Two days after winning one of its ugliest games in recent memory, the Kansas University men's basketball team hosts a team which has been waiting in Lawrence the whole time.
The Rhode Island Rams, who came straight from their last game in Ohio and have been in town since Thursday, take on KU for the first meeting between the two teams since the Rams upset top-seeded Kansas in the second round of the 1998 NCAA Tournament, 80-75.
For the Jayhawks, the game sends them into a break until next Saturday, when they play their final non-conference game at South Carolina. This contest comes on the heels of a 63-43 win over Detroit Thursday night, in which KU relied on a late 11-0 run to seal the deal for good. KU scored just 26 points in the first half of that game, including a horrendous scoring drought in the half's final 11 minutes.
Mario Chalmers was the brightest spot, though, for Kansas yet again. For the second straight game, the sophomore guard notched 22 points and was solid all-around.
URI was smacked by Ohio Wednesday night, 97-69, and comes in with a record of 7-6.
Rhode Island's Darrell Harris tipped in a miss by Kahiem Seawright to start the game, putting URI up two. For KU, junior Rodrick Stewart got his first start as a Jayhawk, in place of Julian Wright. Mario Chalmers answered it with a three, coming off of having hit seven treys in the past two games combined. After that, a transition opportunity saw Brandon Rush slam home a one-hander from Russell Robinson to blow the crowd up.
Rush then hit a three on KU's next possession to make it an 8-0 KU run.
Seawright finally answered KU's run with a leaner on the right side, but it was quickly negated by Brandon Rush's second three in the opening minutes.
Darrell Arthur and Julian Wright checked into the game for KU, subbing for Stewart and Sasha Kaun. Arthur quickly got himself to the free throw line and calmly sunk a pair to put KU up 13-4 with 15:34 to go until halftime.
KU came out of the game's first full timeout much like it did the other night - offensively absent for a bit. In that time, KU missed two threes, and an Seawright two inside made it a 13-6 game.
Sherron Collins, in the game for Robinson, broke a three-minute drought for KU by knifing into the lane and dropping in a floater for his first points, that was followed immediately by a Rhode Island turnover.
Will Daniels stroked Rhode Island's first three of the game, but Mario Chalmers came right back, coast-to-coast for a twisting deuce to put KU up 17-9 heading into a timeout at 11:56.
Out of the timeout, Brandon Rush missed a long jumper, having cooled off with two misses after his hot, eight-point start. Darnell Jackson then came swooping into the lane and soared for a two-handed dunk attempt, but it stoned off the back of the iron, turning into a transition dunk for URI's Keith Cothran.
Darrell Harris followed it up a minute later with a three-pointer for URI to pull the Rams within three at 17-14, making this start reminiscent of Thursday's against Detroit.
Darrell Arthur ended yet another Kansas dry-spell with an awkward bank-shot from about six feet away falling backwards. The score would stick at 19-14 heading into a full timeout at 7:48.
Brandon Rush threw down a perfectly placed alley-oop from Jeremy Case out of the timeout, and Case nearly rattled home a three on KU's next possession, but it rimmed out and the ball went back to URI on a foul call against Sasha Kaun.
The high-flying act continued, first with a two-handed Julian Wright lob finish in which he screamed while throwing it down, then on Chalmers' attempt to posterize URI's Darrell Harris. The dunk attempt clanked out, but Chalmers hit one of two free throws to put KU up 26-14 with 3:44 left until the intermission.
Julian Wright then scored in transition on a hanging layup from straight away to put KU up 30-14 and extend a 13-0 run.
Will Daniels made one of two free throws to get the Rams their frst points in seemingly forever with 90 seconds left until halftime. That was followed by a two-handed dunk inside by Joe Mbang, forcing Bill Self to call a timeout with :57.7 left until the break.
Two will Daniels free throws continued URI's mini-surge before halftime and left KU with time for one last shot. Instead, KU turned it over with an offensive foul on Darnell Jackson with just over eight seconds to go. Jimmy Baron stroked a long three to make it 30-22 at halftime. Brandon Rush leads the way with 10, while Mario Chalmers has eight for KU.
KU came out aggressive in the second half, with Sasha Kaun earning a free throw line trip right off the bat. He hit one of two, and the offensive rebound on the second led to a Julian Wright slam. But Wright was taken baseline on the defensive possession by Darrell Harris, making it 33-24.
Kaun earned yet another free throw break on KU's second possession of the half, and again made one of two, this time without an offensive board to help. Harris again answered, tipping in a Will Daniels miss inside.
Sherron Collins hit his first three of the game when KU got the ball back, and Julian Wright then picked the ball clean on defense, took it coast-to-coast and threw home a two-handed stuff, giving him eight points.
Rhode Island's next points came off of a defensive board from a pair of KU misses, and Parfait Bitee hit the wide open three, but two more Julian Wright points kept KU's advantage in double figures at 41-29.
Wright scored yet again, this time on a feed from Sasha Kaun in the post, putting KU up 43-29. He then hit another jumper coming on the heels of Harris banking home a straight away three. Rhode Island's Kaheim Seawright was able to quiet the crowd some with two inside points while being fouled, sending URI into a full timeout at 15:49 down 45-34. Wright has scored 10 points in the first 4:11 of the second half.
Seawright hit his free throw to make it again a 10-point game. After a Wright miss, he scored again to pull Rhode Island within eight, which was its same deficit at halftime. That went away quickly, as Kaun swung down the baseline for a two-handed slam on the side, coming from Sherron Collins.
Collins got himself another assist, this time knifing down the floor on an outlet dish from Brandon Rush to find Julian Wright for his sixth second half field goal. Chalmers then scored his first points since the break on a tiny floater from just a couple of feet away, putting KU up 51-37.
Keith Cothran scored out of a Rhode Island timeout, but KU's answer was a Sherron Colins three, giving the freshman guard eight points on the night.
Brandon Rush then hit his third three of the game to respond to a pair of Will Daniels free throws. Seawright came right back with two droving from the wing, making it a 57-43 game with 11:27 to play.
After Jeremy Case showed outstanding hustle in nearly hunting down a baseball pass for Rhode Island's Kaheim Seawright, the play resulted in an and-one for Will Daniels. He then hit a three-pointer to pull Rhode Island within 11 points at 60-49.
Brandon Rush hit two free throws to end a KU offensive slump and bump the lead back to 13 points. That was followed by Rush swishing home a baseline jumper to give himself 17 points on the night.
Rush hit another pair of free throws out of a full timeout at 7:05 to put KU up 66-51.
Will Daniels continued his huge second half for URI by hitting a three with a defender in his face, but Julian Wright followed it by scoring his 13th and 14th points of the second half, keeping KU's lead at 14 points, 68-54.
Parfait Bitee dropped in an and-one just before the final full timeout of the game, with KU leading 70-58 at the 3:55 mark, free throw still to come.
Bitee hit the free throw to get URI back within 11 points.
Julian Wright rolled in a pair of bonus free throws, giving him a new career-high with 22 points, 18 of which came in the second half. It was answered quickly though with a Bitee jumper atop the key.
Mario Chalmers hit a floater down the left baseline out of a 30-second URI timeout with just over two minutes to go to put KU up 74-61.
Then came yet another hoop from Rams junior Will Daniels, who has a team-high 21 points.
Sherron Collins put in the final dagger with just over a minute to play, hitting a falling baseline jumper with the shot clock expiring, giving him 10 points on the night and making him the fourth Jayhawk to score in double figures.
Jimmy Baron hit a three for URI, but all that did was start a foulfest to finish the game. Collins though was fouled by Baron and hit two free throws to put KU up 78-66 with :40.1 to go.
Collins hit one more free throw, and Baron answered with another three, but URI continued to foul, drawing ire from the home crowd with 6.6 seconds left and KU up 79-69.
Julian Wright led all scorers with 23 points, while Brandon Rush had 19, Sherron Collins had 13 and Mario Chalmers had 12 for KU. Will Daniels led three Rams in double figures with 21. KU now has a week off before closing the non-conference schedule with South Carolina on the road next Saturday.