Kansas arrives in Tuesday night's title game of the Hall of Fame Classic following its most impressive victory of the young season.
If the 12th-ranked Jayhawks are going to win this event for the first time, they'll have to defeat a Saint Louis team that's also coming off its best performance.After a 67-64 loss to then-No. 21 Michigan State on Nov. 13 and a 69-55 victory over Chattanooga on Thursday in Lawrence -- where it trailed by eight at halftime -- Kansas routed Washington State 78-41 on Monday.Senior guard Travis Releford scored a season-best 17 points and freshmen Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore added 12 and 11, respectively."We did a really good job moving the ball in the first half (leading 50-21), and of course, we made shots, and everything looks better when you make shots," said coach Bill Self, whose team makes its first championship appearance in the Classic since an 89-81 overtime loss to Syracuse in 2008.Kansas (3-1) has won 50 of 53 against unranked non-conference foes, but Saint Louis (2-1) should not be overlooked after it defeated Texas A&M 70-49 in Monday's first semifinal in Kansas City, Mo.Sparked by a career high-tying 21 points from junior Dwayne Evans, 13 from Mike McCall Jr. and 12 from senior forward Cory Remekun -- who was making his season debut following a knee injury -- the Billikens shot 51.0 percent and handed out a season-best 17 assists. It was definitely a step in the right direction after they missed 33 of 51 shots and committed 17 turnovers in a 74-62 upset loss to Santa Clara last Wednesday."They played with more of a sense of urgency tonight than I thought they did against Santa Clara," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.Saint Louis' improvements weren't just on the offensive end, as the team had season highs with 10 steals and five blocks.The Billikens have plenty of size up front in Evans, Remekun and Australian Rob Loe, but they could face their toughest matchup of the season in Kansas' Kevin Young and 7-foot center Jeff Withey.Saint Louis' top defender, junior guard Jordair Jett, should see plenty of time matched up with McLemore, a St. Louis native who leads the Jayhawks with 14.8 points per game.Releford will need to keep an eye on McCall, who hit half of the team's season-best six 3-pointers on Monday. Saint Louis missed 21 of 29 from long range in its first two games."They're a tough team to guard when they're making 3s," Kennedy said.Kansas has won 12 of 15 in this series, including nine of the last 10. The last time these teams met, the Jayhawks posted a 71-60 victory at Kemper Arena on Dec. 30, 1999.