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Simien returns after 4-game injury absence

AMES, Iowa (AP) -- Wayne Simien came back just in time to keep
Kansas perfect.

Keith Langford scored 18 points and Simien returned from a
four-game absence to make some big plays that helped the
second-ranked Jayhawks escape with a 71-66 victory over Iowa State
on Wednesday night.

"We did what we had to do," Simien said. "Losing here last
year, we had a long bus ride home and that was hard."

Simien, a preseason All-America, hadn't played since undergoing
surgery on his left thumb Dec. 20. Earlier in the week, coach Bill
Self had rated Simien's chances of playing at 1 percent. But he was
the first player out when the starting lineups were introduced,
wearing a soft cast to protect the thumb.

Just having him on the floor would have been a boost for the
Jayhawks (12-0, 2-0 Big 12), but Simien did more than just show up
against a team that rarely loses at home. He scored 13 points in 37
minutes, grabbed nine rebounds and sparked an 8-0 run that put
Kansas ahead to stay after Iowa State had rallied from eight down
to take a 54-52 lead.

"It felt great," Simien said. "It was almost a game-time
decision whether I would play. They tried different casts and the
referees approved the one I wore. It was a bit bulky, but
shooting-wise, I was fine."

Langford had been questionable after sustaining a concussion in
Sunday's 65-59 victory at No. 9 Kentucky. But he started and played
36 minutes, shooting 7-for-11 and handing out five assists. J.R.
Giddens scored 13 points for the Jayhawks, 11 in the first half.

Forward Christian Moody missed the game after spraining an ankle
in the final minutes against Kentucky. That made Simien's return
all the more crucial.

"He wanted to play no matter what, but when he saw Christian
was out ... I'm sure that had something to do with Wayne being
adamant about playing," Self said.

Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan wasn't surprised to see Simien and
Langford on the floor. Russell Robinson also played for the
Jayhawks after leaving the Kentucky game with a scratched cornea.

"I knew they all would play," Morgan said. "That other stuff
was charades. They're all going to play because they want to win."

Iowa State (8-5, 0-2) lost for just the second time in 27 home
games under Morgan. Curtis Stinson recovered from a 1-for-12 start
to lead the Cyclones with 18 points. He played the final 9 minutes
with a plug in his left nostril to control a bloody nose.

Will Blalock scored 17 points, while Jared Homan had 10 points
and 11 rebounds.

Langford started the decisive run with a baseline jumper and
Simien followed with a leaning turnaround shot from the left side,
putting the Jayhawks up 56-54. Simien then deflected an Iowa State
pass, setting up Michael Lee's layup, and the lead grew to 60-54
when Langford tipped in Simien's miss.

A little more than 2 minutes after falling behind, the Jayhawks
were back in control with 5½ minutes left. But not out of danger.

Kansas missed three straight shots down the stretch and Iowa
State hung in, drawing to 69-66 on Anthony Davis' two free throws
with 12 seconds remaining. But Lee, shooting 90 percent from the
line, hit two free throws to secure it and the Jayhawks got out of
town with their perfect record intact.

Earlier, freshman Alex Galindo had made three of four free
throws to help keep the Jayhawks on top.

"I was scared," Galindo admitted. "If we lose, it's my fault.
It was a tough win, but we got it."

Stinson missed his first six shots and didn't make a basket
until hitting a layup with 6:16 left in the opening half. Though he
finished 6-for-20, he got it going in the second half, scoring six
points in a 10-0 run that put Iowa State in front -- a lead that
would last all of 30 seconds.

Kansas made 11 of its first 14 shots, but Iowa State kept pace
with the inside scoring of Homan and Damion Staple, who were able
to back their defenders into the lane for jump hooks or turnaround
shots.

The Jayhawks got the lead up to seven before a 5-0 run drew Iowa
State to 36-35. Langford's long jumper made it 38-35 at halftime.

"There's not much you can do. They're a great team," Blalock
said. "We played defense. Our hands were up. They just made tough
shots."

Langford went down when he was hit in the head with 33 seconds
left in the first half and had to be helped off the floor. Though
looking woozy as he sat the bench, he returned for the start of the
second half.