Euphoria in the Illinois State locker room at halftime soon gave way to reality.
"We talked about the first four minutes of the second half deciding the outcome," ISU guard Shawn Jeppson said. "But we missed a couple of easy shots and had a couple of unforced turnovers."
And Kansas shook off the first-half blahs to pluck the Redbirds, 80-61, on Thursday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
Illinois State trailed 33-25 at the break despite shooting just 26 percent (8 of 31). The Redbirds stayed close by outrebounding the Jayhawks, 26-21, and by forcing nine turnovers.
While it appeared ISU may have benefited from a lack of the Jayhawks' full attention, Redbirds' coach Tom Richardson said: "I hope we had something to do with that."
Asked if he thought Kansas brought its A-game, Jeppson the only Redbird in double figures scoring with 14 points replied: "I don't think so, but I can't say because I haven't seen them that much. I don't know if they brought it or not. They looked sluggish in the first half, but not the second half."
ISU coach Tom Richardson
Said Richardson: "We talked about the beginning of the second half. We thought they'd come out hard and pound it inside, and they did."
In the first three minutes of the second half, KU outscored the visitors, 13-2, and raced to a 45-27 lead. ISU never came any closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
"Our kids battled," Richardson said. "They were undersized a little bit, but we outscrapped them in the first half. They've been beating the heck out of everybody and we just wanted to play hard."
Kansas had won its previous four home games against sub-major competition by an average score of 96-61. Illinois State matched the 61 and held the Jayhawks 16 points below the 96.
"We came out thinking we'd play with a high level of intensity," said 6-foot-3 guard Traves Wilson, a transfer from Arizona. "We just got up on 'em and we pressured them into turnovers. Our team is capable of playing with them, but we kind of broke down."
Kansas has played five more games than the Redbirds, but Richardson didn't consider that a factor.
"If we had played them and we both had 10 games," he said, "I don't know if it would be any different."
It might have been a little different if Tarise Bryson, the Redbirds' leading scorer, hadn't been battling the flu.
"He's been under the weather and hasn't practiced much," Richardson said. "He's a much better player than he showed. He doesn't usually miss too many open shots."
Bryson, a 6-1 senior guard, didn't start but logged 24 minutes off the bench. He missed eight of his nine shots, including five of six from three-point range and settled for seven points.
Richardson used 14 players and 10 of them scored.
"I like our team," the second-year ISU coach said. "I like our toughness. We're deep. If we play hard like this, we'll win more than we lose."