Rams butt heads with Jayhawks in Orlando Classic

Nov 27, 2014 - 3:26 PM Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 11th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks begin play in the Orlando Classic, as they take on the dangerous Rhode Island Rams in first-round action at HP Field House on Thanksgiving Day.

The winner of this game will take on either Santa Clara or Tennessee in the next round on Friday.

Bill Self's Jayhawks are once again one of the favorites in the Big 12 Conference and come into this event with a 2-1 record. The team has posted a couple of double-digit wins at home over UC Santa Barbara (69-59) and Rider (87-60), but was humbled in a marquee matchup with the No. 1 team in the country, falling hard to Kentucky in the Champions Classic, 72-40.

Dan Hurley's Rams would like nothing better than to secure another high profile win to start the year. Rhode Island is a perfect 3-0 to start the campaign and that includes a thrilling 66-62 overtime win against previously nationally-ranked Nebraska last weekend.

The Jayhawks own a 2-1 series advantage over Rhode Island, with Kansas posting a 80-69 win in the last meeting in 2006.

After getting routed by Kentucky and shooting an embarrassing .196 from the floor in the loss, Kansas got some perspective by shooting a scorching .596 from the floor against Rider on Monday in non-bracketed action of this event. The game was really decided in the first half when the Jayhawks shot a gaudy .667 from the field (20-of-30), taking a 51-22 lead into halftime. Four Jayhawks notched double figures in the win, led by Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene, who finished with 17 points apiece. Svi Mykhailiuk and Cliff Alexander added 10 points each in the rout.

The numbers are still skewed a bit due to the Kentucky debacle, as Kansas is much more dangerous than the .398 it is currently shooting or the 65.3 ppg it is currently averaging. Ellis right now is the only Jayhawk with a double- digit scoring average at 11.3 ppg. Alexander (9.0 ppg) has contributed off the bench, while Frank Mason III (8.7 ppg) isn't far behind.

Rhode Island has really played well at both ends of the court this season, resulting in an even +20.0 scoring margin. The team is shooting the ball well at a .483 clip, leading to 77.3 ppg. Foes are shooting a much worse .365 from the field and putting up just 57.3 ppg. In addition, URI has dominated the play on the glass, boasting of a +15.7 rebounding advantage. The Rams boast a potent one-two punch in E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin, who net 16.3 and 15.7 ppg, respectively. Martin (9.3 rpg) teams with Gilvydas Biruta (9.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg) to give the team a strong tandem inside. Jared Terrell (11.7 ppg) has had a hand in Rhode Island's strong start as well.

In a back-and-forth battle with the Cornhuskers, it was the Rams that distanced themselves in the extra frame to earn the win. Matthews was brilliant in the victory, scoring a game-high 26 points. He completed a double-double with 10 rebounds. Terrell chipped in 12 points. Martin fouled out in overtime, but finished the game with eight points and 12 rebounds.

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