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Top-ranked Kansas survives scare at Colorado

BOULDER, Colo.(AP) Marcus Morris went up for the shot in overtime and hit the rim. He grabbed the rebound, but his follow-up also fell short. Again, he grabbed the board. Again, he missed the shot.

Finally, on his fourth try, Morris put the ball through the hoop and finished off the Colorado Buffaloes.

''I wish I could have made it the first time, but I kind of got my stats up a little bit, so that played out well,'' Morris cracked.

That one play epitomized the entire perplexing game for the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, who survived a 72-66 thriller at the Coors Events Center on Wednesday night.

The Jayhawks (21-1, 7-0 Big 12) were just 18 for 38 from the free throw line and couldn't shake the Buffaloes (11-11, 2-6) until the extra period.

Morris, who scored 15 points and pulled down eight boards, got a chance to pad his stats in overtime by blocking the lane in the waning seconds of regulation, when Cory Higgins misfired from several feet beyond the arc with 2 seconds left and the game tied at 60.

''I think I waited too long,'' Higgins acknowledged. ''I'd rather drive the ball. But they switched the screen and I let the clock get too far down and I ended up with that shot.''

Morris was surprised to see Higgins hesitate and then have to hurry a long-range shot like that.

''I'm like, 'Hey, if he wants to hit one from back here, that's a shot we'll lose by,'' Morris said. ''I mean, that's a shot I want him to take instead of drawing contact and I knew they were in the bonus. So, that's why I kind of gave him some space. And I think he fell asleep on the shot clock and had to chuck it.''

Morris said he was exhausted after his put-back on his fourth try gave Kansas a 67-60 lead in overtime.

''I was done. I gave everything I had on that last play and the altitude was ridiculous out there. It was hard to catch our breath,'' he said. ''It was a tough game. Nothing was going our way and still nothing was going our way because I was missing right around the rim.''

But Morris would be called upon one more time.

He stepped to the line with 26 seconds left and Kansas up by four and calmly sank two free throws, the only ones he hit all night.

''Heck, he's 2 for 7. You should make at least two free throws if you shoot seven, OK?'' Kansas coach Bill Self said, chuckling. ''So, I'm not going to give him that much credit.

''But I will tell you this: He made the play of the game. That was the best basketball play of the game. From a competitive standpoint, guys are really tired and he goes after his own ball three or four times and gets the put-back.''

Morris sat out the last 12 minutes of the first half two fouls and the Buffs entered their locker room trailing 34-28 but owning the momentum after erasing a 21-8 deficit.

Levi Knutson hit quick consecutive 3-pointers from the right corner to tie it at 34 and force Kansas to call a timeout less than 90 seconds into the second half. From then on, it was a thrilling game even though the Buffs would end up losing to Kansas for the 14th straight time.

The Buffs have never beaten a top-ranked team in 13 tries, including six against Kansas.

The No. 1 team has lost each of the last two weeks, Texas and Kentucky.

''We didn't play our best by any stretch, but if you go 18-of-38 from the line and your starting perimeter goes 8-of-26 from the field and you somehow get a win, then some guys had to make some plays,'' Self said. ''But I thought Colorado played great.''

Self was stumped as to why his team, which was second in the Big 12 with a free throw shooting percentage of 78 percent coming in, could slip to 47 percent on this night.

''We weren't even close,'' he said. ''We almost had two air balls the first half. I don't know how that happened.''

They'll search for answers Thursday.

''We're going to be shooting free throws tomorrow,'' sighed Kansas center Cole Aldrich , who had 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Marcus Relphorde led the Buffs with 18 points and 11 boards. His two free throws with 56 seconds left in regulation gave the Buffaloes their first - and only - lead at 60-59, but Sherron Collins made one of two free throws to tie it with 38 seconds left, and the Buffs never led again.

''I'm not going to say we played poorly because it doesn't give (the Buffaloes) the credit they deserve,'' Self said. ''We'll look back on this as a good win.''

The Buffs and their fans will look back and wonder what might have been had Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik not decided to sit his star freshman Alec Burns, who leads Big 12 newcomers with a 16.3 scoring average but is nursing a sprained left knee.

''He was cleared today by the doctors, but he wasn't 100 percent,'' Bzdelik acknowledged. ''He is a young, talented guy. That was my decision from the standpoint that you are not going to jeopardize anything. I want the risk the next time he steps on the court to be as minimal as possible.

''He wanted to play, but he understood.''

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