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Simien's 25 points help rescue Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas almost had a short stay at No. 1.

The top-ranked Jayhawks trailed upset-minded Vermont much of the
way in a shaky season opener Friday night, but Wayne Simien had 25
points and 14 rebounds to help Kansas finally pull away from the
Catamounts 68-61.

"Who scheduled that one?" said Simien with a laugh. "The
first game is supposed to ease into the season, man. But we knew
they were going to come out and play us tough."

The Jayhawks, who haven't started a season No. 1 since Wilt
Chamberlain was in school, trailed the underdog Catamounts 58-54
when Taylor Coppenrath hit a short jumper with 4:24 left.

Christian Moody, a walk-on starter, then made two free throws to
give Kansas a 61-59 lead with 2:49 left and start a 9-2 run that
extinguished Vermont's bid for what would have been one of the
great upsets in school history.

Vermont coach Tom Brennan, who has announced this will be his
last season, explained his feelings by referring to Kansas coach
Mark Mangino.

Mangino was fined $5,000 this week for suggesting that officials
had let Texas beat his Jayhawks on Saturday.

"I feel a little bit like coach Mangino," Brennan said. "I
would tell you why, but I don't have $5,000."

Aaron Miles, who missed his first eight shots, made a 14-footer
to beat the shot clock and put Kansas on top 63-59 with 1:48 to
play.

Simien, a preseason All-America forward, scored the last four
points for Kansas (1-0), which hasn't lost a home opener in 32
years.

"We knew it wasn't going to be a pushover," said Simien, a
preseason All-American. "Obviously, we didn't do some things very
well. They were hitting shots and we weren't defending that well.
We were fortunate to get the win."

Coppenrath, whose 24.1 average last year helped propel the
Catamounts (0-1) to their second straight NCAA tournament, had just
six points in the first half but finished with 23 points and seven
rebounds. T.J. Sorrentine had 13 points for Vermont.

"We were just a little behind, and that is the way it goes,"
said Coppenrath. "Our defense was really good. They had to make a
lot of tough shots."

After his first bucket, Miles grabbed a key rebound and fed
Keith Langford running the floor. Langford was fouled by Coppenrath
and made one shot for a 64-59 lead that gave Kansas breathing room
for the first time all night.

"You have to give them a lot of credit," said Miles. "They
are an exciting team. It was a chance to play a good inside player
and outside player."

With 3:28 left, J.R. Giddens hit a 3-pointer that put the
Jayhawks on top 59-58, then Coppenrath hit a free throw that tied
it at 59-all.

The two teams swapped the lead back and forth through the 40s
and 50s with nobody ever leading by more than two.

A pair of free throws by Simien tied it 54-all but then
Coppenrath outmuscled Simien for an offensive rebound and got the
putback for a 56-54 lead with 5:24 to go.

Coppenrath made it 58-54 with 4:24 left, then Simien got free
underneath and inspired a roar from the crowd with a dunk that
closed the gap to 58-56.

The Catamounts, who return four starters from last year's 22-9
team, shot 29 percent in the first half but trailed only 38-29
because Kansas hit only 11 of 32 from the floor.

"We really competed," said Brennan. "We did everything but
win. I am proud of my boys. I love them all."

Langford and Giddens each had 12 for Kansas.

"Wayne Simien is a horse," Langford said. "We just get on his
back and ride."