KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Georgia will take on No. 5-ranked Kansas in the finals of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic tournament tonight at 10 p.m. in the Sprint Center (ESPN2). It represents the highest-ranked non-conference opponent the Bulldogs have faced in years.
Georgia (3-1) gets the opportunity after defeating George Washington 81-73 in the tournament semifinals on Monday night. The Jayhawks (3-1) rolled over UAB 83-63.
Afterward, KU coach Bill Self was disappointed at the crowd. “Only” 10,071 came out for the game. The Sprint Center holds 18,972.
“There were a lot of empty seats,” Self told reporters. “Hopefully the fans can come out and see a good game tomorrow. Georgia’s good and it’ll be a competitive game with good athletes on the floor.”
KU’s only loss this season was to No. 3 Indiana in season opener in the Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu. They beat No. 1 Duke 77-75 four days later.
This will be the fourth time Georgia and Kansas have met on the hardwood. The Jayhawks hold a 3-0 advantage, including a 2-0 at neutral sites. The Bulldogs lost 76-65 at Allen Fieldhouse in the season opener of 1992.
Georgia coach Mark Fox is a native of Garden City, Kan., and holds a masters degree from KU (1996). He’s one of very few out-of-conference coaches who can say he won at Allen Fieldhouse. His 2005-06 Nevada team won there 72-70 in December of 2005.
“The only time I don’t root for Kansas is when they’re playing our team,” Fox said Monday night. “Kansas is the benchmark for great basketball. There’s KU and there’s UK and they’re both blue and they’re both terrific, but I have the utmost respect for the history and tradition of Kansas basketball because I grew up watching it.”
Tuesday’s game will match a pair of top-notch guards in Georgia’s J.J. Frazier (18.8 ppg) and KU’s Frank Mason (22.3 ppg). Frazier and Mason are the only two DI players under 6-foot to record a double-digit rebounding performance in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.
But the outcome will probably be decided in the paint. Yante Maten, a 6-8, 240-pound forward, leads the Bulldogs with 20.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. The Jayhawks counter by starting a pair of 6-10 forwards in Carlton Bragg Jr. and Landen Lucas who average 20 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and 60 percent shooting between them. KU features four double-figure scorers.
Maten fouled out with 3:36 remaining against GW. But the Bulldogs got huge contributions from Derek Ogbeide and Pape Diata. Their offensive rebounds and shots down the stretch allowed Georgia to hang on for victory.