Nebraska-Kansas Preview

BY foxsports • December 8, 2016

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The need to work the basketball inside is a product of the offense coach Bill Self wants to run and his preference to attack inside-out in half-court sets.

Primary threats this season, however, dictate the Jayhawks be more proficient at running the floor and shooting from 3-point range. Often, Self employs a four-guard attack.

Still, he values the importance of working the ball inside with No. 3 Kansas off to an 8-1 start and carrying an eight-game win streak entering a home game Saturday against Nebraska (5-4).

"It's to help our team," Self said. "I mean, we're not going to score consistently shooting 50 percent from 3 all the time. You've got to be able to throw the ball inside and get fouled, or score on the block some. You have to be able to do that. So we need to feed those guys more often, get them more touches."

Those guys, the Kansas big men, have been inconsistent factoring into team scoring.

Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg is the leader among the bigs with a 7.8-point average that rank sixth among the Jayhawks' scorers. Senior forward Landen Lucas averages the most minutes (17.4), but has been slowed by an ailing foot.

Freshman center Udoka Azubuike has been the lone big to start in the lineup Self used the last four games. He averages 4.8 points and 4.7 boards.

Each of those players, Self maintains, can gain more confidence if they are simply incorporated into the offense.

"They don't need to look to score if they're getting the ball more," Self said. "They can wait and have better timing and not force the issue. The more touches you get, the less you feel inclined that you have to score."

With Kansas averaging 87.8 points and shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range, marks that rank 12th and ninth nationally, the guards are capable of shouldering the scoring load.

In addition, they can initiate transition as rebounders, helping the Jayhawks to a 119-47 advantage in fast-break points.

"There's going to be a game where we're not making shots," junior guard Devonte' Graham said, "and we'll really find out what kind of team we are and if we can get stops and defend. We're just going to stay aggressive, keep passing how we've been passing it and keep shooting."

The meeting against Nebraska renews a series that began in 1900, but was last staged in 2011, the Huskers' final season in the Big 12. The programs were also league rivals in the Big Six, Big Seven and Big Eight. Kansas has won the last 17 meetings and was 31-3 against Nebraska as members of the Big 12.

Nebraska is coming off a 77-62 homecourt defeat against No. 10 Creighton. The Huskers trailed 18-4 after scoring on just two of their first 15 possessions, then rallied within two early in the first half before Creighton ran away.

"If this doesn't hurt you, nothing does," Nebraska coach Tim Miles said after the in-state loss dropped him to 68-71 in his fifth season.

"We've got to teach them how to win. I think it's watching tape and meeting with guys and all that fun stuff, and just continually cultivating a relationship of trust and understanding of what good basketball looks like and how we have to do it against top-level competition."

The visit to Kansas represents another top-level game. The matchup will be the sixth in 16 days for the Huskers against opponents ranked in the top 51 of the current RPI.

Senior guard Tai Webster leads the Huskers with a 17.2-point average, while sophomore guard Glynn Watson chips in 13.2. Sophomore forward Ed Morrow averages 10.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds.

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