Toledo loses first game, 93-83 to No. 16 Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Toledo guard Rian Pearson estimated he had about 20 friends and family members at Allen Fieldhouse for his team's matchup against No. 16 Kansas on Monday night.
He had played in the storied venue once before in AAU basketball, but the native of the Kansas City suburb of Rayton, Mo., was playing his first college game in the storied venue.
Toledo nearly gave Pearson a happy homecoming, keeping the Jayhawks on the ropes until the closing minutes of the game. Kansas finally pulled away for a 93-83 victory, handing the Rockets their first loss of the season.
''My house is 45 minutes from here so I was very excited,'' Pearson said. ''We never played a team that big, with length, so we had to adjust during the game. I think that was pretty tough.''
Perry Ellis had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Kansas, while Naadir Tharpe added a career-high 20 points. Andrew Wiggins also had 20 points and fellow freshman Joel Embiid had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Jayhawks (9-3), who built a 16-point lead early in the second half.
Toledo (12-1), made one final charge, using some hot outside shooting and sloppiness on the part of Kansas to get within 81-73 on a 3-pointer by Julius Brown with 3:23 left in the game.
Tharpe answered moments later with a free throw and then a driving layup off a miss, and Kansas finally put the game away when Frank Mason fed Wiggins on a run-out for an easy dunk that gave the Jayhawks an 88-76 lead with less than 2 minutes remaining.
''You just got to keep battling back,'' the Rockets' Justin Drummond said. ''That's kind of hard second half. We're a great second half team. Their length really hurt us.''
Nathan Boothe led the Rockets with 15 points, despite dealing with foul trouble much of the night. J.D. Weatherspoon and Drummond had 13 points each, and Pearson added 10.
The loss ended Toledo's 15-game winning streak dating to last season, and put a wrap on the Rockets' best start to a season since the 1966-67 team won its first 14 games.
''Not many teams have won here or are going to win here this year,'' Rockets coach Tod Kowalczyk said. ''We came here for two reasons. No. 1, I wanted to take Rian Pearson home. No. 2, I wanted our guys to experience the best atmosphere in college basketball.''
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks won their 68th straight non-conference game at Allen Fieldhouse. They will try to run the table again when they finish up against No. 21 San Diego State on Sunday, and then begin chasing their 10th straight Big 12 championship on Jan. 8 at Oklahoma.
Before then, there are certainly issues that Kansas still must iron out.
The Jayhawks turned the ball over on their first two possessions Monday night, leading an incensed coach Bill Self to burn his first timeout just 35 seconds into the game.
Kansas would finish with 18 turnovers. Toledo committed only eight.
''You know what? I screwed it up,'' Self would say later, ''because I should have taken a timeout five seconds into the game after our first turnover.''
The quick break may have settled down Kansas, but it didn't do much to slow down Toledo. Relying on a series of open 3-pointers, including one by the 6-foot-9 Boothe, the high-scoring Rockets efficiently opened a 22-17 lead midway through the first half.
Tharpe answered with a pair of 3-pointers and eight straight points for Kansas, and a 10-2 run gave the Jayhawks the lead. They slowly pushed it out to 43-36 by halftime.
Toledo hung around early in the second half, again making the most of its prolific outside shooting. But the Jayhawks finally went on a 3-point binge of their own, and a three-point play by Embiid produced a 68-52 cushion with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
The Rockets whittled the lead to 70-60 a few minutes later, but Kansas answered with a run-out jam by Tarik Black, a basket by Ellis inside and a three-point play by Wiggins - the third time in the game the uber-athletic freshman converted while getting fouled.
''Our strategy was to limit their transition,'' Pearson said. ''We tried to pack it in.''
Every time the Jayhawks threatened to put the game away, Toledo stubbornly stuck around.
It wasn't until Tharpe's driving layup and an emphatic dunk by Wiggins that left the entire goal stanchion shaking that the crowd packed inside the Phog could finally exhale.
''We've played some good teams. We haven't played any elite teams,'' Kowalczyk said, ''and I think our guys, they weren't star-struck by the atmosphere or by their players.''
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