For the second straight night the seventh-ranked Jayhawks had a hot-shooting first half then held on down the stretch, this time for an 82-74 victory over St. John's on Friday night to win the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic.
"For the atmosphere this was more like March Madness, something we had to adjust to early in the season," said Kansas' Kenny Gregory, the tournament's MVP. "We let two big leads get away when teams made their runs but we showed a lot of composure. That's a big compliment to our team."
Kansas opened 2-0 for the 10th straight season and extended its November winning streak to 31 games, dating to a 1990 loss at Arizona State.
In their 99-98 opening-round win over No. 17 UCLA, the Jayhawks shot 65 percent in the first half and then held off the Bruins with offensive rebounding and perfect free-throw shooting.
It wasn't exactly that way against the Red Storm (1-1) before a crowd of 19,528 at Madison Square.
Kansas shot 63 percent in the first half, but had only two field goals over the final five minutes and went 5-for-10 from the line over the final 2:13.
"It was a team concept and a lot of guys did things to help us," coach Roy Williams said. "It was really special that we didn't back up when they kept making plays, we made our own."
Drew Gooden had 22 points and nine rebounds for Kansas, while Gregory added 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"This is a real stepping stone for our season," Gooden said. "We beat two legitimate teams."
Freshman point guard Omar Cook, who had 18 points and five assists in the opener, had 17 points and six assists against the Jayhawks, and classmates Kyle Cuffe and Willie Shaw had 16 and 13 points, respectively.
"This is a group of guys who really, really compete," St. John's coach Mike Jarvis said. "I see a team with unbelievable potential. I see the makings of a heck of a basketball team."
Kansas could never pull away in the second half, but did lead 72-62 with 5:53 left on a three-point play by Nick Collison.
Glover, Cuffe and Cook had their own 7-0 run to get the Red Storm within three at 72-69 with 4:59 to play. Gregory made one of two free throws 19 seconds later, and Glover had St. John's within two with 3:45 left on an offensive rebound.
Collison scored down low with 2:48 left to make it 75-71 and Glover again got St. John's within two when he scored on a strong move off a nice play by Cook. Glover missed the chance to complete this three-point play and Gooden scored down low with two seconds left on the shot clock to make it 77-73 with 42 seconds left. Kansas then made five of eight free throws to seal the win.
"When I called that timeout with 21 seconds left I challenged my team," Williams said. "I said let's see how tough we are. We talked about it now let's see it."
Jarvis wasn't at all unhappy.
"We had a chance to win and that's extraordinary considering who we were playing," he said. "In a situation where the other team has a chance to put you away and you don't let them it's defense that does it. If people thought last night's comeback was something, tonight's would have been unbelievable."
Cook, who finished 4-for-16 from 3-point range, also had six steals.
"Their guards were way out there," Cook said of Kansas' defense, which included some zone. "I tried to play as hard as I can but they were on me and I had to shoot further back."
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