Kansas 64, Utah St. 61
OKLAHOMA CITY — Apparently, it takes Kansas a while to get going in the NCAA tournament.
One year after surviving a scare against 16th-seeded Holy Cross, Kansas held on to beat No. 15 seed Utah State 64-61 Thursday night at the West Regional.
The second-seeded Jayhawks (26-7) questioned their seeding after winning the Big 12 regular-season title, but got more than just a tuneup from Utah State (24-9).
They found a way to win, though — Utah State missed two 3-point tries in the final 10 seconds — and will play 10th-seeded Arizona State in the second round Saturday. The Sun Devils beat No. 7 seed Memphis 84-71.
Keith Langford scored 22 points and Nick Collison had 18 for the Jayhawks. Desmond Penigar had 25 points for Utah State.
After a Kansas turnover, Utah State called timeout with 10.3 seconds remaining. Penigar missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and, after a scramble, Cardell Butler missed another 3 as the buzzer sounded.
The Aggies, after falling behind by 13 in the first half, closed within four at halftime and twice got within a point in the second half.
Langford had two baskets in a 6-0 run that gave Kansas a 42-35 lead after Utah State cut it to 36-35 on a 3-pointer by Toraino Johnson. The Aggies lost two baskets on charging calls during the Kansas run, and had a 3-pointer roll around the rim and out.
Trailing 42-35, the Aggies scored six straight to again get within a point. But Collison scored inside on a pass from Jeff Graves, then assisted on a basket by Langford that pushed the lead to 46-41.
Utah State got within two points five times in the final 10 1/2 minutes, the final time at 55-53 on a drive by Mark Brown with 3:53 left.
That's when Langford converted a three-point play, Collison scored inside and Kirk Hinrich hit a layup off a turnover, giving Kansas a 62-53 lead with 2:35 left.
Utah State didn't go away. Brown made a 3-pointer to make it 62-58, then Penigar hit one with 47.2 seconds left to make it 64-61.
Kansas turned it over on its final possession, setting up the final flurry.
The Jayhawks appeared to have things in hand after a 13-5 run made the score 26-13 with 7:23 left before halftime. Langford scored six of the points, and Collison put the exclamation point on the spurt with a dunk off a missed free throw.
But Utah State's zone defense slowed the Jayhawks in the closing minutes of the half. The Aggies, who had a 20-15 rebounding edge in the half, outscored Kansas 13-4 in the final 5:41 to get to 34-30 at halftime.