Roy Williams wasn't waiting to exhale in the closing minutes of Kansas' 62-47 victory over rival Kansas State on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
"I will never heap a big sigh of relief after one win," Williams, KU's basketball coach, said with a straight face after the Jayhawks held off a late second-half KSU rally to beat the Wildcats for the 15th straight time.
Williams says he had all the confidence in the world in his Jayhawks (17-8, 9-4) -- even when Kansas State whittled a game-high deficit of 16 points (49-33 with 9:07 left) to five (51-46) with 3:17 to play.
Remember, this same KU team blew a 14-point lead Saturday at Texas Tech and an 11-point lead last Wednesday against Nebraska.
"I told the kids I didn't want anybody looking at the score. Don't give me any of this garbage, `This thing is starting to fall apart,''' Williams said of his message to the team during a time out with KU leading, 51-44.
The Jayhawks didn't collapse after KSU's Manny Dies hit a basket to cut the gap to five points at 3:17.
Kenny Gregory hit a spinning, lefthanded reverse layup and foul shot at 2:43. Nick Bradford followed with a 12-footer and Ryan Robertson converted four free throws, capping a 9-0 run that gave the Jayhawks a 60-46 lead with a minute to play.
Game, set, match Jayhawks.
"I told the kids in the locker room I liked the way when Kansas State made the run, they were willing to come back and try to make plays and be aggressive," Williams said. "I loved our defensive intensity. I loved the fact the kids lost themselves in the game and did not look at the scoreboard."
And the fact KU's two-game skid is history.
"Again, here if we lose a couple games, everybody starts being so negative about the team and the kids feel that," Williams said. "They feel more pressure. I think it's a difficult thing to stand up to."
The player who stood tallest was Gregory, KU's slumping sophomore guard/forward. He hit eight of 11 shots and scored a game-high 19 points in 28 minutes. He had scored just six points total in KU's back-to-back losses to Tech and NU.
"Kenny had a big night," Williams said of Gregory, who had been bothered by back pain during KU's last two games, but said he felt much better Wednesday.
He also was energized after a meeting with Williams on Tuesday. KU's coach told Gregory to take the ball to the basket and not settle for jump shots and start "having fun."
"I was upset at Nick early and took him out after a turnover and told Kenny it's time to step up," Williams said.
"It's not, `How Kenny Gregory goes, the Jayhawks go.' It's `How the Jayhawks go.' Only five guys can be out there. You need all five to contribute," Williams added.
Gregory scored 11 points the first half, while freshman Jeff Boschee contributed 13 as KU surged to a 34-21 lead.
Boschee totaled 10 points and Gregory four in a 16-2 surge that closed the half.
"Midway through the first half we went to our scramble (defense) and got our running game going," Williams said. "Jeff hit some threes. We didn't get any points inside from Eric (Chenowith, zero points on 0-6 shooting) but I'll take his seven blocks and 14 rebounds every night. He was sensational defensively."
KU's Robertson (14 points, four assists) helped Chenowith on defense when KSU threw the ball to pivot man Dies (14 points, six turnovers).
"Part of our defense if you throw it in the post, we help you," Williams said. "With Manny, he's such a threat you have to be concerned about him."
Williams was never concerned about Gregory.
"A lot of people had written him off," Williams said. "The fact of the matter is the Nebraska and Texas Tech games he had more problems with his back than he has all year. He did some stretching.
"We had a nice conversation yesterday. I said, `Don't settle for threes.' He has great body control and agility. On the one (reverse layup to give KU seven point lead) I thought he'd hurt his back. It would have hurt my back."
The Jayhawks will travel to Oklahoma on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. tipoff.
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