Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - One of three games on the Sunday schedule that involves a pair of nationally-ranked programs, the 16th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks welcome the 21st-ranked San Diego State Aztecs to Allen Fieldhouse for a non-conference affair.
Kansas, which is led by head coach Bill Self, has won 68 straight games at home versus non-league opponents, and is the second-winningest program in college basketball history overall, so the Aztecs have their work cut out for them. Despite having Andrew Wiggins, who is considered one of the top talents in the nation, the Jayhawks already have three defeats even before Big 12 Conference play begins on Wednesday versus Oklahoma in Norman.
However, the good news for Kansas is that the team is currently enjoying a three-game win streak thanks to a 93-83 triumph over Toledo on Dec. 30.
As for the Aztecs, they are cruising along with a 10-game win streak at the moment, just the fifth time in the 93-year history of the program that they've been able to mount a winning streak of double figures. Following a crushing 118-35 win over St. Katherine College on Dec. 27 that served to pad quite a few stats, San Diego State turned around and kicked off the Mountain West Conference portion of its schedule with a 71-61 triumph versus Colorado State on New Year's Day in Fort Collins.
This is the first meeting between these two programs in more than three decades, and just the third overall. The Aztecs won the very first encounter in 1978 when they took down seventh-ranked Kansas, 81-69, at the San Diego Sports Arena. At the time, the Jayhawks were the highest-ranked program SDSU had ever defeated. A year later Kansas returned the favor in Lawrence, 79-66.
The Aztecs celebrated the new calendar year by taking down Colorado State on the road earlier this week, scoring the first six points of the meeting and never looking back. Xavier Thames paced the visitors with his game-high 23 points, adding five steals and three rebounds, while Winston Shepard tacked on 17 points. Josh Davis tallied just seven points, but at the same time ripped down a game-high 15 rebounds for SDSU.
Thames leads the team in scoring overall this season with his 16.3 ppg, one of only two players to have started all 12 games. Thames, who is shooting an impressive 47.4 percent behind the 3-point line, is also first with 30 assists and 24 steals. Shepard accounts for 13.3 ppg and Davis continues to hover in the vicinity of a double-double with 8.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per contest for a unit that is holding the competition to just 53.3 ppg.
Against an undefeated Toledo squad, the Jayhawks had their hands full but the hosts managed to withstand 18 turnovers and a disappointing 63.6 percent showing at the free-throw line to come away with the win. Perry Ellis picked up some style points with his double-double which consisted of 21 points and 11 rebounds, both of which were game highs, while Joel Embiid turned the trick as well with 14 points and 10 boards. Fellow starters Wiggins and Naadir Tharpe stepped up with 20 points apiece, the latter handing out eight assists.
Wiggins, who figures to be one-and-done at the collegiate level, tends to get most of the attention as he averages a team-best 15.9 ppg and is one of the better rebounders with 5.4 rpg, but there is still plenty more talent on the Kansas roster to speak of. Ellis (13.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Embiid (10.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg) have proven that they can coexist in the paint and both be very successful as each shoots better than 60 percent from the field in order to lift the squad to an impressive 50.9 percent overall.