The visit to the Palestra was everything Kansas coach Roy Williams bargained for, and much more.
In their first game at the historic gym since the days Wilt Chamberlain played for Kansas, the eighth-ranked Jayhawks needed some clutch shooting by freshman Jeff Boschee and a couple of their vintage defensive stops in the closing minutes to escape with a 61-56 victory over Pennsylvania on Tuesday night.
"It was what I expected, a fantastic college basketball atmosphere," said Williams, whose mood quickly turned sour when conversation turned to the game.
"The first half was about as ugly as I've ever seen," Williams said. "We were really bad, but give Penn credit for causing it."
Kansas (2-0), eager to prove there's life after All-Americans Raef Lafrentz and Paul Pierce, were 7-for-27 from the field and trailed 26-19 at halftime after the worst offensive half ever by a Williams-coached team.
But the Jayhawks came out in the second half like the precise, disciplined machine the nation has come to expect. Kansas hit eight of its first 10 shots and made 15 of 20 after halftime.
"We realized that we're not going to win this game if we don't take the initiative," said Kansas center Eric Chenowith, who had 14 points. "We played aggressive, we attacked, we got on the boards, we made shots."
| Eric Chenowith (right) and Kansas had to battle foa 61-56 victory over Penn Tuesday night. (AP) |
Boschee broke a 56-56 tie with a free throw with 2:15 left, then hit a tough jumper over Jordan to make it 59-56 with 70 seconds left.
Jordan missed two shots in the lane, and Boschee sealed the Jayhawks' 23rd consecutive victory in November with two more foul shots.
"I felt like I turned the ball over too much and I let my team down," said Jordan, who had six turnovers but kept the Quakers in the game with his tenacious play. "I missed a layup and a short jumper that I can make in my sleep."
Ryan Robertson also scored 14 points for Kansas (2-0). It was the Jayhawks' second game ever in the Palestra and their first in the state of Pennsylvania since Chamberlain led them to 66-54 victory over St. Joseph's in this building on Dec. 14, 1957.
The 8,700-seat arena was filled to slightly less than capacity, with only a few benches in one corner of the building vacant.
"It's a fun old building," Chenowith said. "This is great preparation for the rest of the year, playing in the small, tight situations. It's a great place to play."
Jordan had 12 points and six assists, no doubt giving Williams nightmares with a name that's familiar from his days as an assistant at North Carolina. Frank Brown led the Quakers with a career-high 17 points and Matt Langel added 12.
The Jayhawks' athleticism showed when Nick Bradford blocked a shot, dived for the loose ball, whirled and passed while seated to Robertson for a layup that gave Kansas a 37-34 lead.
During a splendid sequence, Penn answered with a 3-pointer from Brown and a running bank shot and 3-pointer by Jordan to cut it to 43-42 with 10:46 left.
Langel's 3-pointer tied it at 56 with 3:16 left, setting up the tense finish that featured a second showdown between Williams and referee Dick Paparo.
Williams, who drew a rare technical from Paparo in the first half, disagreed with a reversal of an out-of-bounds call in favor of the Quakers. Williams stomped his feet in disbelief, and Boschee scored the last five points to seal the victory.
In the first half, Williams went ballistic in a rare tirade and was slapped with a technical by Paparo, the energetic and sometimes controversial official.
"Seven technicals in 11 years of coaching, Dick, and that was the cheapest one I've ever had," Williams barked at Paparo.
It wasn't clear what Williams was arguing, and Paparo wouldn't say.
"Just posturing," Paparo said during a timeout.
Kansas came back from a second-half deficit for the second consecutive game and 70th time in Williams' tenure. They trailed 32-28 at halftime in a season-opening 80-66 victorover Gonzaga at Allen Field House.
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