November 25, 2015

Unbeaten and aiming for its first signature victory, Vanderbilt is about to make things a whole lot tougher for Kansas in paradise.

After both teams cruised to lopsided victories, the No. 19 Commodores and fifth-ranked Jayhawks meet for the first time in 18 years Wednesday night in the Maui Invitational.

Vanderbilt (4-0) is outscoring opponents by an average of 28.2 points after beating St. John's 92-55 on Monday and pounding Wake Forest 86-64 in the next day's semifinals.

The Commodores, however, have lost eight straight against teams in the Top 25, but this meeting with Kansas (3-1) will be their first of 2015-16.

"It would be huge for us going into the season, having that under our belt," center Damian Jones said after finishing with 17 points with 10 rebounds Tuesday. "It would really help our confidence going into conference play."

The Jayhawks have been even better offensively, averaging 99.3 points while shooting 52.5 percent. They hammered Division II Chaminade 123-72 in the opening round before building a 26-point halftime lead on the way to a 92-73 win over UCLA on Tuesday.

Coach Bill Self isn't expecting things to go nearly as smoothly against Vanderbilt, which Kansas is facing for the first time since a win in Honolulu on Dec. 29, 1997.

"First of all, they're a lot bigger than we are," Self said. "So we're going to have to play bigger than our standing height. We'll have to utilize our quickness inside. It's a hard matchup for us.

"Vanderbilt would be extremely difficult to play and defeat no matter what. But (especially) with no day to prepare for a team that runs 100 different sets, and they're experienced and they share it."

The Commodores have five players averaging double-digit points, including reserve forward Jeff Roberson, who has totaled 23 points and 20 rebounds while making 7 of 12 shots through the first two games in Maui.

Wade Baldwin IV tied Jones' team high of 17 points Tuesday, but the sophomore guard got his in 22 minutes. He's averaging 14.0 points and shooting 53.3 percent, including 8 of 15 from beyond the arc, but totaled just eight points while missing 10 of 14 field-goal attempts in two meetings with ranked teams last season.

Jones, meanwhile, has put up 13.0 points per game with 6.8 boards in four such matchups over his career.

Kansas senior Perry Ellis is looking to build on a season-high 24 points Tuesday, connecting on 9 of 12 from the floor. The forward is averaging a team-high 18.0 points.

If Ellis has trouble finding space due to Vanderbilt's size - Jones, forward Luke Kornet and backup center Josh Henderson are all 7-footers - then Wayne Selden Jr. and Frank Mason III will try to continue their strong play along the perimeter.

Selden is averaging 15.0 points while sinking 13 of 23 from 3-point range, while Mason is scoring 13.8 with 6.5 assists per game.

The Jayhawks won their only Maui Invitational title in 1996, while Vanderbilt's came 10 years earlier.

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