After making it through its first big test of the season, Kansas should have an easier time when it returns home to face Eastern Washington on Wednesday.
The third-ranked Jayhawks (7-0) won 59-55 at then-No. 22 Southern California on Sunday in its first game against a ranked opponent and first away from Allen Fieldhouse.
Junior guard Mario Chalmers scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half, highlighted by a 3-pointer from about 26 feet that gave Kansas a five-point lead with 20 seconds left.
“I’ve always felt like I should get the ball at the end of the game because I feel like I can make a play,” said Chalmers, who also had a season-high seven rebounds and is averaging a career-best 13.3 points.
“It wasn’t nerve-racking at all,” he said. “We just had to keep our composure and try to finish real strong.”
Chalmers, one of four starters back from last season’s team that reached the regional finals of the NCAA tournament, stepped up as teammate Brandon Rush was held to six points in 26 minutes. Chalmers helped the Jayhawks overcome season-low 37.9 percent shooting and a season-high 22 turnovers.
“We never had the game totally under control,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We turned the ball over too much, especially at the end of the game. That should never happen.
“It was one of those grind-it-out games. We did not execute very well.”
Despite its struggles on offense, Kansas held an opponent below the 60.3 points its allows per game for the third time in its last four contests. The Jayhawks forced at least 18 turnovers for the seventh straight game.
Senior forward Darnell Jackson had nine points and a season-high 13 rebounds for the Kansas, which held a 42-30 rebounding advantage over the Trojans.
“They showed their experience and poise when they needed to,” USC coach Tim Floyd said.
Kansas, which looks to improve to 8-0 for the first time since winning its first 14 games in 2004-05, will try to extend its home winning streak over non-conference opponents to 15 when its faces Eastern Washington for the first time.
The Eagles (3-6) are coming off a 65-54 victory at Missouri-Kansas City on Monday.
Senior Marcus Hinton had a season-high 16 points, while leading scorer Kellen Williams added 15 and eight rebounds for Eastern Washington, which shot 44.9 percent and 6-for-12 from 3-point range.
The Eagles, 38-49 over the previous three seasons since reaching the NCAA tournament in 2003-04, will face their second ranked opponent this season. They lost 68-41 at then-No. 10 Washington State on Nov. 9.
Eastern Washington, which also lost at Washington, and to Virginia Tech and Michigan at the Great Alaska Shootout, looks to avoid a 12th consecutive loss to a ranked team since a 68-67 win over then-No. 10 St. Joseph’s on Nov. 15, 2001.
“We are going into (this) game trying to get better,” Eagles coach Kirk Earlywine said. “Nothing has changed. We took a step back in the right direction against Missouri-Kansas City, and I absolutely expect us to go in the right direction on Wednesday in Lawrence.”