Jayhawks Down Fairfield

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The final score was just about the only thing Roy Williams liked about No. 11 Kansas' season-opening 97-71 victory over Fairfield on Friday night.

The youthful Jayhawks, who saw four heralded newcomers make mostly impressive debuts, committed 22 turnovers and spent much of the night making mistakes and getting outhustled by the plucky but outmanned Stags.

"I'm frustrated. I really am," the Kansas coach said.

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  • "We force 30 turnovers, shoot 53 percent and outrebound somebody 53-32. It should be a 50- or 60-point margin. But I was really impressed with the Fairfield kids and how they competed. The majority of the time they were the aggressive ones going after the loose balls."

    Kenny Gregory scored 19 points for the Jayhawks, who were 23-10 last season and are favored to win their third Big 12 title in four seasons.

    Gregory, a 6-foot-5 junior who figures to thrive in Williams' newly installed up-tempo offensive style, also had eight rebounds as the Jayhawks won their 27th straight season opener.

    "If this was the 10th game and we were still playing like this, I'd be worried," said Gregory, a 6-5 junior. "I think we spent too much time trying to make spectacular plays rather than good plays."

    The Stags, 12-15 last season and sixth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, hung tough with the taller, quicker Jayhawks for about 16 minutes, but trailed by 14 at halftime.

    Jermaine Clark and Jeremy Logan each had 17 points for Fairfield, which hit only 13 of 25 free throws.

    "We made a lot of mistakes," Clark said. "We're young and as time goes on, we'll get better. Kansas knew what to do."

    The sellout crowd of more than 16,000 saved its loudest cheers for feshmen Nick Collison, Drew Gooden and Kirk Hinrich, who made their long-awaited debuts along with Texas transfer Luke Axtell, a 6-10 guard who sat out last season.

    The 6-9 Gooden had 11 points, including a crowd-pleasing first-half flurry when he hit a 3-pointer, then stole a pass and drove in for a layup and made the free throw after being fouled.

    Collison, another 6-9 high school All-America selection, had 10 points while Hinrich, a 6-3 guard, had eight points and five assists.

    Hinrich wound up playing 19 minutes because starting point guard Jeff Boschee hurt his ankle.

    "Kirk was under more pressure when he realized Boschee was not going to play. He did some nice things. I'd probably give him a higher grade than the other two," said Williams, who has said it's the finest freshman group he's ever had.

    "They all had their moments. All three of them are going to be very, very good basketball players," Williams said. "For their debut, they were OK."

    Axtell, seeing limited time, had 12 points and brought the crowd to its feet with his first 3-pointer, which made it 65-47 with 11:31 to play.

    "When Axtell hit the 3-pointer, it was lights out for Fairfield," Stags coach Tim O'Toole said.

    A three-point play by Darren Phillip and a basket by Leroy Robertson sliced Kansas' lead in the first half to 37-29 with 3:25 left.

    But then Hinrich ignited a 9-0 run by the Jayhawks, who went into halftime with a 46-32 lead and were never threatened.

    "We cut it to 8 and thought we could get it to 6 at halftime, or at least keep it under 10," O'Toole said.

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