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6:52 PM PT7:52 PM MT8:52 PM CT9:52 PM ET2:52 PM GMT10:52 PM 北京时间7:52 PM MST9:52 PM EST, Nov 23, 2018
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No. 2 Kansas meets No. 5 Tennessee in Preseason NIT final

(AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Eyes are usually focused on offensive firepower, especially this early in the season when a highly-rated team such as No. 2 Kansas begins to test new combinations.

The message Bill Self delivered to the Jayhawks while trailing at halftime for the first time since last season's Final Four defeat to Villanova emphasized the other end of the floor.

Apparently, the speech worked. Kansas (4-0) wiped out a nine-point deficit by scoring 22 unanswered points to begin the second half and overtook Marquette 77-68 in the Preseason NIT.

No. 5 Tennessee (4-0) toppled Louisville 91-82 in the other opening game and will meet Kansas on Friday in the championship game in Brooklyn, N.Y.

When asked about Self's fiery halftime talk, the Jayhawks' leading scorer in the first round, junior guard Dedric Lawson, replied, "I'm not going to say the word he used, but he got on us about going out there and defending."

Also, about the toughness Kansas must exert.

"We kind of saw our own blood for the first time this year," Self said. "We didn't back down after we saw it. I thought that was terrific in how the guys responded after halftime."

Lawson, a Memphis transfer, delivered his best offensive performance to date for the Jayhawks while posting 26 points and 12 rebounds against Marquette. Senior guard Lagerald Vick, who scored 30-plus points in the previous two games, added 16 and leads the Jayhawks with a 20.8-point average.

After surrendering 11 makes on 3-pointers in the first half of the Marquette win, the Jayhawks are allowing opponents to shoot 40 percent from that range. Those defensive lapses prompted Self to say his team needs a difficult matchup.

"We're young and we're not as tough as we need to be," said Self, "and we better be pretty tough on Friday the way they play, or they could certainly make us look really bad."

Tennessee is holding opponents to 32.8 percent shooting while riding the immense talents of 6-7 junior forward Grant Williams, who averages 22.5 points and 8.5 rebounds. Senior guard Admiral Schofield adds 14 points and 7.3 boards on average.

Volunteers coach Rick Barnes also made mention of what his team should be doing to stop opponents after his team escaped Louisville down the stretch.

The Vols played with several lineups after returning junior guard Lamonte Turner. Turner, who delivered in the clutch and scored 13 against Louisville, had not played since an Oct. 31 exhibition after undergoing an offseason shoulder procedure and later tendinitis.

"This time of year you're just trying to win basketball games while establishing what you do," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. "We can play with a number of different guys and that's what I like about this team. But I think they all know they can play better than what we were defensively."

The matchup involves two coaches who opposed each other several times in the Big 12 when Barnes, the fourth-year Vols coach, was at Texas and regularly faced Kansas.

"The way that (Barnes) has gotten his team to play, at least from the outside looking in, is exactly what our team needs to experience," Self said. "Somebody that will not back down, loves to play together and they'll never give up on a possession defensively."

Updated November 23, 2018

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