FORT WORTH, Texas — Kansas' men's basketball team, in playing the last game of the first day of the NCAA Tournament, had plenty of time to monitor the opening of March Madness on Thursday at the Hilton Fort Worth Hotel.
"This was a good team win. And certainly one that I'm glad we got, especially in this crazy tournament on this crazy day," KU coach Bill Self said, surveying the college hoops landscape after the No. 1-seeded Jayhawks' 83-56 first-round Midwest Regional victory over No. 16-seeded Texas Southern at Dickies Arena.
The crazy day/evening did not involve losses to No. 1 seeds. Baylor, the No. 1 seed in the East Regional, slugged No. 16-seed Norfolk State 85-49, while Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in the West, used a strong second half to cruise past Georgia State, 93-72. Arizona, the No. 1 seed in the South, will play Wright State on Friday in San Diego.
Wackiness came in the form of No. 2 seed Kentucky losing to No. 15 St. Peter's; No. 5 seed Iowa falling to No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 5 seed UConn losing to No. 12 New Mexico State.
KU was in no such danger, riding 12 points from Dajuan Harris and nine from Remy Martin to a 47-19 first-half lead over the Tigers of the SWAC in a game that started just before 10 p.m. Central time.
"I hate to admit this," Self said after the game, which propelled KU into Saturday's 1:40 p.m. second-round game against Creighton, "the last time I remember playing a late game like this was Bucknell in Oklahoma City."
That was when No. 3 seeded KU lost to the No. 14 seed Bison 64-63 in the first round of the 2005 NCAA Tournament.
"I mean I remember us getting to the hotel at 12:30 or 1 in the morning," Self said.
That's about the time KU returned to its hotel after Thursday's game.
"We played so poorly. And they (Bison) deservedly won the game. I didn't think we were going to not win (versus Texas Southern), but I thought it was one of those days. I think these guys (Jayhawks) would tell you, playing at 10 at night after you've been amped up all day, I think it's a disadvantage for the two teams that play that late because you can only carry that adrenaline and excitement and be sharp for so long. And I do think that that kind of impacted us early," Self said.
It was 2-2 at the 17:40 mark and 7-4 KU at 15:21 before the Jayhawks started rolling.
KU's start wasn't helped when the first game of the night session — No. 9-seed Creighton's 72-69 win over No. 8-seed San Diego State — went to an extra session.
"And then when the game goes to overtime and the overtime took 40 minutes to play, I think that we were ... I mean, we tried hard. We were ready to play. But I do think we were pretty careless early on," Self said.
The game effectively was over at halftime, the Jayhawks rolling to the 47-19 advantage.
"I thought we did a lot of really good things the first half. I thought we shared it, we defended, and we rebounded the ball pretty well. And after we got off to kind of calm our nerves down a little bit, we were very efficient the first half. The second half, we didn't play near as well," Self said.
Texas Southern outscored KU 37-36 in the final 20 minutes.
At game's end, Martin had scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Christian Braun had 14 points, five rebounds and four assists; Harris 12 points; Jalen Wilson and Ochai Agbaji 11 points apiece.
John Walker scored 13 points for Texas Southern (19-13), which defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 76-67 in a play-in game on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio.
The first half was showtime for the Jayhawks, specifically senior guard Martin and sophomore guard Harris. Martin scored nine points on 4-of-5 shooting with four assists in 11 minutes.
Two of his points came off a breakaway slam dunk in which he hung on the rim for a second or two.
Martin also hit a deep three and had pinpoint passes for assists to Harris and David McCormack for baskets. McCormack finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
Harris, who played 17 minutes the first half, scored 12 points on 5-of-5 shooting (2-of-2 threes). McCormack scored four points with six rebounds, while Mitch Lightfoot, who hurt his left knee in Saturday's Big 12 title victory over Texas Tech, had three points and four boards in seven minutes the initial half. He did not play the second half, ostensibly because he was not needed.
"I thought — well, to be candid with you, I thought we needed to play him early. But the biggest thing was, it worked out good that we could test it and he could get some confidence from it and have it not bother him and get through the game," Self said. "So I told him at halftime he wasn't going to probably play the second half. But I thought he did a nice job in a limited time. You could see he wasn't 100 percent. But you could also see that he wasn't far off. So that was positive."
KU will take a 29-6 record into Saturday's game against Creighton (24-11), which will air on CBS. If the Jayhawks win, they not only will advance to the Sweet 16 in Chicago but will tie Kentucky on the all-time college basketball win list. KU currently has 2,352 wins; Kentucky 2,353.