LAWRENCE, Kan. – After racing out to a 19 point lead on the strength of a trio of outstanding first…
Scouting Long Beach State
Long Beach state returns four starters from last season's team, which went 22-12 and won the Big West regular-season title.
The 49ers (4-3) won three of their first four games, including an 86-76 victory at then-No. 9 Pittsburgh on Nov. 16. LBSU's only loss during that stretch was at San Diego State (77-73) in overtime. However, the 49ers have now lost two of their last three contests. Long Beach State dropped two straight at Montana (73-71) and Louisville (79-66) before beating BYU-Hawaii (79-43) on Dec. 2.
LBSU is led by 5-10 senior point guard Casper Ware, who scored a career-high 28 points against Pitt and ended the Panthers' 58-game nonconference home-win streak. He's averaging a team-high 17.1 points and posted a team-best 32 assists. Versatile 6-5 senior guard Larry Anderson (15.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and 6-8 senior forward T.J. Robinson (13.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg) are the other two players in double figures.
Ware, who was named to the John Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 List, earned both the Big West Conference Player of the year and the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, the first player in Big West history to win both awards in the same season. He is the only returning player in the nation to claim both league honors.
One Big West coach said of Ware: "He's jet-quick and will beat you off the dribble. If you drop off of him, he will kill you behind the three-point line. He's ultracompetitive and will not let his team lose."
LBSU averages 73.7 points per game while allowing 67.3. The 49ers shoot 47.6 percent from the field, 33.6 percent from three-point range, and 73.0 percent at the charity stripe. They're holding opponents to 42.7 percent shooting and 33.9 percent from beyond the arc, while outrebounding foes 35.0 to 31.6 boards per game.
SELF ON LONG BEACH STATE
KU coach Bill Self knows LBSU poses a huge challenge.
"They are so fast," Self said. "Casper Ware is as good with the ball as any guard in the country, he can make plays. They're just a good team, a little undersized, but they are extremely fast and they certainly create a lot of havoc defensively."
Self said the 49ers style of play reminds him of Kentucky, which beat KU, 75-65, in Madison Square Garden in New York on Nov. 15.
"Long Beach will play fast and try to score every time in transition," Self said. "They really are in attack mode. The only other team that we have played like that so far this year is Kentucky, who will try and run off of everything and Long Beach State does that. They have a good team; they are definitely an NCAA tournament-type team. I expect them to win their league. They are not backing away from playing anybody. They have already played at Pittsburgh, at Louisville, at Kansas is next and at North Carolina (Saturday) is after that."
NOT LOOKING AHEAD TO Ohio State
With a home matchup with No. 2 Ohio State looming on Saturday, don't expect the Jayhawks (5-2) to look ahead tonight. Self said they can't afford to.
"(LBSU) will probably be the second-best team we play at home in the nonconference (season), without question," Self said.
The players are quite aware of the 49ers' talents.
"They are a good team who could come in here and beat us if we are not ready," senior guard Tyshawn Taylor said. "They are an explosive offensive team who likes to get out on the break and they score most of their points basically off of their defense. The one-three-one trap that they have is real effective so we have to definitely take care of the ball against them."
RAISE THE GAME
Self held a team meeting with his players on Sunday and challenged them to raise their game.
"Coach talked to us for a long time yesterday," junior center Jeff Withey said before practice Monday. "We know what we have to do, and now we just have to prove it out on the court. I think we'll come ready to play (against Long Beach State). Coach really motivated us with all the things he talked about. He challenged us and today's practice has to be a good one."
Self made it clear that that the team wasn't playing up to their expectations.
"It's all up to us to play harder," Withey said. "It was a good motivating talk, one that he kind of called us out. We need to be ready for these next couple games. If we can beat Long Beach and then Ohio State that can really turn around our season. It can definitely help us out a lot."
Kansas leads the all-time series with Long Beach State 2-1. LBSU whipped KU, 64-49, in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 25, 1993 in their last meeting. The Jayhawks rebounded from that loss and advanced to the Final Four under standout guards Rex Walters and Adonis Jordan.
Kansas won the first two meetings, a 69-52 victory on Dec. 21, 1970, in Lawrence, where KU also earned a Final Four berth and went 27-3 that season, and a 66-60 win on Dec. 7, 1991, in Long Beach, Calif.
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