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No. 5 Kansas Kicks Nebraska 82-71

In a close game on the road, it never hurts that Kansas can turn to a pair of All-Americans.

Paul Pierce scored 27 points, Raef LaFrentz had 25 and the No. 5 Jayhawks held off Nebraska's second-half 3-point flurry for an 82-71 victory Sunday.

It wasn't a work of art, but it was the eighth straight win in the series by Kansas (24-3, 8-1 Big 12), which handed Nebraska (13-8, 4-4) its first loss in 11 home games this season.

"It was a pretty ugly performance," said Kansas coach Roy Williams. "We did things that can hurt you on the road. We did things that can help you lose. Lucky we have two All-Americans who can get the job done."

LaFrentz wasn't as sure about his star power.

"I don't know if it's because we are, quote, All-Americans," he said. "But Paul is a good player and I am confident in what I can do."

Billy Thomas had 10 points, including consecutive baskets near the two-minute mark to give the Jayhawks a 72-65 lead. The first of those was a 3-pointer from 22 feet as the shot clock expired.

Cookie Belcher scored on a drive for the Cornhuskers before Pierce hit two free throws.

Nebraska's Troy Piatkowski hit his fifth 3-pointer of the second half with 1:15 to play, trimming the margin to 74-70. But the Huskers missed their last five shots, sealing the win for Kansas.

"The last three or four minutes - that's when Kansas gets everybody," Piatkowski said. "That's when we fell apart."

Nebraska's hopes rested with a defense that had held three straight visiting teams - Colorado, Oklahoma and Iowa State - to a combined 32 percent shooting.

"They did not surprise me," Pierce said of the Cornhuskers. "I knew Nebraska would be tough at home."

Kansas shot 45 percent (28-of-61) from the floor, but the Huskers hit only 6-of-15 from the foul line in the second half. Nebraska coach Danny Nee said the combination wasn't enough to topple the Jayhawks.

"They just never crumbled," Nee said. "I think we banged on the door a few times. The free-throw shooting in the second half was part of it, but you've got to give Kansas credit. They're a team that doesn't melt."

Trailing 36-31 at halftime, the Huskers rallied from long range. Tyronn Lue opened the second-half with the first of his three 3-pointers over the final 20 minutes. Piatkowski tied it a 57-57 on a 3-pointer with 7:49 to play.

"After the game I grabbed him (Piatkowski) and said that was a fantastic performance," Williams said.

Pierce answered with a 3-pointer, and LaFrentz scored twice as the Jayhawks pulled ahead 65-59. LaFrentz got his fourth foul on a charge at the four-minute mark but Nebraska couldn't take advantage.

Ryan Robertson had 11 assists for Kansas while LaFrentz collected 13 rebounds. The smaller Cornhuskers had a 44-40 rebounding advantage, helped by Venson Hamilton's 14 boards.

Piatkowski finished with 18 points while Lue had 17.

"It was one of thosdays where you feel the hoop is a big can and everything falls," Piatkowski said. "But I'd as soon had the win, rather than make all those baskets."

© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved

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