Up Next: Washington State

(Steve Puppe photo)

Kansas will look to build off its great second half against Chattanooga last Thursday when the Jayhawks head to Kansas City and the Sprint Center tonight to face Washington State in the championship semifinal of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.

Tipoff is 9 p.m. on ESPN2.

After a sluggish first half versus the Mocs where KU was down 36-28, the Jayhawks (2-1) elevated their intensity and energy and outscored Chattanooga by 22 after halftime, winning 69-55. KU held the Mocs to just 24.0 percent shooting in the second half while hitting 50 percent of its shots after intermission as the Jayhawks got their fast-break game in gear and had several game-changing dunks.

"I thought the first half was the worst we've played and the second half was the best we've played all year," KU coach Bill Self said. "Our defense was tremendous the second half."

Self now hopes for 40 minutes of tremendous defense against Washington State (2-1), which is coming off a 58-56 overtime loss at Pepperdine on Friday. The Cougars had previously won their first two games against Eastern Washington and Utah Valley.

WSU is led by senior Brock Motum, one of 50 preseason candidates for the 2012-13 John R. Wooden Award. Motum, a 6-10 senior forward who was named All-Pac-12 First Team and the league's most improved player his junior year, led the Cougars and the Pac-12 with 18.0 points per game in 2011-12.

The Brisbane, Australia, native has started this season where he left off last year, averaging 17.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Motum is followed in scoring by 6-5 senior guard Mike Ladd (12.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg), 6-3 sophomore guard DaVonte Lacy (11.3 ppg, tied for team lead with 10 assists), 6-6 sophomore guard Dexter Kernich-Drew (8.7 ppg), 6-3 sophomore point guard Royce Woolridge (7.7 ppg) and 6-10 junior forward D.J. Shelton (5.3 ppg, team-high 7.3 rpg).

Woolridge is a former Jayhawk who played at KU during the 2010-11 season, scoring nine points in 16 games. The son of former late NBA star Orlando Woolridge, Royce has started all three games for WSU, averaging 31.3 minutes per game while making 4 of 8 three-point shots. He's shooting 44.4 percent from the field, and is tied for team lead with 10 assists and four steals.

WSU is averaging 72.0 points per game while allowing just 58.7. The Cougars are shooting 49.4 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from downtown and 66.7 percent from the free throw line, while holding foes to 39.9 percent shooting and 39.1 percent from three-point range. Washington State is strong on the glass, outrebounding opponents 37.7 to 27.7 boards per game.

Self, whose team played well the first 35 minutes against Michigan State last Tuesday (KU lost 67-64) and the last 20 minutes versus Chattanooga, is now aiming for a complete, high-energy game by the Jayhawks tonight.

"We're not good enough to play at 80 percent or 90 percent," Self said. "We have to play at 100 percent every night; when we do that we're pretty good."

THE KU-WSU SERIES

KU and Washington State have played just one time with the Jayhawks winning, 66-51, in The Opening round of the Jayhawk Classic on Dec. 14, 1973, in Allen Fieldhouse. KU's Norm Cook led all scorers with 16 points, while Danny Knight scored 16 and Dale Greenlee 10. KU went on to win the Jayhawk Classic defeating Oregon, 67-49, the next day. Kansas, which went just 8-18 the previous season, had the best comeback in school history in 1973-74, finishing at 23-7 and advancing to the Final Four. The Jayhawks also won the Big Eight regular-season title with a 13-1 record. Knight, the late uncle of Lady Jayhawks' sophomore guard Natalie Knight, led KU in scoring that season at 12.4 points per game.

EARLY STATS

Through three games, KU averages 69 points per game while allowing 59. The Jayhawks are shooting 43.8 percent from the field, 24.5 percent from beyond the arc and 70.8 percent at the free throw line, while holding foes to 37.7 percent shooting and 38.8 percent from three-point range.

KU is outrebounding opponents 38.3 to 34.3 while averaging 7.7 steals and a Big 12-leading 8.7 blocks per game. Senior center Jeff Withey leads KU's block party with 4.3 blocks per contest, while chipping in 12.0 points and 9.7 rebounds. He also has two double-doubles.

KC, HOME SWEET HOME

Kansas City has always been a second home for the Jayhawks. Kansas posted a sterling 81-25 record in Kemper Arena, while recording a 14-4 mark thus far in Sprint Center, including winning the 2008, 2010 and 2011 Big 12 Championships at the arena. KU's greatest moment in Kansas City was winning the 1988 national championship in Kemper Arena with Danny and the Miracles. The Jayhawks are 199-78 all time in games played in Kansas City.

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