Once again, Jayhawks barely advance past first round

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- 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) withstood two 3-point tries by

Utah State in the final 10 seconds and moved on to the second round

to play 10th-seeded Arizona State, which beat Memphis 84-71.

Dick Vitale:

Give coach Stew Morrill's club credit for hanging tough against Kansas. But the Jayhawks still won their 20th straight opening-round NCAA tourney game. More

"In the back of everybody's mind, you realize if you lose,

you're done,'' Kansas forward Nick Collison said. "But we weren't

really scared, we didn't really panic.

"We felt Utah State was a good team. We're not really ashamed

of the game.''

The Jayhawks 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 -- a late 7-0 run finally

provided enough breathing room, but just barely.

"We thought we were going to win,'' said Desmond Penigar, who

scored 25 points for the Aggies. "We planned it right, we watched

film on 'em and we knew what we had to do to win the game. We

didn't want to come into the tournament and just show up and be one

of the games for Kansas to move on.''

Keith Langford scored 22 points and Collison had 18 for the

Jayhawks, who reached the Final Four last season after rallying to

beat Holy Cross in the first round.

They never trailed in this one and even led by 13 in the first

half, but weren't able to shake Utah State.

The Aggies closed within four at halftime and twice got within a

point in the second half.

"I think that would have really helped us if we could have

gotten up a point or two,'' Utah State coach Stew Morrill said.

"It might have made it a little tougher on them.''

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.

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{

minutes, the last 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.

But 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.

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.

"We just couldn't grab the ball,'' Collison said. "It was

bouncing around like a pinball. I'm not going to lie, I was holding

my breath on that last one.''

The Jayhawks appeared to have things in hand after a 13-5 run

made the score 26-13 with 7:23 left before halftime. But Utah

State's zone defense slowed the Jayhawks in the closing minutes of

the half.

Kansas coach Roy Williams said he considered himself lucky.

"It was just a weird ending,'' he said. "At the same time,

I've seen a lot of teams, including Kansas last year, go pretty far

when they struggled to win the first game.''