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IU basketball looking for faster start in final major non-conference test at Kansas

Indiana men’s basketball has one more shot for a resume-building win in non-conference play this season.

The 14th-ranked Hoosiers (8-2) hit the road Saturday to face No. 8 Kansas (9-1) at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. The game tips off at noon and will air on ESPN2.

Both teams will enter that game fresh, with a full week between games. Kansas crushed Missouri on the road last Saturday, while Indiana fell to No. 9 Arizona in Las Vegas.

The Hoosiers know they’re against a tough opponent in a tough atmosphere. But that’s just what Race Thompson wants.

“It’s exciting. I’m really excited to go away. I think this is what me and Trayce came back for. We wanted a tough schedule,” Thompson said. “Games like this is what it’s all about, really.”

This is Indiana’s third true road game of the season. IU earned a close win at Xavier in mid-November, and lost at Rutgers in early December. Thompson added that having all those early-season tests away from Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will help them down the road in the thick of Big Ten play.

The reigning national champion Jayhawks look like a contender to repeat thus far. Their only loss came against now-No. 6 Tennessee in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game. KU ranks 56th in the nation in scoring offense at 79.4 points per game, and 103rd in scoring defense at 65.6 points per game. At 1.084 points per possession, Kansas will be the third-most efficient offense that IU has played this season (after Arizona and Xavier).

IU head coach Mike Woodson praised Kansas head coach Bill Self, and said his team can’t afford to fall behind by a lot the way it did against Arizona.

“They’re well-coached. I’ve known Bill for many years. He’s a hell of a coach. His teams always play hard. They do on both ends of the floor,” Woodson said. “I know one thing, we can’t come out and start a game like we did against Arizona and expect to win. That was tough the other night. We fought back and did a lot of good things. Against good teams you’ve got to be in the game early, give yourself a chance.”

Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson is off to a great start this season. He’s averaging 22.1 points (seventh in the country) and 9.4 rebounds per game (tied for 28th). Thompson will likely draw that matchup, with Trayce Jackson-Davis guarding K.J. Adams Jr. in the post.

Thompson is looking forward to that battle with Wilson.

“You’ve got to come into the game knowing that you have a tough matchup and that you’ve got to be ready to guard,” Thompson said. “I’ve got to be up on him because he can shoot the ball. He’s a really talented player.  I think going into the game, someone like that, it’s just really a mindset of, you’ve got to lock in on defense, key in on what he likes to do, and try to take something away.”

Freshman guard Gradey Dick has caused problems from beyond the arc this year. He’s shooting 46.6 percent on 3-pointers, which ranks 23rd in the country. He’s the top individual 3-point shooter IU has faced this season.

At 6-foot-8, Dick is more of a shooting guard or small forward, so he could be Miller Kopp’s defensive assignment. Whoever is guarding Dick will have to stay disciplined and prevent easy looks.

IU guard Jalen Hood-Schifino is questionable after missing the last three games with a back injury. Woodson said the freshman would attempt to practice Thursday and then they’d see how he’s doing on Friday. If he can’t go, it will once again be imperative that Xavier Johnson stay out of foul trouble. IU got in some tricky moments against Arizona when Johnson had two early fouls.

Woodson is anticipating that the Jayhawks will double-team Jackson-Davis in the post, as both Arizona and Rutgers successfully did. KU’s forwards are smaller than Arizona’s, so it could be a better matchup for Indiana.

The Hoosiers are expecting that front court pressure and know what they need to do to combat it, whether it’s Jackson-Davis, Thompson, Malik Reneau, or Jordan Geronimo.

“It’s nothing new. We’ve seen it dating back to last season,” Woodson said. “Guys have just got to be ready to step up and make shots on the perimeter. When that ball comes out, it floats around, you’ve just got to feel good about shooting it and knock them down. (If) we do that, we’ll be fine.”


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