The last time Kansas faced a Mountain West program in its non-conference finale, well, it didn’t go so well. On a Sunday afternoon last January, San Diego State entered Allen Fieldhouse and handed Bill Self one of his nine losses ever at Allen Fieldhouse.
One year later, the 13th-ranked Jayhawks will face UNLV at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse.
It’s easy to see the connection. Mountain West opponent. A long and athletic team coming into the Phog. So perhaps Self doesn’t need to remind his team of what happened last year, but yes, he still will.
“We don’t have to say that,” Self said, “but we will say that — ‘Hey, last time we played on a Sunday before we opened conference play on a Wednesday … a team from the same league came in and got us pretty good.’ ”
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Scoring against length
While Kansas’ big men have struggled to score around the basket for most of the season, UNLV enters Sunday’s game ranked fifth in the country in blocked shots per game (7.2). Sophomore forward Christian Wood, who is listed at 6 feet 11, leads the Rebels with 39 blocks, while freshman Goodluck Okonoboh has 33 blocks on the season.
“That’s got to be a concern, and it is a concern,” Self said. “If you watch tape, this Christian Wood is different than anybody you’ve ever seen, because he’s really a guard that’s 7-foot tall.”
UNLV, which is 9-4 after losing at Wyoming on Dec. 31, recorded a home victory over No. 3 Arizona on Dec. 23 and defeated Temple 57-50 on Dec. 22.
“They play with good energy,” Self said. “I like their team. Of course, the headline game that they had so far, at least, in my opinion, was the Arizona game, obviously. And I thought they controlled that game basically the entire game even though the game was very close.”
Self hopes for good news on Devonte’ Graham
Self said on Friday that freshman point guard Devonte’ Graham continues to rehab his sprained right big toe, which has kept him sidelined since Dec. 10.
Self isn’t sure when Graham will be able to return to the floor, but the next evaluation from doctors could come next week. Graham is no longer wearing a walking boot, but most of his physical activity has been confined to workouts in the swimming pool.
Graham was originally expected to be out at least four weeks after suffering the injury in a victory at Georgetown.
“He’s in a game shoe, and he’s out there moving around a little bit,” Self said. “But we’re doing most of the rehab in the water. And he’s just riding the bike and elliptical. We haven’t let him run yet.
“But we’re hopeful if he continues to progress, we’ll have a report for you maybe next week that he can get back on the floor. But that hasn’t been the case yet.”