Kansas University's men's basketball team spent three weeks without star senior Wayne Simien and barely missed a beat, winning all four games during that period including victories over Georgia Tech and Kentucky.
Against Nebraska on Wednesday, though, Kansas struggled while Simien missed all but the first three minutes of the first half after picking up two fouls. The Jayhawks stumbled to a 24-21 halftime deficit to the Cornhuskers without the potential national player of the year.
Fortunately for Kansas, Simien returned for the second half and helped spark a 12-0 run that gave the Jayhawks the lead that they held onto just long enough in a 59-57 win.
Kansas won the tipoff, but J.R. Giddens missed an alley-oop on the first play.
In fact, the Jayhawks missed their first eight shots, and Nebraska took a 6-0 lead early including back-to-back baskets by John Turek.
Sasha Kaun scored KU's first basket nearly five minutes into the game, and the Jayhawks struggled without Simien, not taking their first lead, 9-8, until an Alex Galindo three-pointer just before the 12:30 point of the first half. Galindo also scored the next two baskets, giving KU a 14-8 lead midway through the period.
The Cornhuskers regained the lead by scoring 15 of the next 22 points. The Jayhawks scored three of the final four points of the half, but still trailed 24-21 at the break.
The Jayhawks didn't waste any time reversing that deficit, scoring the first 12 points of the second half and taking a 33-24 lead less than five minutes in. Simien scored five points and grabbed four rebounds during the run.
Nebraska fought back with 15 of the next 22 points, closing the gap to just a point, 42-41, with just more than nine minutes left.
Kansas extended its lead to five or six points for most of the next few minutes, but Nebraska closed to within two points, 55-53, with about two minutes remaining and within a point, 58-57, with less than a minute left, but couldn't regain the lead.
Giddens had nine points and seven rebounds for Kansas; Simien had 12 points and seven rebounds; Kaun had two points, three rebounds and three blocks; and Galindo had eight points.
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Darnell Jackson had two points, and Aaron Miles had eight points, eight assists and four steals. Mike Lee had seven points, and Christian Moody had two points and four boards before fouling out with a minute left.
Keith Langford had nine points, breaking the 1,600-point mark for his career. He left the game limping about seven minutes in and went to the locker room. He returned with just a bit less than seven minutes left before halftime.
Turek had five points for Nebraska before fouling out late in the second half, Wes Wilkinson had 16 points and five boards, and Jake Muhleisen had two points before fouling out.
Joe McCray had 19 points and seven rebounds, Bronsen Schliep had a point, and Corey Simms had two points. Marcus Neal had eight points, and Alex Maric had four points and eight boards.
The Jayhawks were 21-of-50 shooting from the field, including 4-of-17 from three-point range, and 13-of-28 from the foul line. Kansas turned the ball over 11 times.
The Cornhuskers were 18-of-57 shooting from the field, including 7-of-24 from long distance, and 14-of-21 from the charity stripe. Nebraska had turned the ball over 13 times.