Ballock and teammates

Senior guard Mitch Ballock returns home to Kansas tonight as the Jays take on the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence.

In its first away game and first battle against a ranked opponent this season, the No. 8 Bluejays travel to Allen Fieldhouse tonight to take on No. 5 Kansas.

Despite a loss in its first game to No. 1 Gonzaga, the Jayhawks rank ahead of the Bluejays with what senior guard Mitch Ballock considers a similar style to their own.

“They play a lot like we do just with the five-guard system,” he said. “Hopefully we can match that and just wear them down with our pace and the way we play.”

In the Kansas lineup are three players reporting double figures through the team’s first five games and senior guard Marcus Garrett, who’s considered one of the top defenders in college basketball.

Coach Greg McDermott is confident in his team’s depth that’s already been evident this season ahead of the challenge.

“We’re getting great contributions from Shereef Mitchell, Antwann Jones, Ryan Kalkbrenner and Jacob Epperson,” he said. “All doing a really good job for us off the bench, I’m hopeful that we can use our depth to our advantage the best we possibly can.”

The Jays also look to junior guard Marcus Zegarowski, preseason Big East player of the year, who’s tallying 12.3 points per game and already 21 assists on the season.

Through the first three games, the undefeated Bluejays are shooting 51.9% from the floor.

“We’re gradually getting back into shape and getting some of that timing back that comes with that, but obviously we have a heck of a challenge ahead,” McDermott said.

This is also the first time the Jays will play in front of a crowd this season, as 2,500 spectators will be allowed in Allen Fieldhouse. 

“This’ll be a good test for us,” Ballock said. “Building up for the rest of the season, building up into conference play so hopefully we can get a baseline of where we’re at and get a little better.” 

Looking ahead, McDermott’s confident in what the Jays’ versatile talent can accomplish the remainder of the season.

But for now, the group will focus on tonight’s top-10 matchup, which tips off at 4:00 p.m. on ESPN.

“Games like this are good, it’s fun,” McDermott said. “I think it’s why guys play and coaches coach, to be in situations like this where you have a good team and you get an opportunity to see what you can do against another really good team.”

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