Kansas Holds Off Pesky Aggies, 100-79

New Mexico State entered Wednesday night's game at Allen Fieldhouse with just a 2-2 record. But KU coach Bill Self knew his Jayhawks would be pushed and challenged.

“They are talented, really talented,” Bill Self said after KU’s tough 87-60 victory over Kent State on Monday. “When we put this schedule together, people always look at Tennessee, Arizona, and Michigan State, but the hard games are Kent, New Mexico State, and Siena. We have a good schedule.”
    
KU certainly had a hard game against New Mexico State before pulling away late and prevailing, 100-79. The athletic and hot-shooting Aggies hung with No. 25 Kansas most of the game, but KU answered each time New Mexico State made a run.

The Jayhawks improved to 6-1, although Self wasn’t pleased with his team’s defense.

“I think this is the second-most points that we have allowed (at Allen Fieldhouse) since I got here, so I’m not leaving here ecstatic with our defensive play,” Self said.

New Mexico State’s 79 points were actually tied for the third-most points KU’s allowed at home during the Self era. The Jayhawks gave up 90 points to Baylor last season on Feb. 9, 2008 and 86 to Texas on March 3, 2007. Oklahoma State scored 79 points at Allen Fieldhouse during Self’s second year at KU on Feb. 27, 2005.

It didn’t help that sophomore center Cole Aldrich played just five minutes the first half after picking up his second foul with 13:20 remaining before halftime.

“We didn’t play near as well (as the Kent State game),” Self said. “I think in large part because we need Cole to look good. We didn’t have any inside presence (the first half). I didn’t think we played particularly well. I thought we got into a little bit of rhythm in the second half to score 58 points. So we did some good things, but we had unforced turnovers and we didn’t go after balls.”

KU committed 18 turnovers, but dominated the boards, 46 to 20. Freshman guard Tyshawn Taylor was game-high scorer with a career-best 23 points, including 14 in the first half. He put on a show with a variety of driving layups and two spectacular dunks.
    
The Jayhawks came out with energy, getting three steals in the first 1:02 of the game and opening with an 11-2 lead. It looked like Kansas might pull away in the first half after an 8-0 run stretched its lead to 23-12. However, with Aldrich on the bench with two fouls, the Aggies kept coming and got within four points (31-27) with 2:55 remaining before halftime.
    
Kansas then burst out on an 11-4 run to close the half behind five points from Sherron Collins and two points each by Quintrell Thomas, Taylor, and Conner Teahan.
    
Down 42-31 at halftime, New Mexico State (the Aggies shot 50 percent in the first half and 46.6 percent for the game), kept on attacking and shooting.
    
Behind two three-pointers from guard Gordo Castillo, the Aggies cut KU’s lead to 58-51 with 12:40 remaining. KU responded with a dunk by Thomas and two threes by Collins and Tyrel Reed, propelling the Jayhawks on a 19-6 run, punctuating by a one-handed dunk from Taylor on an open drive through the middle of the lane.
    
That gave KU a 20-point lead (77-57) with 7:08 left. And this game was over.
    
Over three minutes later, Taylor drove the right side of the lane for another one-hand slam. For Taylor, the dunks were a defining statement on a career night.

“Yeah, especially that last one,” he said. “They overplayed and I just ran to the rim because it was wide open. That wasn’t the play. When I got it, I looked at the big man and looked at the rim, and was like, ‘I’m going to dunk this. ... I’m glad it happened.”

Taylor certainly made up for his missed dunk against Kent State two nights earlier. After going 5 of 14 from the field versus the Golden Flashes and missing a bunch of layups, Taylor shot 8 of 14 against New Mexico State, including 8 of 10 layups. He also made 7 of 8 free throws.

While Self said Taylor played a great game, he wasn’t happy with his point guard’s three assists.

“Tyshawn needs to get to a point where he can get other guys shots,” Self said. “The ball is going to be in his hands a lot and he’s going to need to be able to get the ball to Sherron and Cole.”

KU led by as many as 26 points with over two minutes remaining. Senior walk-on Matt Kleinmann gave KU fans one last chance to cheer with a lefty jump hook in the lane with .04 seconds left for the Jayhawks’ 100th point.

While Kansas shot 54.9 percent from the field and 88.2 percent from the free-throw line (15-17 FT), it certainly wasn’t a pretty win defensively.

The Aggies made 6 of 14 threes the second half and scored 48 points after halftime.

“I felt like our defensive scouting report defense wasn’t very good, and it wasn’t just the young kids,” Self said. “We have got to get better and we have a lot to work on. I feel like we are making progress, but you’re going to have win games on the road defensively.”

After going scoreless in the first half, Aldrich finished the game with his fourth-straight double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds). Collins also came up big with 15 points and a career-high 11 assists. Sophomore guard Tyrel Reed added 12 points (4 of 6 from three-point range), while the 6-7 Thomas gave KU a huge lift with 10 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes. He made all five of his shots.

Guards Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson led the Aggies with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

KU next hosts Jackson State in Allen Fieldhouse at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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