LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Life without Roy Williams may not be so bad after all.
Wayne Simien scored 28 points and hustling, hard-nosed Kansas (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) withstood a late rally in college basketball's first marquee
matchup of the year and beat Michigan State (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP) 81-74 Tuesday night.
"I saw some things out there tonight that I have seen only a
few times in practice," said Bill Self, who's 2-0 as Williams'
Self said his Jayhawks seem to be coming together under a new
system and coach faster than even he had expected.
"I hope it gives us credibility with our players that our
system works," he said. "We won a money game tonight. I think the
guys will gain confidence."
Kansas hit its first six shots of the second half and quickly
took a 54-39 lead as venerable Allen Fieldhouse rocked in the
showdown between preseason favorites of the Big 12 and Big Ten.
But Michigan State's Shannon Brown, who had only one point in
the first half, hit three straight buckets and ignited a 12-2 run
for the Spartans (1-1).
"The first half, Simien had his way," said Michigan State
coach Tom Izzo. "He is good. It was one of the toughest games to
play as a big guy."
Paul Davis, Michigan State's 6-foot-11 sophomore, sliced the
lead to 76-72 with a follow shot at the 2:22 mark.
But on Kansas' next possession, J.R. Giddens rebounded a Michael Lee miss and dunked the ball, bringing the crowd of 16,300 to its feet and putting Kansas on top 78-72.
Lee then rebounded a Davis miss inside and Aaron Miles hit a
pair of free throws with 26 seconds to go to seal the win.
"We had it to four and then they got the board," Izzo said.
"We just didn't get a body on him."
Simien, a 6-7 junior who missed 22 games last season with a
separated shoulder, had 18 points in the rough-and-tumble first
half en route to his career-high 28.
"He is just a great player," said Davis. "He can move his
feet really well."
Simien burned the Spartans with a variety of inside power moves
as well as the first 3-pointer of his career.
"I got into a pretty good rhythm," he said. "I felt really
good out there."
Miles had 17 points and six assists while Keith Langford had 13
points -- all in the second half.
The Spartans did not block a shot and committed 24 turnovers
while the Jayhawks had seven blocks and only 18 turnovers.
"Turnovers," said Izzo. "It is almost criminal. You have to
give Kansas credit for a few of them, but not 24."
The first 3-pointer of Simien's career gave Kansas a 7-4 lead
and the Jayhawks never trailed. He was 9-for-9 from the foul line
and 9-for-12 from the floor.
"Wayne is a beast," said Giddens, a 6-5 member of the
Jayhawks' highly touted freshman class.
"If you'd seen him in practice every day, you wouldn't be
surprised by what you saw tonight."
Giddens brought a roar from the crowd when he stole a pass near
the Michigan State bucket and drove the length of the court for a
thunderous running dunk during an 8-4 run in the first half.
Kansas led by as many as nine points in the first half and went
into intermission with a 38-31 lead when Bryant Nash stole an
inbounds pass and dished to Miles, who scored on a running layup
with 3 seconds left.
The Jayhawks are Michigan State's first stop on a nonconference
schedule that shapes up as one of the roughest ever. Before
beginning play in the Big Ten, the Spartans will meet Duke, UCLA,
Kentucky, Oklahoma and defending champion Syracuse.