|Kansas guard Travis Releford (24) beats Florida Atlantic guard Alex Tucker, left, to a rebound during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 77-54. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)|
Owls battle No. 15 Jayhawks to end in 77-54 defeat
LAWRENCE, Kan.—Pablo Bertone managed to get Florida Atlantic off to a quick start against No. 15 Kansas.
The Owls simply couldn't sustain it.
Bertone scored four points during an opening 9-3 run, but the lead was erased in just a couple of minutes, and the Jayhawks rolled to a 77-54 victory Wednesday night.
"Thank God he was here tonight because he got most of our rebounds," coach Mike Jarvis said of Bertone, who was giving up about 9 inches to 7-foot Jeff Withey.
"To be honest with you he's probably better playing against bigger guys because he's not very good at times defending the dribble," Jarvis said. "I worry less about him when he's guarding a bigger guy than when he's covering someone that is on the ground."
The 6-3 native of Argentina finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Bertone said he's gotten used to defending bigger players and he's learned how to be tougher. He said it was difficult, but at the same time provides an advantage.
"They have to come guard me on the 3-point line," Bertone said, "and if I don't have a shot, the bigger guys are slower. So, I can create for myself and shots for the other guys."
Despite the quick start, the Owls weren't able to sustain it for 40 minutes. Bertone said they haven't played consistently for an entire game and that the size disadvantage played a factor.
"What I'm trying to figure out is how we can play sometimes so well early and then all of a sudden it's a different team," Jarvis said. "It's nice to know that we can play well."
Thomas Robinson had 19 points and 17 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double, while Tyshawn Taylor added 18 points, Travis Releford had 11 and Withey 10 for Kansas.
The Jayhawks (4-2) committed 17 turnovers, though, allowing Florida Atlantic to stay in the game.
"I knew they'd be flat," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Kansas was playing its first game at Allen Fieldhouse since a season-opening win over Towson on Nov. 11. Since then, the Jayhawks lost to top-ranked Kentucky at Madison Square Garden, beat Georgetown and UCLA in the Maui Invitational, and then lost to No. 3 Duke in the championship game.
Much of the Jayhawks' success against Florida Atlantic came from the free throw line, where they were 24 of 31 -- it certainly didn't come from the 3-point arc, where they were just 4 of 13.
Elijah Johnson, the team's top outside shooter, missed all three of his attempts. He also committed seven turnovers and at times looked completely lost on offense, just over a week after he scored a career-high 23 points against UCLA.
"He's still in Hawaii," Self said, only half joking. "He got left there.
Dennis Mavin also had 17 points for the Owls, who have lost nine straight against ranked teams. Their last win against a ranked team came against No. 11 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1, 1998.
The defending Sun Belt regular-season champions started well, building a 9-3 lead and forcing Kansas coach Bill Self to call a timeout less than 4 minutes into the game.
It served as a wake-up call for the Jayhawks.
Withey scored their first field goal of the game out of the timeout, starting an 11-2 run that Taylor capped with his first basket with 11:29 remaining in the half.
Raymond Taylor hit a deep 3 for the Owls, but it hardly slowed the Jayhawks' momentum. Connor Teahan hit the first of his three first-half 3-pointers, Justin Wesley scored his first basket and Teahan knocked down another 3 as the Jayhawks extended the lead to 29-16 with 6:08 left.
Tyshawn Taylor added a circus-like scoop layup after Florida Atlantic snapped a 4-minute drought, and his deep 3-pointer from the top of the key pushed the lead to 16, the Jayhawks' biggest of the first half. Taylor hit two foul shots with 1.2 seconds left for a 42-26 lead.
The Jayhawks briefly extended the lead to 19 when Robinson converted a three-point play early in the second half, but their sloppiness nearly allowed Florida Atlantic back in the game.
On consecutive trips, Johnson threw the ball away, Kevin Young was stripped under the basket and Tyshawn Taylor was stripped by Mavin, who had 12 points in the second half.
The Owls got the lead down to 13 on a 3-pointer by Raymond Taylor with 7:14 left, but Withey scored at the other end and added another basket moments later to extend the lead, and Kansas cruised over the final 5 minutes to its 53rd nonconference home win in its last 54 games.
"It's a crazy experience and one that I will never forget," Mavin said. "It's easier to play in an atmosphere like this instead of against a team in our conference. It just makes me more excited."