COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)—When Mario Chalmers saw his coach’s fire, he couldn’t help but pump up his game, too.
Chalmers had 19 points and Darrell Arthur added 17 to help the ninth-ranked Jayhawks win their seventh straight with a 70-54 victory over South Carolina on Sunday.
But it took a tirade from coach Bill Self to break the Kansas players out of a sluggish start. Self picked up a technical, crossing midcourt to protest when officials let players from both sides struggle for a loose ball. Soon after, Chalmers and the Jayhawks (13-2) showed the same emotion in their play.
“We’d seen coach get fired up for us, so I think that was just a real motivator on the road,” Chalmers said.
When Bryce Sheldon tied the game 5-5 with a free throw, Chalmers gathered his teammates to make sure the Jayhawks got the message, Brandon Rush said.
“‘We need to pick it up, we need to make our opportunities,’ and that’s what we did,” Rush said of Chalmer’s pep talk.
Kansas went on a 22-8 run over the next 10 minutes to build a lead they would not lose. Chalmers, who had 13 first-half points, led the surge, hitting two 3-pointers and scoring 10 points as the Jayhawks went ahead 27-13.
Arthur said road trips, particularly ones that come three days before opening Big 12 Conference play, make it difficult to stay fired up. That got easier after Self’s display. “After the tech came out, we got pumped up and scored a lot of buckets,” Arthur said.
Self said he deserved the technical, joking that he thought he “was barely out of the box.” Self was nearly at the South Carolina bench when he got the foul.
South Carolina (10-3) had hoped to continue a six-game winning streak and got a boost when leading scorer Tre Kelley returned from a left knee sprain that caused him to miss a victory over Western Carolina earlier this week.
But Chalmers and the Gamecocks disrupted Kelley throughout, holding him to 10 points—nearly 7 below his average—on 3-of-16 shooting.
The effort helped Kansas escape with the win, something No. 1 UCLA, No. 5 Duke, No. 7 Arizona and No. 8 Alabama didn’t do Saturday.
Self didn’t mention the upsets, pleased with his team’s progress over the past month. “I think we’re playing a lot better,” he said. “Depending on how you spin it about our team, we still haven’t shot the ball from the perimeter like we’re capable of shooting.”
South Carolina got it to 41-37 on Dominique Archie’s foul shot with 13:42 remaining. But Kansas put things away with a 13-5 run. Arthur had a short jumper and a three-point play to end the surge and give Kansas a 54-42 lead.
Dwayne Day led the Gamecocks with 13 points.
After Kansas’ first-half charge, South Carolina cut the lead to 32-28 by closing the period on a 15-5 run. Evaldus Baniulus had two 3s for the Gamecocks.
Kansas regained control in the second half with their critical run. Sasha Kaun got it going with an inside bucket and added another to build the lead to 47-38. When Arthur closed the streak with his jam and foul shot, he got a large cheer from the small group of blue-clad Jayhawks fans.
South Carolina coach Dave Odom says his players were surprised by how quick Kansas played defense, particularly on the perimeter. Whenever the Gamecocks made a mistake, “it seemed there was a 3-point shot or an easy layup waiting to happen” for the Jayhawks, Odom said.
Self said some of his emotion came from what he felt was a stellar weekend of college basketball matchups with “everybody playing games that really, really matter.”
He thinks the Jayhawks are ready for that when they start the Big 12 schedule against Oklahoma State on Wednesday night.
“I think we’re a lot better team than we were a month ago and I know that I’m very excited about the league play and I know these guys are too,” Self said.