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November 15, 2011

Kansas, Kentucky ready for primetime battle

State Farm Champions Classic

Two of the most storied programs in college basketball - Kansas and Kentucky - square off in one of the most historic venues in the inaugural State Farms Champions Classic Tuesday, Nov. 15. The game will start at approximately 8:30 p.m. (Central) from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., as part of ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon. Kansas enters the game No. 13 in both national polls, while Kentucky is No. 2. The KU-UK contest can also be heard via the internet for those who subscribe to AT&T Jayhawk All-Access through www.kuathletics.com. Here are just a few notables for the Kansas and Kentucky contest:

--These are the top two winningest programs in NCAA Division I college basketball with Kentucky first at 2,053 wins and Kansas second at 2,038 victories.

--Both schools' facilities are named after KU greats. Kentucky's Rupp Arena is named after Adolph Rupp who was from Halstead, Kan., a KU graduate and played at KU in 1923 under coach F.C. "Phog" Allen, of which Allen Fieldhouse is named.

--Kentucky coach John Calipari was an assistant coach at Kansas from 1982-85. KU head coach Bill Self was a graduate assistant under Larry Brown in 1985-86.

--This will be the first meeting between Bill Self and John Calipari since April 7, 2008, when Kansas defeated Memphis 75-68 in overtime in the NCAA National Championship game.

--Kansas leads the NCAA in conference men's basketball titles with 54. Kentucky is second with 50.


About Kansas

Kansas opened the 2011-12 season defeating Towson 100-54 in the first round of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational. Six Jayhawks scored in double figures, including four of the five starters. Junior F Thomas Robinson, a preseason All-American candidate, led the way with 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Junior G Travis Releford had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while senior G Tyshawn Taylor scored 12 points and junior C Jeff Withey had 10 with four blocked shots. Off the bench, junior F Kevin Young had 13 points and seven rebounds, while senior G Conner Teahan had 11 points, including three three-pointers.

A three-year starter, Taylor is KU's returning leading scorer from 2010-11 with a 9.3 scoring average. Juniors Robinson, Releford and G Elijah Johnson were also regulars last season. Robinson is Kansas' leading returning rebounder (6.4 rpg), which complemented his 7.6 scoring average. Releford (3.6 ppg in 2010-11) is a redshirt junior guard who started four games last year. Johnson (3.4 ppg, 64 assists) had six starts his sophomore year and made 40 percent of his three-pointers attempted.

Other returning letterwinners include Teahan, a 2010-11 redshirt who has appeared in 61 games while at KU, Withey (2.3 ppg, 19 blocked shots) and walk-on guards Jordan Juenemann, a senior, and sophomore Niko Roberts.

Newcomer-wise, sophomore forward Justin Wesley was a redshirt on the Kansas roster last season and saw extensive time in KU's two exhibition contests and against Towson (six points on 3-of-4 shooting). The younger brother of KU great Keith Langford, Wesley is a transfer from Lamar who has added 20 pounds to his frame since arriving at Kansas to start the season weighing 220 pounds.

Young, a fellow transfer, should have an immediate impact as he played two seasons at Loyola-Marymount and sat out last year before coming to Kansas.

KU has five freshmen on this season's roster with guards Naadir Tharpe, Merv Lindsay, Ben McLemore and Christian Garrett and forward Jamari Traylor. Tharpe started both Kansas' exhibition games at point and had six points, four assists and no turnover against Towson.

He played at Brewster (N.H.) Academy last year, guiding his team to a 35-5 record and a prep school national championship. Lindsay averaged 15.0 ppg and 10.2 rpg his senior year at Canyon Springs (Calif.) HS, while Garrett scored 14 points per game and averaged seven assists as a teammate of Traylor before coming to Kansas last January.

McLemore and Traylor were declared partial qualifiers by the NCAA and will not dress out for 2011-12. The duo will be able to practice with the team following the fall 2011 semester.


About Kentucky

Located in Lexington, Ky., with an enrollment of 28,000, Kentucky heads to Madison Square Garden as the No. 2 team in the national polls. Like Kansas, Kentucky dominated its season opener defeating Marist 108-58. Anthony Davis led UK with 23 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots in the win, while Marquis Teague scored 16 points, Doron Lamb 15 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 15 and Kyle Wiltjer 14. Terrance Jones came off the bench and had eight points and nine rebounds. Davis, Teague, Lamb, Kidd-Gilcrhist and Darrius Miller (eight points, five assists, two blocked shots, two steals) started the Marist game for Kentucky. Eloy Vargas (five points, eight rebounds) also played significant minutes.


The Series

Kentucky leads the all-time series with Kansas, 19-6, yet Kansas has won the last three meetings dating back to 2005. The two teams last met in the second round of the 2007 NCAA West Regional in Chicago with Kansas defeating Kentucky 88-76. The two teams had a home-and-home series in 2005 and 2006 with KU winning in Lexington 65-59 on Jan. 9, 2005, and 73-46 the following season (Jan. 7, 2006) in Allen Fieldhouse.

The series dates back to 1950, a 68-39 UK win in Lexington. Kansas' single-game record of 150 points came against Kentucky in a 150-95 win over Rick Pitino's Wildcats on Dec. 9, 1989 in Lawrence.


Kansas vs. Ranked Foes

No. 2 Kentucky will be the highest Associated Press ranked team Kansas will face since the 2008 NCAA National Championship game (April 7) when the Jayhawks defeated then-No. 2 Memphis, 75-68 in overtime, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. Two days prior, KU defeated then-No. 1 North Carolina, 84-66, in the Final Four semifinal, also at the Alamodome. In regular-season play, Kentucky will be the highest-ranked KU opponent since the Jayhawks defeated then-No. 1 Florida in the title game of the 2006 Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 25), a Kansas 82-80 overtime win at Orleans Arena. Under Bill Self, Kansas is 35-13 against AP ranked teams, including a 21-6 record in the last four seasons and 13-2 mark in the last two years.


The State Farm Champions Classic

Kansas will participate in the State Farm Champions Classic over the next three seasons with national powers Kentucky, Michigan State and Duke, as ESPN announced in December 2010. The Champions Classic will run three years in double-header format with the aforementioned marquee programs. All games will be televised on ESPN. Kansas will face Kentucky on Nov. 15, 2011, in Madison Square Garden in New York, while Michigan State will play Duke. Next season, Kansas will play Michigan State on Nov. 13, 2012, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Duke will play Kentucky in that Champions Classic double-header. On Nov. 12, 2013, the venue will be the United Center in Chicago with Kansas playing Duke and Kentucky facing Michigan State.


Kansas in Madison Square Garden

Since 1981-82, Kansas is 12-6 all-time in Madison Square Garden, including a 1-1 mark under head coach Bill Self. Event titles in the historic venue include the 2000 Coaches vs. Cancer crown and the Preseason NIT championships in 1989, 1993 and 1997. KU also advanced to the Preseason NIT semifinals played in Madison Square Garden in 1985 and 2002. In the 1981-82 and 1987-88 seasons, KU played in the ECAC Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden going 1-1 in both events hosted by St. John's. Under Bill Self, Kansas has participated in The Garden twice in the Jimmy V. Classic - losing to Saint Joseph's, 70-67, on Dec. 6, 2005; and last season defeating Memphis, 81-68, on Dec. 7, 2010.


Up Next

Kansas will face Georgetown on Monday, Nov. 21, in the quarterfinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational at Maui's Lahaina Civic Center. The contest will be televised on ESPN2 and will begin at 11 p.m. (Central). Kansas will play either UCLA or host Chaminade in the second round of the event on Tuesday, Nov. 22. Tip time will be a Kansas win at 9:30 p.m. (Central) on ESPN or a KU loss at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2. On Nov. 23, Kansas will play either Duke, Memphis, Michigan or Tennessee.



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