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December 7, 2010

Battle of the unbeatens at MSG

Kansas has lost three straight games at Madison Square Garden since its last victory there 10 seasons ago. Memphis has played regularly at MSG in that time period, and it's set to make its first appearance at the venue under coach Josh Pastner.

These 7-0 teams meet Tuesday night in New York in the opener of the Jimmy V Classic when the fourth-ranked Jayhawks face the No. 13 Tigers.

Kansas last won at MSG by an 82-74 score over St. John's on Nov. 10, 2000. The Jayhawks lost twice in the 2002 Preseason NIT and fell to Saint Joseph's in the 2005 Jimmy V Classic.

Memphis went 9-6 at MSG under John Calipari since Kansas earned its last victory there. Pastner, who took over before last season, will coach for the first time at the arena.

"Tuesday's game versus Kansas is going to be a big-time game in a big-time atmosphere," Pastner said. "Bottom line is, as I told our guys, this is just another game on our schedule and we are not getting too high with the highs or too low with the lows."

Neither team has faced a ranked opponent, although Kansas is finishing up a grueling three-game stretch. The Jayhawks beat Arizona 87-79 on Nov. 27 and UCLA 77-76 on Thursday.

Both Kansas and Memphis rank among the nation's leaders in scoring, with the Jayhawks averaging a Big 12-best 89.8 points and Memphis topping Conference USA at 85.3. The Jayhawks are shooting a Division I-high 56.9 percent.

"We don't trick it up much and Memphis doesn't either," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "But in the NCAA tournament you are always worried about a style you won't see till the NCAA tournament and Memphis is that way with its incredibly athletic team."

The schools are meeting for the second time since Kansas won 75-68 in overtime to capture the 2008 national title. The Jayhawks won 57-55 in Pastner's second game as Tigers coach last Nov. 17 in St. Louis.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris is the only returning player from either team who reached double figures in last season's matchup. Morris is averaging a team-high 18.6 points, although he's been hampered by picking up four fouls in each of the last two games.

The Jayhawks overcame his foul trouble against the Bruins as guards Tyshawn Taylor and Tyrel Reed each scored 17 points.

"We are a deep team and we have guys that can do a lot of different things," said Taylor, a native of Jersey City, N.J. who will be playing at MSG for the first time.

Pastner inserted highly touted freshman Will Barton into the starting lineup for the first time in a 77-61 home win over Western Kentucky on Saturday. Barton had eight points after back-to-back 20-point efforts.

"We just want to keep improving," Barton said. "We're not a finished product. All we've got to do is keep improving and winning."

Kansas has the edge in experience with three juniors and two sophomores in its lineup. Memphis' starting five has three newcomers.

"We aren't making this game bigger than any other game," Pastner said. "We are 7-0 and that is the bottom line."



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