HED:Jackson State makes No. 1 Kansas work for its victory
By Mike Talbert
MEMPHIS There was never a moment when there was any doubt that Kansas was the No.1 team in the nation Thursday.
However, there were plenty of times when the Jackson State Tigers made them look average before the Jayhawks beat the NCAA Tournament debutants, 78-64.
Led by Trent Pulliam, who poured in five 3-pointers in the final three minutes to finish with a game-high 28 points, the Tigers made the Jayhawks (33-1) earn their win in the opening game of the Southeast Regional in the Pyramid.
Kansas plays Purdue, an 83-76 winner over Rhode Island, at 1:25 p.m. Saturday.
Jackson State (14-16) came into its first NCAA game seeded last, but was not intimidated by the much larger Kansas squad.
"We are a pretty good basketnall team, and they were able to hang in there," Kansas coach Roy Williams said. "The thing that impressed me was when we were able to string it out, they hung in there. I was really impressed by their run at the end."
Despite the closeness of the game there was no danger of an upset. Kansas used two big runs to take and hold control.
"Kansas is a great running team, but we were able to take them away from their offense some. We used an offense that is a delay-type offense, but we used it to score. It worked for a while," Jackson State coach Andy Stoglin said.
The first time Kansas was able to run on JSU, the Jayhawks went on an 11-0 run in the middle of the first half. After Jackson State guard Decarto Draper missed a 3-pointer that would have given Jackson State the lead with 9:25 left, Ryan Robertson finished the fast break at the other end to kick off the run that opened a 33-21 lead. Kansas turned that into a 47-34 halftime advantage.
Jackson State ruffled Kansas at the start of the second half and cut the lead to 53-45 with 11:19 left in the game, when Pulliam followed up a 3-pointer with a drive to the basket.
"During that time I kind of lost it," Williams said. "We weren't being very effective."
The only thing that was keeping Kansas from totally losing it was an inhuman domination of the offensive boards. Kansas outrebounded Jackson State 61-27, with 26 offensive rebounds. Kansas was led by 6-foot-11 Scott Pollard, who had 19 rebounds. However, Kansas hit only 30.2 percent of its shots in the second half and 37.5 for the game.
"It was like a volleyball game broke out," Williams said.
It was more like a soccer game where the ball stays on one side of the centerline and nobody scores until Kansas forward Paul Pierce, who had 19 points, broke the Jayhawks loose. He hit a couple quick baskets to start a 12-0 run.
"It was a game of mismatches," said 6-11 Kansas forward Raef LaFrentz, who had 18 points and 14 rebounds. "They had the quickness, but we had the size on them. We had to take it down low and take it to them."
Stoglin was pleased with the tone his players set in the Pyramaid. All five starters and 11 of the 12 who played Thursday return next year.
"I thought playing the No. 1 team in the nation showed our guys the potential on our team," Stoglin said. "Two of my best guards, Marino Walker and Antwan McAfee, who may be the best athlete on our team, weren't able to play. They all will be back next year.
"We won't just play some of the big schools next year. We will be able to beat them," Stoglin said.
Then he realized he still has to convince the likes of Arkansas, UCLA, Arizona and New Mexico to schedule Jackson State again.