LAWRENCE, Kansas (AP) — Jalen Wilson scored a season-high 33 points as No. 6 Kansas survived a loss to Southern Utah while holding on to an 82-76 win Friday night.
Wilson set a career best with 25 points for the second consecutive game. Jayhawks 69–64 defeat Duke #7 in Indianapolis on Tuesday evening. The Thunderbirds (3-2) didn’t pose such a big problem, but they stuck with the Kansas (4-0) until the last minute at Allen Fieldhouse.
It’s good that Wilson came to play.
“He was amazing,” said acting coach Norm Roberts. “He was really efficient. He made some big games for us.”
That’s all the praise from Roberts after the game.
“We weren’t very good, but you have to give them credit,” he said. “They played very well. They took some key shots. We just made mistakes in everything we did.
“They played exactly the way we thought. We just didn’t have good body movement and we talked about it before the game. We had so many reckless losses that they didn’t do anything. We have to remove a lot of it.”
The Jayhawks had the biggest lead of the game, 77–69, with 2:11 remaining. Southern Utah responded with a 7-0 series, including five straight points from Tevian Jones, and went to one point with 1:03 left.
Grady Dick’s 3-pointer went 80-76 with 40.6 seconds left, and Southern Utah missed another basket.
“Of course I knew it was going to be a close game,” Dick said. “KJ (Adams) got the offensive rebound. I felt open and took a picture.”
Roberts coached his final game for Kansas in place of Bill Self, who served the last of the school’s four-game suspensions due to recruiting violations first revealed in a federal investigation.
He said he didn’t care how the Jayhawks would react to their close challenge.
“We always turn the negative into a positive,” he said. “I know the Coach (Himself) can’t wait to get into practice and get down to business. It’s always good when you can win and learn from the win instead of learning from the loss.
“The coach talks about it all the time. There will be 10 games that you play without lights and you will never lose. There will be 10 games where you will be average and you have to find a way to win. And then there will be 10 games when you play badly. Now you need to find a way to be 7-3 in these 10 games.
“Today was definitely one of those games.”
Jones scored 25 points for Southern Utah, with Maizen Fawcett adding 14 points and Harrison Butler adding 12.
The Jayhawks got 18 points from Dick and 14 from Dajuan Harris.
Southern Utah outplayed Kansas 45–41, including 14–6 on offense. The Thunderbirds made four of their first seven 3-point attempts to go 22–16 up in the first half. Wilson had the final two baskets before halftime, giving the Jayhawks a 41–39 lead.
“I was just trying to get the ball moving and get to the paint,” Wilson said. “I did not want to agree to the shots. This is what we have highlighted. We knew they didn’t have blockers, so we decided to attack the paint.”
Southern Utah: Thunderbirds weren’t scared. They answered every Kansas early run and led in the last minute of the first half.
Kansas: The Jayhawks need another scorer besides Wilson and Dick. The duo scored 27 of the team’s 41 points in the first half and finished with 51 of the Jayhawks’ 82 points.
Southern Utah: heading for the islands. Next Friday, the Thunderbirds will face Texas State in the first round of the North Shore Classic in Laie, Hawaii.
Kansas: Wednesday plays in North Carolina State in the first round of Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
AP Collegiate Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.