Jayhawks Win Big 12 Tourney Opener, 64-54

The Kansas crowd showed more energysinging "The Crimson and The Blue" a capella after the NationalAnthem Friday evening than the basketball team did in the first halfof a 64-54 second-round Big 12 Tournament win at the Sprint Center.

In a game that was supposed to be a rout, Kansas came out of the locker room with little intensity, committed 12 first-half turnovers and made bad decisions. All in all, Kansas looked like something less than a team many have hyped as the best, most balanced team in the country heading into postseason play.

Sherron Collins led Kansas with 13 points. Mario Chalmers added 12 points. Darnell Jackson had a near-miss with a double-double, scoring 12 points and pulling down nine rebounds.

Second-year Nebraska coach Doc Sadler did a masterful job of slowing the game down to a snail's pace, which was Nebraska's only chance, in the first half.

“Nebraska did a great job the first half of controlling pace,” coach Bill Self said. “I think the stat was, they had 15 points off our turnovers and we had zero off theirs. That's a large part why they controlled the first half.”

However, momentum began to shift near the end of the period. Nebraska took a 27-18 lead , on a three-pointer by Paul Verlander with 1:21 left. KU bounced back with a 4-0 mini-run on two free throws by Darrell Arthur and a hook shot by Sasha Kaun over Aleks Maric.

KU's play in the second half was foreshadowed by the last play of the first: Jay-R Strowbridge's three-point attempt to end the half was blocked by Mario Chalmers. KU went into the locker room down, 27-22.

Self managed to find a bright spot even after a sluggish, sloppy first half.

“Our defense wasn't horrible,” he said. “(Nebraska) only scored 27.”

Nebraska opened the second half with the ball, but Russell Robinson slapped the ball away from guard Sek Henry. It was picked up by Chalmers who took it downcourt and dished to Darnell Jackson for a lay-in.

Maric answered for Nebraska, but Chalmers came right back with a three-point shot to get Kansas to within a basket, 29-27.

Two possessions later, Brandon Rush drove the baseline for a reverse lay-up, was fouled and converted a traditional three-point play to give the Jayhawks a lead, 30-29, that they would not relinquish.

Kansas stretched that lead to as many as 12 late in the game. Nebraska managed to stay within striking distance, though, whittling the deficit to five with 7:18 left.

Sasha Kaun laid in a pass from Mario Chalmers on KU's next trip downcourt to get the lead back to seven. Nebraska couldn't get any closer than six the rest of the way against a KU group that played with much more energy and effort in the second half.

Self liked his team's second half effort.

“Second half we played with much better energy. I thought we played tight in the first half. Second half, the ball went in the hole a couple of times, kinda loosened us up and we played a lot better.”

Kansas will gladly take this flawed win, smile and head back to Lawrence. They'll return tomorrow to play the winner of the Texas A&M-Fighting Beasleys game for the right to play for the Big 12 Postseason Tournament championship. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:20 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN Plus and ESPN2.

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