LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—For the first time since undergoing offseason surgery, Kansas senior Keith Langford wasn’t slowed by a gimpy knee.
The senior guard had 21 points and a career-high seven assists Saturday, running and jumping while leading No. 2 Kansas past Pacific 81-70.
“We saw glimpses of the old Keith,” said Wayne Simien, who had 12 points and 15 rebounds for his fourth straight double-double. “He came back.”
Langford had struggled in the first three games for the Jayhawks (4-0) but got better looks Saturday because of the way the Tigers (2-1) collapsed on the 6-foot-9 Simien.
“I felt good today,” Langford said. “We had some time off so I was really working with the trainer, getting a chance to rest and relax. I’m just pushing myself to get back in shape.”
The only team the Tigers have lost to in their last 20 games is Kansas, which ousted them 78-63 in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year.
“I just hope that goes the same in the next 20 since we don’t play them,” coach Bob Thomason said. “We outrebounded them the first 20 to 25 minutes, but we got tired.”
Aaron Miles had eight assists and 19 points, one short of the senior guard’s career high, for the Jayhawks (4-0). He also had six steals.
“That’s a real good team,” he said. “They’re well coached. They ran some good sets offensively.”
Christian Maraker had 22 points for the Tigers (2-1), who kept it close by scoring on six straight possessions down the stretch before Miles made a steal with 1:10 to go.
“It is really an experience-gaining game,” Maraker said. “We are really learning how to handle pressure.”
The Tigers, favored to repeat as Big West Conference champions, hurt themselves with 18 turnovers.
“It’s frustrating,” Maraker said. “We had those problems early last year, but we will get better.”
The Jayhawks scored on five consecutive possessions late in the game en route to their 11th straight home win and first 4-0 start since 2000-01.
They led by only one point at halftime and the tall, aggressive visitors had quieted the normally boisterous Allen Fieldhouse crowd. But Kansas finally began pulling away with an 8-0 run, capped by Simien’s slam dunk for a 51-42 lead with 12:29 left.
“It made me feel a lot more comfortable when we went on the run,” Langford said. “That’s the type of team that if you let them stay within two or three points going down the stretch they can hit a 3-pointer or capitalize on your mistakes.”
Freshman guard Russell Robinson came off the bench and supplied several key plays. He stole the ball from David Doubley at midcourt and drove in for a layup, then canned a 3-pointer with 9:17 remaining to make it 58-48.
At the 6:32 mark, the 6-foot-1 point guard fed fellow freshman Darnell Jackson for another basket underneath and then drove in for a crowd-pleasing reverse layup that gave Kansas its biggest lead, 66-53.
The Tigers, with the 6-foot-9 Maraker, 6-9 Guillaume Yango and 6-10 Tyler Newton clogging the middle, dominated the boards in the early going, holding almost a 2-to-1 rebounding average at the 10-minute mark.
“All game, I had one (defender) behind me and one in my lap. I don’t remember getting one easy shot,” said Simien.
Robinson finished with seven points, as did J.R. Giddens and Christian Moody.
Kansas led by as many as six points in the first half but Pacific pulled even at 31-all on Yango’s follow-up dunk and then took a 34-35 lead on Marko Mihailovic’s 3-pointer before Simien’s hook gave the Jayhawks a 35-34 halftime lead.
Mihailovic had 10 points for Pacific, which won a school-record 25 games last season before bowing to Kansas in the NCAA tournament. Yango had nine and Newton eight.