BOULDER, Colo. (AP)—The second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks shook off the hangover from their first loss just in time to avoid a second straight shocker.
Kansas overcame a slow start thanks to Darnell Jackson’s 18 points and turned back Colorado’s upset bid 72-59 Saturday, in the Jayhawks’ first game since their perfect season was ended by Kansas State.
Brandon Rush added 15 points and Sasha Kaun 12 for the Jayhawks (21-1, 6-1 Big 12), who had a hard time shaking off the doldrums from their 84-75 setback at the hands of their in-state rival Wednesday night.
“When we played against K-State, a lot of guys knew that we could have given it a little bit more but it just didn’t work out that way. We just carried it over to the first half of the game,” Jackson acknowledged. “And we can’t be worrying about mistakes that we made in the last game and just try to fix things while we’re playing now and just keep looking ahead.”
The Jayhawks’ lead was just 51-48 with less than nine minutes remaining before their superior athleticism and deeper bench led the way to victory.
They trailed most of the first half and went into the locker room tied at 30.
“They played good the first half. We didn’t play very good. We were fortunate it was a tie game,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I thought we played very well in the second half.”
The Jayhawks held the Buffs (9-12, 1-6) scoreless for more than five minutes to start the second half and used an 8-0 run to take control. Jackson started it off with a turnaround jumper and two free throws, then Darrell Arthur added a jumper and Mario Chalmers capped the spurt with a steal and dunk that made it 38-30.
For its part, Colorado missed its first six shots after halftime, including three at the rim.
“We didn’t covert on three great opportunities coming out. It got us down a little bit,” said Richard Roby, who led the Buffs with 22 points.
Although Colorado kept chipping away over the next 10 minutes, the Jayhawks never surrendered the lead, thanks in part to superb free throw shooting— Kansas sank 21 of 25 foul shots to the Buffs’ 6-of-10.
The Buffs wouldn’t go away, cutting the deficit to three points at 51-48 on Roby’s fadeaway jumper, but the Jayhawks, now loosened up, started to show off their many advantages in height, depth and talent.
Rush’s dunk off a steal, Chalmers slam and another one by Sherron Collins made it 64-51.
“We had three athletic plays in a row that I think gave us some confidence and got our guys going,” Self said.
The Buffaloes were coming off a loss at Iowa State in which they scored just 19 second-half points, their worst performance in a Big 12 game, and went the final 10 minutes without a basket. They had an easier time than Kansas of putting that loss behind them, jumping out to an early lead Saturday and maintaining the edge until Kaun’s hook shot with 5:31 left in the half gave Kansas its first lead at 24-23.
No player epitomized the difference in the halves better than Collins, who banged his right knee when he was stripped by Dwight Thorne midway through the first half for his fourth turnover in six minutes and went to the locker room. He returned after halftime and scored nine of his team’s final 12 points.
“We were careless with the ball, as evidenced by the 10 (first-half) turnovers,” Self said. “You know, Sherron turns it over against no pressure four times in five minutes. I mean, we just weren’t very good. … I was surprised we had 30 points, to be honest with you.”
At halftime, Self told his players about Kansas State’s 77-74 upset loss to short-handed Missouri on Saturday.
“That may have put a little pep in their step,” Self said. “In the back of their mind, they probably thought, ‘You know something? We caught a break, now we’ve got to make the most of it.’
“I told our guys I’m happy that Missouri won,” Self said, “but we don’t want to feel too good about those guys since they’re probably our most-hated rivals,” and they face each other Monday night.
Guard Xavier Silas, the Buffs’ third-leading scorer at 10.2 points, didn’t play but coach Jeff Bzdelik wouldn’t reveal why.
The Jayhawks’ only loss in their last 38 games against Colorado was a 60-59 stunner in Boulder on Jan. 22, 2003.
“We played hard and we competed. We just came up short,” Bzdelik said. “They are deep and confident and they wore us down.”