Lahaina, Hawaii — Kansas University's basketball players laced their Nikes in near silence on Tuesday morning in a stuffy Lahaina Civic Center locker room.
"It was very businesslike in there," KU coach Roy Williams said of the dressing-room atmosphere prior to the Jayhawks' 95-78 Maui Invitational loser's bracket rout of Houston. "The kids were very serious and businesslike about what we were trying to do. I think it helped us get off to such a good start."
Still stinging from Monday's shocking loss to unranked Ball State, the No. 4-rated Jayhawks raced to leads of 11-2 and 26-11 en route to the runaway victory.
"There was no joking around. We were serious. We were really mad about yesterday's game," said KU forward Drew Gooden, who scored 19 points 15 the first half as KU blazed to a 51-33 halftime lead.
The Jayhawks were incensed about the opening-round game.
"It felt like it was a (NCAA) tournament loss," Gooden said after scoring 11 straight points in a stretch that opened the 26-11 margin 12 minutes into the game. "It was even worse because it's the end of the season after a tournament loss. You don't have to deal with it because you don't have to play any more games. Last night was our first game of the season. You've got 30 more left."
The Jayhawks were able to regain some focus following a Tuesday morning message from Williams.
"I reminded them the only time we lost my first game, we ended up playing for the national championship," Williams said. "In my third year we lost at Arizona State the first game of the year and we won the first game every other year. We reached the championship game.
"I also told 'em about 1988, when Kansas came here. They were 1-2 in Maui and ended up winning the last game (of season for national title). So it was just one game. There's a lot of basketball to be played. You can't get too up and down."
The players' minds were definitely on basketball and not gorgeous Maui on Tuesday.
"The mood was, 'This is a must win,''' KU freshman Keith Langford said after scoring 11 points and grabbing five boards. "We knew we had to bounce back from yesterday's loss. To bounce back you have to play harder the next game."
It helped that the Jayhawks, who loaded up on liquids and salt on Monday night and Tuesday morning, didn't suffer cramping problems as they did in the Ball State game.
But other things helped too, like getting the Jayhawks' big men involved early and often. Collison scored 22 points in 27 cramp-free minutes, while Gooden had 19 points while also feeling no cramp pain. Guards Jeff Boschee and Kirk Hinrich contributed 15 and 14 points apiece.
"I think our shot selection early was the key to the game," Williams said.
"Yesterday we were rushing it a little too much and defensively we did a better job today of guarding the dribbler. It's crazy. Today they shot 30 free throws and outrebounded us and we won pretty easily. Yesterday the stats were almost all in our favor and we lost. I do think we improved today."
Physically and mentally.
"Coach told us we had to come out and be ready to play," said Boschee who hit three of four threes. Houston canned just two of 13 beyond the arc.
"Last night we were feeling sorry for ourselves after losing to Ball State. Coach said if we continued to do that, we'd feel even sorrier after today's game. We came out and took care of the job."
It sets up a meeting in today's fifth-place game against Seton Hall, a team that lost by one to Duke in the first round, then plastered Chaminade, 74-62, on Tuesday.
Today's game has been added by ESPN and will be shown in Lawrence live at 2:30 p.m.
Nine Jayhawks played eight or more minutes as KU coach Williams ran in a lot of bodies the second half as the Jayhawks built a 26-point lead (72-46) and were never threatened after halftime.
"Seton Hall is probably better than Ball State," Langford said. "We know we have to come and play a good game to beat them."
Houston (0-2) had four players in double figures including 6-6 former Nebraska forward Louis Truscott, who scored 10 points and was guarded at times by Hinrich, KU's versatile 6-3 guard/forward.
"It was a difficult matchup for Kirk with Louis 6-6 or 6-7, 220 (pounds)," Williams said. "We'll have problems matching up with some people. But I also told Kirk before the game it's also a difficult matchup on their end. They've got to have a big guy chasing Kirk."
Hinrich played a lot of point guard as well as small forward Tuesday, dishing six assists against three turnovers in 31 minutes to freshman point Miles' seven assists versus two turnovers in 19 minutes.
"It was such a bad matchup for us on the backboards we needed Keith more as opposed to Aaron," Williams said, giving the 6-4 Langford 19 minutes. "Keith gives us more size at the three-spot."
Rugged Houston center Patrick Okafor led the way with 18 points. He hit just four of 10 floor shots but 10 of 11 free throws.
"I think we needed to come back and get a 'W' today," Williams said. "It would have been even better to play well and get a 'W.' Winning was important to us. We felt awfully bad after last night's game.
"I said if we sat around and felt sorry for ourselves we'll feel even sorrier after this one. Now we've got a 'W.' We have to play even better tomorrow."
Williams said he was "extremely worried" about possible repeat cramping of Jayhawks Collison, Gooden and Miles during Tuesday's game.
"We tried to cut down on some guys' minutes, particularly Nick. When he came out he didn't want to sit the bench. He stood up to keep stretching," Williams said. "We felt one of the best things to get 'em through this game without getting hurt like yesterday was to play them a lot, to get 'em a lot of action. To get going up and down and get the legs going again. Fortunately we were able to get 'em working today."
Collison and Gooden hit 17 of 26 shots.
"We have youngsters who can score," Williams assessed. "Today we got some good spacing, and Jeff's threes really helped us open things up, too. It was a 'W. At the same time we realize we're up against a very good Seton Hall team tomorrow."