LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)—Dean Smith had Bill Self tossing and turning for no reason.
On campus for a reunion of the 1952 Kansas team that won the NCAA championship, Smith watched the Jayhawks labor through a long workout on Friday and agreed with Self that it had not been very crisp.
“Have you ever had a bad practice the day before a game?” Self recalled asking the former North Carolina coach.
“He said, `Yes. A lot of people think you practice bad, you play better. I don’t believe in that,”’ Self said.
“He had me pretty worried going into today.”
But all the No. 9 Jayhawks did on Saturday, with Smith and eight other members of the ’52 team looking on, was hand Nebraska the second-worst defeat in the 110-year history of Husker basketball.
Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur each scored 13 points in a 92-39 rout, a 53-point setback eclipsed only by the 102-46 trampling Kansas put on the Huskers in 1958.
With Aleks Maric, Nebraska’s 6-foot-11 star center, out with bruised ribs most of the second half, every one of the 13 players Kansas (23-4, 10-2 Big 12) put in the game scored.
In the last minute, Self seemed to be waving his reserves away from the basket. He grimaced when Brad Witherspoon hit an open jumper for the final bucket with 9 seconds left and was grim-faced as he approached Nebraska coach Doc Sadler for the postgame handshake.
“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t care if we scored again,” Self said. “I’ve been on the other end when I was at Oral Roberts. It’s not much fun. I never have ever tried to encourage anybody to score when the game’s over, on that last possession.”
The 53-point margin matched the second-largest margin of victory in Big 12 conference history. It’s the first time in 23 years Nebraska was held under 40 points.
“This isn’t a true indication of them at all. Or us,” Self said. “When that snowball started going down the hill, it just didn’t stop. The basket gets a lot bigger when you’re loose. And Maric got hurt. They didn’t have any low-post scoring after that. I’m sure it was a very frustrating day for them.”
Maric, whose 41 points against Kansas State on Wednesday night fell one shy of the school record, was hurt in a collision under the basket with 12:25 left and Kansas leading 51-26. He did not appear badly hurt but did not return to the game after scoring just 14 points.
Without him, the Huskers (15-10, 4-7) were helpless. Kansas went on an 18-4 tear, with Arthur scoring eight points.
Maric said he could have kept playing.
“I’m fine. I’m doing good,” he said. “I just got hit in the ribs. It was Coach’s call. But if he wanted me, I was ready. Any game you lose by this margin, it’s hard to walk away and continue. But it’s like any game. You either win or lose, and this one was a tough one. But we have to move on.”
Kansas had been hounding Maric, whose 61 percent shooting led the Big 12, with a trio of defenders, rotating them in and out and keeping them fresh. He was 6-for-16 from the floor.
Sherron Collins, the 5-11 reserve guard who’s become a spark plug for the Jayhawks, scored six quick points to ignite a 10-0 run that gave Kansas a 30-18 lead.
“This isn’t the worst defeat that’s taken place in this building, I don’t think,” Sadler said. “But even if it is, it’s still just one loss. Kansas is better than us in so many things. From the coach on down, probably.”
The Huskers had shot 57.5 percent in beating Kansas State on Tuesday night, but hit only 31 percent against the Jayhawks. Ryan Anderson had seven points and Paul Velander six for the Huskers, who scored only 17 points in the second half.
Sherron Collins had 12 points and Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright each had 10 for Kansas, which has won 23 of 24 at home against Nebraska. In the Jayhawks’ last two games at home against the Huskers, Kansas has outscored them 188-93.
“I did not think it was going to be this easy,” Rush said. “We came in and got them on one of our better days, when everything was going right for us and they could not make any shots.”