Collins scores career-high 25 as No. 24 Kansas raises 2008 national title banner

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The lights went down in Allen Fieldhouse, replaced by the flickering images from a video highlighting last season's title run, including a clip of coach Bill Self's speech after the win over Memphis.

Then came a spotlight, shining at the north end of the storied arena where the 2008 national championship banner took its place among the school's four others.

Quietly standing at the free-throw line with his teammates, most of them new, Sherron Collins felt the choke in his throat, the tears welling in his eyes as cell phone cameras flashed around him in the darkness.

This was an emotional night -- and Collins played like it.

Collins hit four 3-pointers and had a career-high 25 points on Tuesday night, helping No. 24 Kansas race away from Florida Gulf Coast 85-45 in the CBE Classic after raising its 2008 national championship banner.

"I almost dropped a tear," Collins said. "To see some of the speech and some clips from last year, that really got to me. It really got me going for the game."

He wasn't alone.

Feeding off the energy of the pregame ceremony, the Jayhawks (2-0) rolled over Gulf Coast (0-1) from the opening tip, quickly turning a memorable night into a laughable rout.

Kansas started with a 13-2 run, built the lead to 32 by halftime and didn't let up until late, emptying their bench in the closing minutes after leading by as many as 45 points.

Raising the championship banner, a rousing victory, on legendary coach Phog Allen's birthday no less -- it couldn't have been much better.

"I think that you have to [be excited] if you have a pulse," Self said. "It's a special night.

Collins got things started. The junior guard was aggressive from the start, driving to the basket, pulling up for 3-pointers on his way to 18 points by halftime. Collins finished 9-for-14 from the field, heading to the bench with 6 1/2 minutes left.

Freshman Marcus Morris was solid in his first start, grabbing 10 rebounds, and center Cole Aldrich overcame foul trouble to finish with 12 points, six rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

The Jayhawks were even better defensively, holding the Eagles without a field goal for 9-minute spans to start and end the first half, and to 24 percent shooting overall. Reed Baker (11 points) was the only player to score in double figures for Gulf Coast, which was 3-for-15 on 3-pointers and had 24 turnovers.

"I thought we were really out of sync and that's credit to Kansas," Gulf Coast coach Dave Balza said. "The pressured us well and took us out of every entry. We didn't get much flow to our offense in the first half."

Kansas wasn't perfect, though.

Aldrich got into early foul trouble for the second straight game, picking up two fouls -- one 35 feet from the basket -- in the first 3 1/2 minutes. He got a third 32 seconds into the second half, but Self kept him in and he didn't get another the rest of the way.

The Jayhawks were rushed on offense at times, forcing passes, taking quick shots like they did in a season-opening win over Missouri-Kansas City. Freshman Markieff Morris, coming off a 15-rebound debut, heard Self's wrath early after taking two ill-conceived shots, as did a handful of other young players who didn't move the ball.

Of course, inconsistency might be expected from a team that has seven newcomers and just two players -- Collins and Aldrich -- who played significant minutes last season.

"The ball is sticking with all our young kids -- we've got to understand that we need to move the ball," Self said. "That team last year, we had guys where the ball didn't stick. Our young kids don't get that yet."

Florida Gulf Coast is facing a rebuilding year as well, losing 11 of 13 players from last season, the team's first in Division I.

The difference is that a rebuilding year at Kansas might mean a 20-win season and a poor seeding in the NCAA tournament. Gulf Coast finished 10-21 with seven seniors last year and is picked to finish ninth in the Atlantic Sun Conference after losing roughly 90 percent of its scoring and rebounding.

The Eagles never stood a chance in their first trip to The Phog, overpowered by the Jayhawks defensively, throwing up wild shots on offense. Gulf Coast missed its first 12 shots and was 3-for-25 from the field in the first half to trail 45-13.

"They've got great pressure defense. We haven't seen that in practice," Baker said. "The first college game for a lot of guys, and it's been a while since a lot of our key guys have played, so it was tough for the ball to get in the hole tonight."

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