LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Right on the heels of one of its greatest seasons, St. Joseph’s was nearly handed its most lopsided loss.
Wayne Simien had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 2 Kansas shot 63 percent during a 91-51 rout of the Hawks on Tuesday night.
It was the first regular-season loss since Dec. 28, 2002, for St. Joseph’s (0-1), the little Philadelphia school that captured the nation’s imagination with an unbeaten 2003-04 regular season.
Outmanned from start to finish, the Hawks came within four points of matching the school record for worst loss, a 123-79 blowout by Cincinnati on Dec. 28, 1959.
“We brought boys and we played men,” said Phil Martelli, The Associated Press Coach of the Year last season thanks to a 30-2 record. “It was across the board because even their freshmen were men.”
Kansas (2-0) drew motivation from dropping a spot in the poll to No. 2 this week following a close season-opening victory over unranked Vermont.
“There was a little buzz in the locker room after that,” the 6-foot-9 Simien said. “I was definitely surprised. We kind of used it as a motivation for this game, people not taking us seriously. But rankings don’t mean much and we’re excited to get the win tonight.”
Kansas shot 61 percent in the first half and seized a 50-19 lead while holding St. Joseph’s to 19 percent on 5-for-26 shooting.
The Hawks, who fell just one win short of the 2004 Final Four, were obviously undermanned without their star guards from last season, Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, who went into the NBA as first-round draft picks. Nelson was AP Player of the Year while averaging almost 21 points.
Further weakening the Hawks was the dislocated shoulder that’s sidelined Pat Carroll, their only returning double-digit scorer.
“They’re kind of in a rebuilding mode, losing two first-round picks, and Carroll was also out, one of their best players,” Simien said. “So we just capitalized.”
When Sasha Kaun hit a short jumper that put Kansas on top 83-41, St. Joseph’s was in danger of breaking its record for most lopsided loss.
“They came out on fire,” St. Joseph’s guard Dwayne Lee said.
The Hawks, favored to win their fifth straight Atlantic 10 title, made a futile attempt to keep pace with the taller and more experienced Jayhawks and often seemed to hurry their shots. The Hawks missed their first 10 3-pointers and wound up 2-for-18 behind the arc and 16-for-54 from the floor.
“Psychologically, the ball not going in does affect you,” Martelli said. “There’s one good thing about this game—it’s over.”
Simien, who had 25 points and 14 rebounds against Vermont, earned his second double-double in two games with 4:46 left in the first half. He went to the bench with 12:33 to play.
Midway through the second half, Kansas had pulled all its starters.
Michael Lee had 13 points for Kansas, Aaron Miles scored 11 and Russell Robinson added 10.
Lee scored 12 points for St. Joseph’s, and Dwayne Jones and Chet Stachitas each had 11.