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WEST REGION AT OKLAHOMA CITY OK
24-9, 9-6 Away
61
Final
12T
USU303161
KU343064
64
26-7, 17-4 Home

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.

"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.''