Kansas senior forward Travis Releford was recognized for his stellar play last week, by being named…
Up Next: San Jose St.
The No. 12 Jayhawks (4-1) look to keep up the momentum when they host San Jose State (2-2) tonight at 8 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse on ESPNU.
KU coach Bill Self was quite pleased with how his team played in beating the Cougars (78-41) and Billikens (73-59) in Kansas City. The Jayhawks performed with high energy and held Washington State to just 29.8 percent shooting while limiting SLU to 34.6 percent marksmanship.
"I think we got better," Self said. "I don't think there's any question about it. There were a lot of good things that happened. We got better over here. That was a big key."
Travis Releford and Jeff Withey certainly got better in Kansas City. They both came up huge in the championship game against the Billikens as Releford scored 23 points, including 21 in the first half, while Withey dominated inside with 25 points, five rebounds and seven blocks. Releford and Withey, along with Ben McLemore, made the all-tournament team.
Releford, who had previously struggled with his shot before the games in Kansas City, averaged 20 points in the two contests at Sprint Center and was named the Classic's Most Valuable Player. He shot 7 of 13 from the field, 4 of 7 from three-point range and made 5 of 6 free throws in the title game.
"He was unbelievable the first half," Self said. "It was good for him to kind of get the lid off the basket so to speak."
The Jayhawks now face a San Jose State team which returns three starters from last season's team that went 9-22 and 1-13 in the Western Athletic Conference. The Spartans are coming off two victories over UC Santa Cruz (94-54) on Nov. 20 and Weber State (68-67 in OT) on Nov. 15 after previously falling at New Orleans (72-68) on Nov. 9 and Houston (77-75) on Nov. 13.
SJSU is led by senior guard James Kinney, who is averaging 21.0 points with 6.5 rebounds per game. He also has a team-high 11 steals. Sophomore guard Nick Grieves played in his first game of the season against UC Santa Cruz and had 18 points in 11 minutes. Junior forward Chris Cunningham averages 12.0 points and a team-high 9.0 rebounds per game, while sophomore guard D.J. Brown is also averaging 12.0 points per contest.
The Spartans are averaging 76.2 points and allowing 67.5 points per game while outrebounding foes 39.5 to 34.2. They also average 8.5 steals and 6.3 three-pointers per game.
While San Jose State looks to be improved from last season, the Jayhawks know they just have to focus on themselves and getting better each practice and game.
One player Self hopes gets untracked against the Spartans is Elijah Johnson. He's averaging 10.2 points and a team-high 4.0 assists per game, but shot just 41.3 percent from the field. Self wants to see the senior leader be in attack mode as he undergoes the transition to primary point guard this year.
"I don't think he's quite got it to the point where he knows he can be more aggressive," Self said. "In the past when he's been aggressive, he's been aggressive to try to score. Now, I don't think he really understands that him forcing help on the first side gets the guy a better shot on the second or third side. He's kind of too stationary for me, but I think he's doing fine. He just hasn't made shots yet. The lid will come off for him. ... I don't think he's really got into a rhythm yet."
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