St. Louis Before her son played his first NCAA Tournament game, Charlene Taylor told Keith Langford to play like there was no tomorrow.
At times Thursday at Edward Jones Dome it looked like there might not be a tomorrow Â or, more importantly, a Saturday Â for Langford's Jayhawks.
The freshman from Crowley, Texas, made some big plays down the stretch of the Midwest Regional first-round game and helped top-seeded Kansas University overcome an injury to starter Kirk Hinrich and a solid effort from No. 16 seed Holy Cross.
Freshmen Langford, Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien all logged more minutes than usual in a 70-59 victory over the Crusaders and advanced to Saturday's second-round game against Stanford.
"They made some big plays tonight when we needed them to," KU coach Roy Williams said.
The freshmen, in fact, made some of the biggest plays of the game.
Hinrich tied the game at 35 with less than a minute left in the first half, but the junior guard injured his ankle on the play, did not return and his status is uncertain for Saturday.
"I looked around, and everyone was feeling sorry for themselves," Langford said. "Kirk is our emotional leader."
Brian Wilson scored for Holy Cross just before halftime to give the Crusaders a 37-35 lead. Things got worse in the locker room.
"Coach Williams said, 'Kirk isn't going to be back, so you're going to have to step up and play,'" said Langford, who played a season-high 31 minutes. "I think everybody took it upon themselves to do that. Kirk went out playing hard. I just wanted to pick up where he left off. I didn't want to lose either."
Kansas (30-3) was coming off a Big 12 Tournament final loss to Oklahoma. Williams said the Jayhawks panicked when they fell behind.
Not this time.
"We really didn't do anything right the whole game, but we played well enough to win," said Simien, who finished with eight points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
KU trailed by as much as five points before rallying in the second half.
Langford Â who finished with nine points, four rebounds and two blocked shots Â drew a fourth personal foul on Holy Cross captain Ryan Serravalle and completed a three-point play that tied the game with 10:46 to play.
On KU's next possession, Simien dunked off a pass from junior Drew Gooden to give Kansas a 48-46 lead. Simien dunked off another Gooden assist with 5:52 to play, sparking a 14-4, game-ending run.
"I'm glad to see he's no longer a freshman," Williams said.