(AP) — Before heading on the road to finally get another chance against ranked competition, Kansas has an opportunity to extend the nation’s second-longest home winning streak.
The No. 9 Jayhawks look to maintain their improved play on offense Tuesday night when they face a Richmond team which won its only previous visit to Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas has won 60 consecutive non-conference games in this arena since a loss to Oral Roberts on Nov. 15, 2006. The only team with a longer current win streak at home than its run of 27 straight at Allen Fieldhouse is Syracuse at 29.
The Jayhawks (8-1) have won seven in a row overall since a 67-64 loss to Michigan State on Nov. 13 in Atlanta. That remains their only ranked opponent, but that changes Saturday with a matchup at No. 7 Ohio State.
Kansas has recently shown an impressive offensive prowess to go with a defense that was already playing at an elite level. The team has scored 84-plus points in three straight games while shooting 54.9 percent.
Typically a mediocre 3-point shooting team – 29.9 percent entering this month – the Jayhawks are 18 of 41 (43.9 percent) in two December games.
Ben McLemore and Travis Releford combined to go 6 of 7 from 3-point range and scored 17 points apiece in an 89-60 win over Belmont on Saturday. Freshman Andrew White III, averaging 5.1 points, scored 15 in 10 minutes off the bench and hit three 3-pointers.
While the Jayhawks are accustomed to 3s from McLemore (16.1 ppg), Releford (13.2) and fellow starting guard Elijah Johnson (9.8), White’s performance was a surprise considering he entered the game with 21 points and four 3-pointers all season.
“It’s always good to have a good scoring game, but this is a long season,” White said. “(I have) a lot more I have to improve on.”
Kansas remains one of the nation’s most unselfish teams, averaging 17.0 assists and recording season highs in each of the last two games with 23 and 25, respectively. Four players are averaging 2.2 or more, with Johnson leading the way at 5.1.
“If I have the ball, I’m penetrating and looking for Ben, or Elijah has the ball – it goes like that throughout the team,” Releford said.
Defensively, the Jayhawks are limiting opponents to 35.4 percent field-goal shooting and continue to be anchored by Jeff Withey, whose 5.6 blocks per game lead the country.
Richmond claimed a 69-68 victory over No. 12 Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 22, 2004, in coach Bill Self’s first season with the Jayhawks. The Spiders haven’t won a true road game against a ranked team since that matchup. Self avenged the loss with a 77-57 win over Richmond in the 2011 NCAA tournament regional semifinals.
The Spiders (9-2), off to their best start since 1987-88, defeated Stetson 76-57 on Saturday for their fifth straight victory. They’ve been very good offensively in the last three, averaging 79.7 points and shooting 55.5 percent.
“We guarded it pretty well a couple of years ago in the Sweet 16,” Self said of Richmond’s Princeton-style offense. “We’ll have to practice it for a couple of days and hopefully have some success and play well this next week to set up a good holiday break.”
Three-point shooting could be key, as the Spiders are hitting 43.8 percent during their win streak after a 1-2 stretch during which they hit 25.9 percent.
Darien Brothers, who averages a team-best 14.8 points along with Derrick Williams, leads the way at 51.9 percent on 3s. He’s 8 for 13 over the past two games.