No. 12/11 Kansas Falls to Hot-Handed Davidson, 80-74

Dec. 19, 2011

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For the third time in 16 trips to the Sprint Center, No. 11 Kansas took the loss, falling to Davidson in the annual M&I Bank Kansas City Shootout Monday night, 80-74.

In their first meeting since Kansas (7-3) defeated Davidson (7-3) on its way to the 2008 Final Four, it was the Jayhawks that got off to a slow start from which they would never recover, shooting 1-for-10 to open the game. Davidson took advantage, firing out to an 11-point lead in both the first and second halves – KU’s first double-digit deficits since falling with then-No. 6 Kentucky last month.

The loss marked the first in Kansas City since a 61-60 loss to UMass on Dec. 13, 2008, and snapped the Jayhawks’ four-game win streak.

In the opening half, Kansas replaced the slow start with a 17-7 run to cut the Davidson lead to one, for the Jayhawks’ first halftime deficit of the season. The rally wouldn’t be repeated in the second frame. After KU cut its deficit to three under the three-minute mark, Davidson matched its free-throw shooting to its three-point accuracy to control the final minutes of the game.

Although both teams connected on 25 field goals Monday night, Davidson’s proved more potent. KU allowed 11 Wildcat three-pointers, tying then-No. 6 Duke’s 11 threes for the most the Jayhawks have surrendered from behind the arc this season.

Defensively, the Jayhawks forced nine steals, led by junior guard Travis Releford’s career-high four, but KU struggled to find the same success offensively.

Senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor earned the start just eight days after undergoing knee surgery, and dished out seven assists, his second-highest assist output of the year to add to his 15 points. Fellow guard Elijah Johnson helped the recovering Taylor, with 15 points of his own.

Junior forward Thomas Robinson paced the Jayhawk offense, as he needed just two more rebounds to reach the double-double mark in the first half alone. His night would end with 21 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for his eighth double-double of the year.

Davidson entered Monday night’s contest as the country’s third-best team from the free-throw line at an 80 percent accuracy and proved it in the final minutes to defeat its first ranked opponent of the season. Junior guard Nik Cochran leads the Southern Conference and ranks No. 6 in the country from the charity stripe. He went 7-for-8 from the line and led the Wildcats with 21 points.

A pair of quick layups in less than 90 seconds prompted an early timeout from KU head coach Bill Self as Davidson fired out to a 7-0 lead. By the first media timeout, the Jayhawks were shooting a cold 1-for-7, and would move to 1-for-10 before an alley-oop pass to junior center Jeff Withey and a Robinson layup sparked the 6-0 run that erased the early deficit.

Just as quickly, Davidson knocked down back-to-back threes to pull ahead again by the second media timeout. Three-pointers would help the visiting Wildcats keep their distance through much of the first half as the Jayhawks continued to chip Davidson’s lead to a single possession, only to face another Wildcat trey on the opposing end. With eight minutes to play in the opening frame, Davidson had five threes to its credit and would finish the first half with six.

Following the last media timeout of the first half, the Jayhawks took their first lead off the heels of a Conner Teahan three-point basket, 28-26. After starting the game a dismal 1-for-10, Kansas cranked out a 10-for-18 effort to close the half. Although the rally nearly diminished the Wildcats’ advantage, Kansas went to the locker room trailing at halftime for the first time this season, 33-32.

Johnson dunked a well-executed inbounds play and knot the score, 38-38, to spark what would be a back-and-forth battle for the majority of the final half. Though Kansas continued to look for consistent rhythm, KU utilized a grind-it-out mentality to find ways to keep it close. Withey drew a foul on a shot under the basket to bring Kansas within a point, 45-44.

Just as they did in the first half, the Wildcat shooters responded from behind the arc. A Robinson dunk brought the sold-out Sprint Center crowd to its feet and forced a Davidson timeout, but still found the Jayhawks down, 53-50, under the midway point of the second half.

Junior guard JP Kuhlman hit Davidson’s 10th three-pointer of the game to push the visitors back to a four-point spread under the five-minute mark. Releford’s put back layup kept Kansas within three, 64-61, as the final media timeout approached.

From there, however, six-straight Davidson free throws and a three from Cochran built a lead Kansas couldn’t catch, 73-65. Taylor stepped up for a pair of late threes, but the effort came too late. Three more free throws from Cochran sealed the Davidson victory, 80-74.

No. 12 Kansas will head west to play USC in Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 22. Tip-off is set for 10 p.m. CT and will be televised on Fox Sports Net. KU will return home to play Howard on Dec. 29 at 7 p.m., on Jayhawk IMG Television.