No. 2 Kansas 73, Wis.-Milwaukee 62
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Kansas proved again it could win without Wayne Simien.
The second-ranked Jayhawks obviously missed their preseason All-America, though—and it only gets tougher from here.
The 73-62 victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Wednesday night was Kansas’ first game since the senior power forward underwent surgery on his left thumb. He is expected to be out 4 to 6 weeks.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got the win,” said Simien, who was injured in Saturday’s 64-60 victory over South Carolina and will miss a significant number of games for the third time in four seasons because of an injury.
Kansas (8-0) is off until New Year’s Day, when No. 9 Georgia Tech visits Allen Fieldhouse. Then comes the start of the Big 12 Conference season, followed by a game Jan. 9 at No. 8 Kentucky.
And while freshman Alex Galindo had a solid game at forward, finishing with 14 points, another freshman—Darnell Jackson—had a rocky debut as Simien’s replacement.
Jackson got into foul trouble early in each half and finished with no points, no rebounds and one assist.
“If Jackson didn’t get into foul trouble early, then the rest of the freshmen wouldn’t have played so well,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “They really came along.”
Freshman guard Russell Robinson added 12 points—but two of Simien’s senior classmates took up most of the slack against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Keith Langford scored 21 points, and Aaron Miles’ nine assists made him became the Big 12’s career leader in that category.
Miles has 800 assists for his career. Oklahoma State’s Doug Gottlieb held the previous record with 793 from 1998 to 2000.
“It’s a good accomplishment,” said Miles, who had eight rebounds, “but I have to give the credit to my teammates over the years for making the shots. That’s the toughest part.”
Langford also had a solid night, finishing with seven rebounds and six assists. But sophomore guard J.R. Giddens, Kansas’ other returning starter, had just five points and one assist.
“A lot of it falls on Keith, J.R. and Aaron’s shoulders,” Self said. “J.R. has to get more involved. That will drag the freshmen along.”
Wisconsin-Milwaukee (6-3), the preseason pick to win the Horizon League, lost its third straight despite six 3-pointers and a career-high 26 points from Ed McCants.
The Panthers got within 66-59 on Adrian Tigert’s basket with 3:11 to go, but didn’t score again until Tigert hit a 3-pointer with 1:12 to go to cut the lead to 69-62.
“They were just triple-teaming me,” McCants said. “As soon as I got the ball, those guys were headed in and swarming me.”
Kansas, which was horrible from the free throw line for much of the night, hit seven of 10 in the closing minutes to finish 13-for-24.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee was even worse from the line, hitting only three of 11.
Christian Moody, Kansas’ other starting forward, also picked up two early fouls and played only 6 of the first 20 minutes. He played foul-free for much of the second half, finishing with nine points and six rebounds.
Tigert had 13 points for Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Joah Tucker had 10 rebounds.
The Jayhawks, who trailed 10-9 after 5 minutes, led by as many as 15 points in the first half and were up 42-39 at the break after late 3-pointers from Langford and Robinson.
McCants hit two 3-pointers in a 10-0 run that got the Panthers within 48-42 with just over 16 minutes left, but Galindo hit two 3s and Robinson scored four points as Kansas padded its lead to 64-52 with 8:20 to go.
“The were very beatable tonight in their first game without Simien,” Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl said. “They survived us.”