A week away from its most anticipated regular season game of the season against No. 1 Florida, Kansas is in desperate need of a bounceback of impressive proportions tonight against visiting Towson at Allen Fieldhouse.
Towson can boast one attribute tonight that the Jayhawks no longer can - an unblemished record. The 2-0 Tigers enter tonight's tilt with wins under their belts against Hartford and Samford, and one man largely responsible is senior guard Gary Neal. The 6-foot-4 dynamo is averaging 30.5 points per game through two contests, and that includes a 41-point bomb in the Tigers' last contest.
KU, 1-1 following last Wednesday's shocking home upset at the hands of Oral Roberts, could use someone stepping up in that fashion on the offensive end. The Jayhawks were sluggish against the Golden Eagles in the 78-71 defeat, and now begin a stretch in which they'll play four games in seven days, culminating with the Florida showdown in Las Vegas, Nev., next Saturday at 10 p.m.
A spark for KU could come from junior guard Jeremy Case, who led the Jayhawks on to the floor for warmups, suiting up for his first game of the season coming off of a groin injury.
Despite KU winning the opening tip, Towson drew first blood in the form of a Tim Crossin three-pointer from the right wing.
On offense, KU struggled against Towson's zone defense and on its second possession turned it over on an errant pass over the head of Mario Chalmers.
Thanks to a smooth post pass from Julian Wright on KU's third trip, he was able to set up Darrell Arthur at the free throw line for a pair. He hit both to make it a 3-2 game early.
KU was able to force another turnover, and this time Rush took an outlet pass in for a relatively uncontested layup to give KU its first lead of the ballgame just before the 18:00 mark.
Gary Neal, coming off of a 41-point performance in Towson's win over Samford, answered with a deep three with a hand in his face to put the Tigers back on top. That was followed by missed layups on both ends, but KU again was able to work for an easy two, this time in the form of a Darrell Arthur dunk in which he did half of a pull-up on the rim.
KU, still having a tough time penetrating the zone, drew its next scoring opportunity off of Towson's third turnover in the young game. This time, Sherron Collins fed Brandon Rush on a fastbreak, but he was hacked going up, and will take two shots after the first television timeout with the score tied, 6-6.
Rush hit both free throws, but KU's ensuing possession was marred again by an inability to get the ball inside, and forced Sherron Collins to take a tough three which missed.
Towson's C.C. Williams was able to answer with a layup after scooting down the baseline.
KU then applied some pressure defense, and finally gave the Fieldhouse crowd reason to go nuts when Darrell Arthur took a feed downcourt from Russell Robinson, flushed it and was fouled in the process. The free throw made it 11-8, Kansas, and gave Arthur his seventh point of the game.
Brandon Rush then got his second field goal of the game on a pull-up jumper on the right baseline, which followed a Towson free throw, to push Kansas' lead to four points, 13-9.
KU tried a lob from Chalmers to Rush right out of the timeout, but Rush was out-worked for position at the rim. Towson's Rodney Spruill responded with a jumper on the other end to cut KU's lead in half.
Darrell Arthur scored his eighth point of the night on the other end with the front end of two free throws, and Towson responded by pulling within one thanks to a tough inside layin by Sean Raboin.
Rush made up for the failed lob with a three pointer up top to expand KU's lead back out to four points, but KU was beat for a pair of offensive boards on the other end, and Towson's Winston Tubbs turned it into a trip to the free throw line.
Robinson repeated Arthur's act by canning one of two free throws, and Spruill answered for Towson wtih another inside two to keep Towson in range, 18-17.
KU whistled a quick timeout, and after it, Sherron Collins hit a big three-pointer on the left side - his first field goal since KU's opener against Northern Arizona - to again make it a four-point game.
A Brandon Rush offensive foul was the last stoppage in play before the third television timeout of the night at 7:48, with KU leading 21-17.
After the timeout, Chalmers stole the inbounds pass and was able to spot Collins for another trifecta from the same spot on the floor where he hit is first just minutes earlier.
Towson's Tommy Breaux hit a deuce to end KU's run, but the Jayhawks responded in quick fashion, starting with a Darrell Arthur putback on a Chalmers missed three. After that, a turnover on the other end calculated into an easy Chalmers layin, putting KU up 28-19 and forcing Towson to whisltle for its second 30-second timeout of the half.
Towson's Tim Crossin was able to hit his second three of the game, but Chalmers canceled it out by hitting one of his own on the other end. He hit one on KU's next possession to give him eight points and put KU up 34-22 with a little breathing room at the 4:50 mark in the first half.
KU had another shot on a fast break to keep its momentum going, but did so in another way. After Sherron Collins had an acrobatic layup miss off the backboard, Chalmers swished his third three of the first half to put KU up 38-23.
Towson's Gary Neal hit for his fifth and sixth points before the teams headed into the half's final full timeout with two minutes to go and KU leading 38-25.
Arthur scored his game-high 12th point with a baby hook in the lane in the final minute, and took a pretty feed from Robinson for an easy deuce right before the half, as KU headed off for the locker rooms with a 42-25 advantage. Arthur leads all scorers with 14 points, while Chalmers has 11 for the Jayhawks. Tim Crossin and Gary Neal each have six points for Towson.
The second half started a bit slow as far as offense goes, but in KU's favor nonetheless. Russell Robinson hit a pair of free throws after taking a tough foul underneath on a drive. Brandon Rush then hit a baseline jumper to give him 11 points and KU a 21-point lead at 46-25.
C.C. Williams drove the lane to give Towson its first second half field goal, but Darrell Arthur answered in impressive fashion, following a Brandon Rush with a rebound/putback all in one mid-air motion to give him 16 points.
Chalmers then worked the crowd a bit after hitting an and-one layup. He stood facing the student section with his index finger in the air and a slight head nod. Chalmers missed the free throw, but the hoop gave him 13 points and pushed KU's lead at 50-27.
After that, KU put the blowout in motion on a scrappy Chalmers rebound. He threw the ball half the length of the court, and it was then lobbed from Russell Robinson to Arthur for a two-handed finish.
Williams answered with an open three for Towson, and that was the final tally before the first television timeout of the second half, with KU leading 52-30.
Out of the timeout, Arthur earned a trip to the line again, and by hitting both became the game's first player to hit the 20-point plateau. Chalmers kept himself in range of that, too, by hitting a mid-range jumper to answer Neal's fourth field goal of the game and keep Kansas' big lead afloat at 56-32.
Towson coach Pat Kennedy was forced to whistle another break for his team, and Arthur kept on them out of it, as he forced a steal in the backcourt, took it down himself and laid it with ease. He then recorded his third blocked shot of the night.
Towson was able to put together a small scoring run headed into a television timeout at 11:02, but still found itself down 62-40.
Out of the timeout, Julian Wright continued to pick up his scoring. After notching just one point in the frst half, he had a dunk inside before the break, and then had an inside layin right out of it to get him to five points on the night.
He scored again on KU's next trip down the floor on a feed from Sherron Collins. This time, a foul went along with it, and Wright's free throw made it a 25-point game, 67-42.
A lob to Brandon Rush made it a 69-44 game with 7:37 to go.
Arthur pushed his point total to 24 on an easy layup out of the timeout, but thanks for that should go to Julian Wright, who flipped a beautiful no-look pass over his yead in the lane to set it up.
Wright then flashed a smile on the Jayhawks' next possession with a one-handed slam coming down the lane off of a dish from Chalmers. It gave Wright 10 points and made him the fourth Jayhawk to get into double figures.
Wright's monstrous second half continued on a feed from Jeremy Case following a scrappy Towson hoop on the other end. Wright took the pass, swooped in down the right side and slammed one home over two defenders, making it a 77-50 game in favor of KU with less than five minutes to play.
Arthur scored the last of his 26 points right out of a timeout with the assist credited to Case. He became the last of the KU starters to exit the game, and he did so to a standing ovation.
Matt Kleinmann hit for his first field goal of the season as KU continued to just run the clock out, and fans began filing for the exits.
Neal drew a trip to the free throw line which helped him keep his scoring average at a pretty number. He hit one of two to give him a team-high 17 points on the night.
Darnell Jackson scored four points down the stretch for KU, including a pair of free throws and a transition layup to push KU's lead to 28 points in the waning seconds. In the end, KU walks off the court with an 87-61 win, moving the Jayhawks to 2-1 on the young season and one more contest before heading to Vegas - Tuesday's 7 p.m. home date with Tennessee State.