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January 9, 2011

KU hoping to enter Big 12 play undefeated

The last time Kansas finished with a perfect record in non-conference play, it went on to win the national title.

Before beginning its quest for a seventh straight Big 12 crown, the third-ranked Jayhawks will try to secure another spotless run against out-of-conference foes Sunday at Michigan.

Kansas (14-0) had little trouble during its just-completed three-game homestand against unheralded opponents. The Jayhawks won those contests by an average of 33.0 points and recorded their most lopsided victory of the stretch Wednesday, 99-52 over UMKC.

It was their sixth victory of at least 30 points this season.

Freshman Josh Selby scored 16 points to lead six Jayhawks in double figures, further distancing himself from a two-point, 1-of-9 shooting performance against Texas-Arlington on Dec. 29.

Kansas might need another strong performance from Selby in its second road game of the season, as it faces a Wolverines team that's 10-1 at home. The Jayhawks last went undefeated in non-conference play in 2007-08, a season that culminated in their fifth national championship.

Kansas won its first 14 games last season before falling 76-68 at Tennessee.

"Last year (at Tennessee) was a tough loss going into the Big 12, and we don't want to have that this year. There is some fuel in our fire to stay focused and get the job done," senior guard Tyrel Reed said.

Despite its gaudy mark at Crisler Arena, Michigan (11-4) lost 80-57 to then-No. 12 Purdue on Dec. 28 in its only home matchup with a ranked team. The Wolverines have dropped nine in a row to Top 25 opponents and three straight at Ann Arbor.

After beating Penn State 76-69 at home last Sunday, Michigan lost 66-50 at Wisconsin on Wednesday.

Zack Novak scored 15 points for the second straight game by making a season-high five 3-pointers, but leading scorer Darius Morris struggled again. The sophomore guard, averaging 15.1 points, finished with eight as he was plagued by early foul problems and failed to score in double digits for the second time in three games.

"(Getting in foul trouble) continues to be a problem with our young guys," said coach John Beilein, whose team hosts No. 2 Ohio State on Wednesday. "They are going to set a record for sprints run for having fouls in games."

Freshman Tim Hardaway Jr. is averaging 10.8 points per game and is one of three Wolverines at 9.0 or above. Kansas has six players scoring at least 9.0 per contest, led by Marcus Morris with 15.2.

Morris had 23 points in a 75-64 home win over Michigan on Dec. 19, 2009, as the Jayhawks limited the Wolverines to 35.8 percent shooting. The victory was Kansas' first in six games in the series, although the teams hadn't met since 1992.

Despite that performance, Kansas coach Bill Self is still wary of Michigan's variation of the Princeton-style offense.

"Our scout team needs to be really good. They need to be able to run their stuff in a way that gives our guys confidence in how to guard it," Self said. "(Michigan is) different that anyone else that we play."

Kansas is playing its third game at Michigan and first since Jan. 27, 1985.



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