St. Louis Kansas barely avoided becoming the first No. 1 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament to make a first-round exit, holding off Holy Cross 70-59 Thursday night in the Midwest Regional.
Beside beating Holy Cross, the Jayhawks (30-3) also overcame their own history of failures _ five early losses as a No. 1 seed since 1986.
They rallied from a five-point second-half deficit without All-Big 12 guard Kirk Hinrich, who sprained his left ankle in the final minute of the first half. He returned on crutches with less than eight minutes to go wearing an air cast and a heavy wrap, his leg elevated on a chair at the end of the bench.
All-American Drew Gooden had 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead Kansas, which went unbeaten in the Big 12 and had a 16-game winning streak snapped in the Big 12 Conference tournament final against No. 3 Oklahoma. The Jayhawks haven't lost consecutive games since falling to Baylor and Iowa State Feb. 12-17, 2001.
The victory over Holy Cross (18-15), which made it into the tournament by winning the Patriot League tournament, made it 19 straight first-round victories in the NCAA tournament for the Jayhawks. But Kansas fell far short of its nation-best 92-point scoring average, with its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
The lowest came in the Big 12 final against Oklahoma, a 64-55 final.
Holy Cross befuddled Kansas with a matchup zone all night, and stayed in it until the end despite shooting just 33.3 percent. The Crusaders compensated by committing only nine turnovers and by patiently working the ball inside against Kansas' heralded big men.
Holy Cross led 44-39 after Patrick Whearty scored from inside with 14:27 to go, but the Crusaders were hurt by foul trouble to Whearty and guard Ryan Serravalle down the stretch.
Still, Kansas didn't clinch it until Aaron Miles scored from the key with two second left on the shot clock to make it 64-57 with 51 seconds to go. Holy Cross had two consecutive takeaways but was stopped on the other end before Miles' shot.
Jeff Boschee added 11 points for Kansas, going 3-for-4 from 3-point range. Hinrich, who averages 15 points, had nine points, four rebounds and three assists in the first half. Nick Collison, who averages 15.6 points, was held to five points but had nine rebounds.
Brian Wilson and Tim Szatko scored 13 points apiece for Holy Cross. Szatko, the Patriot League tournament MVP, was only 4-for-18. Whearty added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting.
Kansas trailed at the half for only the fifth time this season, 37-35. The Jayhawks lost three of those games, including the Big 12 conference tournament final when they trailed Oklahoma by 10 at the break.