LAWRENCE, Kansas (Ticker) -- Despite a terrible first half by its trio of seniors and a miserable performance at the free throw line, Kansas found a way to squeak out another close victory behind Wayne Simien.
Simien scored all 12 of his points in the second half and Keith Langford added nine overall as No. 2 Kansas used an early second-half run and held on for a 59-57 victory over Nebraska in a Big 12 Conference battle.
The Jayhawks, who remained among the four unbeaten teams left in Division I, struggled early, missing their first eight shots from the field. After freshman Sasha Kaun made a driving bank shot with 15:26 left in the first half, Kansas went on a 9-2 run behind five points by fellow classmate Alex Galindo.
Despite the spurt, the Jayhawks (14-0, 4-0 Big 12) trailed 24-21 at halftime with seniors Simien, Langford and Aaron Miles combining for one point on 0-of-7 shooting.
"That was a sad display," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "When the bench has to keep us in the game, it isn't very good. Especially when it is a home game in front of a huge crowd."
Playing in front of a crowd of 16,300, the Jayhawks overcame a 46 percent (13-of-28) performance from the stripe to capture its 16th straight win at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas' subs outpointed Nebraska's by a 21-7 margin.
"As a team we have been pretty inconsistent the entire year," said Simien, who was 2-of-6 from the stripe, about the team's 66 percent free throw percentage for the season. "As for myself, they have all felt good, but have been going in and out the last few games. Free throws are definitely something we need to knock down, especially at home during conference play."
In the second half, Simien, who was playing in his third game after missing four due to thumb surgery, highlighted a 12-0 run with a jumper and three-point play as Kansas took a 33-24 advantage with 15:04 left.
The Cornhuskers (8-6, 2-2) survived the spurt behind the stellar play of freshman Joe McCray, who made one of his three 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 55-51 with 3:07 remaining. After Langford split two free throws with 43 seconds left, McCray drove the lane, missed a shot but got his own rebound and scored to move Nebraska within 58-57.
"He is a tough player," said Kansas guard Michael Lee about McCray. "I don't think we gave him the respect that we should have. I kind of underestimated him. He played well and knocked down big shots whenever they needed them."
After Miles made 1-of-2 free throws with 24 seconds remaining, the Cornhuskers worked the ball around for a last-second shot, but the 3-pointer by Corey Simms glanced off the side of the rim and Galindo rebounded as time expired.
"We played great defense to start the second half and tried to crack the game open, but then we made some mistakes that upperclassmen aren't supposed to make," Self said. "An example is the last possession where we double-teamed the ball and gave them an uncontested three to win the game. We dodged a big bullet tonight."
Simien shot 5-of-9 from the field with seven rebounds, J.R. Giddens had nine and seven and Miles chipped in eight points and eight assists for Kansas, which started conference play 4-0 for the second straight year.
McCray scored 19 points and Wes Wilkinson added 16 for Nebraska, which committed 23 fouls in losing for the 10th time in its last 11 meetings with the Jayhawks. Starting forward John Turek and guard Jake Muhleisen both followed out within the final five minutes.
"I don't think that it got out of control so much that both teams were really going at it," said Nebraska coach Barry Collier about the physical play. "I expected that. We can't control anything but our effort and our intensity, and that was darn good."
Marcus Neal scored eight points and Aleks Maric grabbed eight rebounds for the Cornhuskers, who outrebounded the Jayhawks, 43-36, including 14-8 on the offensive glass but mustered just three second-chance points.