No. 3 Kansas Hosts Northern Arizona in Saturday's Season-Opener
Nov. 9, 2006
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
The 77 student camping groups at Kansas’ exhibition game against Emporia State Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse should be back for Saturday’s season opener against Northern Arizona. Both KU and NAU are the preseason favorites to win their 2007 league races. Additionally, both are defending conference champions and both return a bundle — nine lettermen — from last season. Though it won’t be easy, a KU victory would give the Jayhawks 15 wins in their last 16 season-opening games and mark Kansas’ 34th straight home-opening win.
No. 3 Kansas went 2-0 in exhibition play with wins against Washburn (99-69) and Emporia State (90-55). For the two games, KU had six players average in double figures and was led by freshman forward Darrell Arthur’s 16.5 points per game. Junior forward Darnell Jackson averaged 14.5 points and freshman guard Sherron Collins had 14 a game. Sophomore Julian Wright averaged a team-high 11.5 rebounds in the first two exhibition games to go along with 12.5 points per contest. Sophomores Mario Chalmers (12) and Brandon Rush (11) also averaged double digit scoring. Chalmers sat out the Emporia State exhibition due to a sprained toe, but is expected to return to the lineup against Northern Arizona. Accolades are aplenty for the 2006-07 Kansas team. The Jayhawks enter the season ranked No. 3 in the two major polls. Individually, Rush is an Associated Press Preseason All-America selection to go along with being named the Preseason Co-Big 12 Player of the Year with Wright. Both are preseason all-league first-team selections and Chalmers was an honorable mention pick.
About Northern Arizona
Northern Arizona is coming off a 21-11 season in 2005-06, its first 20-win season since 2000-01. NAU won its lone exhibition contest, 86-74, over Fort Lewis on Nov. 3. The Lumberjacks won the 2006 Big Sky Conference regular season title with a 12-2 record and return four starters and nine letterwinners from last season’s team. NAU lost in the first round of the postseason NIT. Northern Arizona is the preseason pick to win the Big Sky title in a vote by the league coaches. Senior guard Stephen Sir led the NCAA in three-point shooting last season with a 48.9 percentage and averaged 11.1 points per game. Senior forward Ruben Boykin Jr. was an all-conference first team selection last season where he averaged 13.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Senior guard Tyrone Bazy was the 2006 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year after averaging 11.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Josh Wilson scored 6.3 points per game last year and led the Big Sky with 6.14 assists per game. Junior forward Ryan McCurdy, who averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore, rounds out the returning starters.
Kansas has won both meetings in men’s basketball with Northern Arizona with the last during the 1990 season — a KU 84-57 win in Flagstaff, Ariz. The Jayhawks defeated the Lumberjacks, 109-59, during the 1988-89 season in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas continues its home stand when it plays host to Oral Roberts on Nov. 15. ORU won the Mid-Continent Conference title last season, going 21-12 overall and 13-3 in league play. ORU was also the first head-coaching stop for Bill Self as he guided the Golden Eagles from 1994-97. Tip from Allen Fieldhouse is set for 7 p.m. and the contest can be seen on Jayhawk TV.