7, tied for sixth in steals at 1.5, tied for ninth in three-pointers made at 1.9 and fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.8.
--Junior Jeff Withey leads the Big 12 with 2.7 blocked shots per game. His 10 points against Howard marked his fifth double-figure scoring effort of 2011-12. Withey just missed his third double-double of the season with nine points and nine rebounds at USC (12/22). He nearly had a triple-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocked shots against Long Beach State (12/6). His nine blocked shots rank No. 2 on the KU single-game records list and were just one shy of Cole Aldrich's 10 against Dayton in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Withey has multiple blocks in five of his last six games and nine contests in 2011-12. His 5.8 rebound average is 12th in the conference.
--Senior Conner Teahan has made 19 three-pointers in his last eight games, including a career-high four twice -- at USC (12/22) and against Long Beach State (12/6). He is tied for the KU lead with 25 threes in 2011-12. Teahan scored a career-high 14 points versus LBSU and has had 13 points in two of his last three games (at USC and vs. Howard). Teahan is 11th in the Big 12 in three-point field goal percentage at 40.3 and tied for ninth in three-pointers made at 1.9.
--Junior Travis Releford tied his career high with 14 points and set his personal best with seven rebounds against North Dakota (12/31). He has started every game this season and has scored in double figures six times in 2011-12. Releford is tied for second on the team with 18 steals, including a career-high four against Davidson (12/19). His 1.4 steals per game are tied for ninth in the Big 12.
--Junior Kevin Young scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting with six rebounds and three steals against Howard (12/29). His best performance of the season came against No. 2 Ohio State (12/10) with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He has pulled down four or more rebounds in five of his last eight games and six times this season. He is shooting 61.3 percent (19-for-31) from the field.
--Sophomore Justin Wesley's six points against Howard (12/29) tied a season high while his five rebounds against the Bison tied for the second most by the forward this season. Wesley averages 12.4 minutes per game and is 11-for-21 (52.4 percent) from the field.
Thomas Robinson joined some elite company when he scored 30 points and pulled down 21 rebounds against North Dakota (12/31). He became the first Jayhawk to score at least 30 points and record 20 rebounds since Wayne Hightower scored 36 points and grabbed 21 rebounds against Missouri on Feb. 13, 1961. In KU history there have been at least eight other 30-20 games and two games that could not be confirmed - seven of those games were by Wilt Chamberlain and one by Hightower. Robinson is the sixth player in Big 12 history to accomplish the feat joining former conference player of the years Kevin Durant (Texas), Michael Beasley (Kansas State) and Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) in addition to Oklahoma State's Mario Boggan.
In the Polls
Kansas is ranked No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll released Jan. 2. KU has been ranked in each of the last 56 Associated Press polls dating back to the 2008-09 season. Included are 39 times when the Jayhawks have appeared in the AP Top 10. KU has been ranked in each of the last 57 coaches polls with 42 appearances in the Top 10. Kansas has faced or will face six teams currently ranked in the both polls' top 10 in 2011-12.
Kansas has won 11 of the 15 Big 12 regular-season titles (includes ties), including the last seven. Kansas' 54 conference titles are the most in NCAA Division I. Kansas' seven-straight league titles is a school record, surpassing the six straight set from 1922-27.
Kansas will play its next two conference games on the road at Oklahoma on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 1 p.m. on ESPNU and at Texas Tech, Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse when they host Iowa State on Saturday, Jan. 14, at 3 p.m. on the Big 12 Television Network.