LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Getting a few starters in early foul trouble might have been the best thing for No. 11 Kansas.
The Jayhawks dismayed their fans and shocked Boston College on Saturday by switching to a very uncharacteristic 3-2 zone, triggering a 24-4 first-half run en route to an 84-66 victory.
The Jayhawks, who almost always play man-to-man defense, held a 21-19 lead when the surge began. Soon after, Brandon Rush came off the bench despite two fouls and the defense made the switch and the Jayhawks got their running game in high, unstoppable gear.
After a 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers and Darnell Jackson’s jam ended the run, Kansas was on top 45-23 at halftime.
“We have been practicing the zone the whole (holiday) break,” Rush said. “And I think we ran it pretty well. We committed too many fouls early and Coach was trying to save us, so he put in the zone and it turned out pretty good.”
The Jayhawks (10-2) never led by fewer than 13 points despite an outstanding effort by the Eagles’ Sean Williams.
The 6-foot-10 junior, the NCAA leader in blocked shots, had 19 points and 15 rebounds—both career highs—to go with seven blocks. With three more blocks, Williams would have joined Magic Johnson as the only opponent to ever record a triple-double against Kansas.
Williams, who also had three steals, said he was unsatisfied nonetheless because of the loss.
“We have to learn from this,” he said. “I know myself, I’m going to watch the game three or four times to see what we need to work on.”
Boston College (7-3) had won six straight but never got close after Kansas’ big run. The Jayhawks went back to the zone a couple of times in the second half.
“What it did was it kept us from fouling as much as anything,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We got out and scored in transition. That was part of the scouting report—if we could just secure the rebound we would have numbers behind them because they send four to the glass a lot. We were able to get a lot of easy baskets.”
During the take-charge surge over the last eight minutes of the first half, Julian Wright hit a 3-pointer, then the sellout crowd of 16,300 jumped to its feet when Sasha Kaun took a bullet pass from Wright and slammed home a jam for a 35-20 lead.
Jared Dudley had 14 points and eight rebounds for Boston College, but was held to 4-for-12 shooting from the field by Kansas’ alternating man-to-man and zone defenses. Marques Haynes and Tyrese Rice each had 11 points for the Eagles.
“They went zone, and I haven’t seen the Kansas Jayhawks go zone in years,” Dudley said. “It took us a while to adjust.”
Chalmers had 22 points for Kansas while Wright had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Jackson had 11 points for Kansas, which held an opponent under 50 percent shooting for the for the 48th time in 49 games.
Williams rejected five shots in the first half and has 45 in his last eight games.
“Williams was by far the best shot-blocker that we have played against this year,” Kansas guard Russell Robinson said. “The best I have ever seen. He comes from nowhere and gets you.”
Akida McLain, Boston College’s 6-8 junior making his first start of the season after being suspended for a violation of team policy, scored four quick points but then went out for rest of the game with an ankle injury. He hobbled back to the bench on crutches after halftime.
“He’s going to be out for a while. It’s a pretty severe sprain,” Boston College coach Al Skinner said. “It’s unfortunate for him because I thought he got off to a pretty good start. He was pretty active and excited about playing.”
The Eagles missed their first 11 3-point attempts amid the noise of a raucous Allen Fieldhouse and wound up 4-for-19. By the time Haynes hit their first 3 with 12:15 left in the game, the Jayhawks were leading 58-35.
“Once we tied it up at 16, we were really confident. But they just kept coming at us, and we basically got outhustled,” Dudley said. “Sean Williams can’t block every shot.”