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Kansas ends first-round struggles, routs Niagara

Mar 17, 2007 - 7:58 AM CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Mario Chalmers and Kansas ripped their first-round struggles to shreds.

Chalmers scored 19 points and Russell Robinson added 16 as top-seeded Kansas advanced out of the opening round for the first time in three tries with a 107-67 rout of No. 16 seed Niagara in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.

Freshmen Sherron Collins added 15 points and six assists for the Jayhawks (31-4), who advanced to face No. 8 Kentucky in the second round on Sunday.

Despite being one of the most storied programs in college basketball history, Kansas hit a rough stretch in the postseason in recent years, as it was bounced by Bucknell and Bradley in the first round of the NCAAs starting in 2005.

Due to those past struggles, Kansas coach Bill Self admitted that he emphasized this game more than he would any other matchup between a No. 1 and No. 16 seed.

"From my standpoint, trust me, we didn't approach this as a No. 1 vs. No. 16 after what's happened to us the last two years," he said. "We placed a lot of emphasis and spent a lot of time on the scouting report and really emphasized this game, so to speak.

"There was maybe more emphasis on this game for us than maybe what there is from other No. 1 vs No. 16s."

A top seed for the first time since 2002, the Jayhawks made sure to impart to the Purple Eagles early that another disappointing exit would not be in the cards.

After two free throws by Niagara's J.R. Duffy tied the score at 12-12, Kansas went on a 14-6 run, pulling ahead, 26-8, after consecutive layups by Chalmers with 8:10 remaining.

"I thought we played very well, even though we didn't guard very well early," Self said. "It was 14-14 then we really kicked it in, the last five minutes of the first half and carried that over to the second half."

"We knew Niagara was going to come out and play their best game and come at us hard and we just tried to counter their runs with a run of our own," said Chalmers, who was one of three Jayhawks to hit three 3-pointers. "We were able to knock our shots down, they were missing their shots and the ball just fell our way."

The Jayhawks went on to build a 52-27 cushion at the half, and shot 53 percent (40-of-75) in recording their most points in the NCAAs since a 108-76 rout of Arizona State in the second round in 2003.

Overall, Kansas shot 54 percent (40-of-74) from the field, including 13-of-22 on 3-pointers. It improved to 19-0 when scoring at least 80 points this season.

"Kansas is just on another level," Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. "We needed them to give up something. We were hoping they weren't going to knock down some shots. They did. I don't know what their weakness will be in the tournament."

Charron Fisher scored 17 points for the Purple Eagles (23-12), who won the opening-round game against Florida A&M on Tuesday to earn the right to face the Jayhawks.

    --- --- -----
    NIAGARA (16) 27 40 67
    KANSAS 52 55 107 FINAL

    Mar 16 9:17 PM

    NCAA BB (16) NIAGARA 27

    Mar 16 8:04 PM