No. 1 Kansas 90, La Salle 65
Last season, an off game by Sherron Collins was almost impossible for Kansas to overcome.
Now, the Jayhawks have a seemingly unlimited supply of players who can fill the void, led by phenomenal freshman Xavier Henry.
Henry scored a season-high 31 points, Markieff Morris had his first double-double and No. 1 Kansas took care of another overmatched opponent by beating La Salle 90-65 on Saturday at the Sprint Center.
Showing his usual deft touch from the perimeter - four 3-pointers - Henry flashed a less-heralded but just as effective part of his game, slashing his way to the rim and running out on the break for layups.
The marquee name in coach Bill Self's stellar 2009 recruiting class, Henry finished 10 of 15 from the field to become the first KU freshman to score 30 points since Paul Pierce in 1998.
``We saw something today that he's got to do more and that's attack the basket,'' Self said. ``He's so conscious of doing what we want him to do that it's probably taken away some aggressiveness, putting the ball down and attacking the rim. But today he looked a lot more comfortable.''
Kansas (9-0), as it has all season, looked plenty comfortable against another opponent from a smaller conference.
Even with a sluggish start, early rebounding problems and a 1-of-12 day by Collins weren't enough to slow the Jayhawks. Kansas held its eighth opponent under 40 percent shooting this season and, predictably got production from throughout the lineup.
Morris had 12 points, 12 rebounds and blocked four shots. Cole Aldrich added 19 points, six rebounds and five blocks. Tyshawn Taylor was steady at the point, scoring 10 points with six assists and no turnovers.
``At times, I feel like we're playing to our potential; then at other times, it feels like when we're not hitting our shots, we're not playing to our potential,'' Morris said. ``But when we're hitting shots, I don't think we can be stopped.''
La Salle (6-3) found that out. The Explorers kept it close early with offensive rebounding only to be worn down by Kansas' depth.
One of the nation's best rebounding teams, the Explorers scored 10 points off 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, but were outrebounded 27-12 in the second. Jerrell Williams had 21 points and Rodney Green added 19 for La Salle, 0-7 all-time against No. 1 teams.
``The thing I'm most disappointed with is the rebounding stats because that's our pride,'' La Salle coach John Giannini said. ``But Kansas is really good.''
Especially in Kansas City.
Playing less than an hour from their Lawrence campus has been good to the Jayhawks over the years. Kansas has won 71 percent of its 268 games in Kansas City since playing the program's inaugural game here in 1899, including a 4-0 run in the Big 12 Championship on the way to the 2008 national title.
Riding a raucous crowd of 18,830 - the largest regular-season crowd ever at Sprint Center - the Jayhawks kept their KC roll going with their seventh win of 25 or more points against smaller conference schools this season.
``Sometimes winning games is misleading and the scores can be misleading,'' Self said. ``Today, in the last 28 minutes, I thought we looked like a pretty good basketball team.''
Kansas handled Radford and burly center Art Parakhouski on Wednesday, using its deep bench to win by 35 points.
La Salle and its big lineup was a little tougher matchup.
The Explorers entered the game as the nation's 10th-best rebounding team - a differential of 10.2 per game - and a starting lineup that includes 6-foot-10 Aaric Murray and no one under 6-5.
Even with Self yelling ``Rebound!'' nearly every possession, the Jayhawks couldn't keep La Salle off the offensive glass early. After one particularly bad blockout on a missed free throw, Self couldn't take it anymore and called a timeout to do a little yelling.
The Jayhawks responded with a predictable run.
Kansas held La Salle scoreless for nearly 6 minutes, using a 13-3 run to go up 34-22. Self had the Jayhawks pack into a 2-3 zone after that to shore up the rebounding - and protect against foul trouble - and they kept up the defensive pressure, building a 42-27 halftime lead.
``Watching them on tape, I didn't think they had any weaknesses,'' Giannini said. ``I think they're the best team we've played in a long time.''