KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- When one team shoots 60 percent and holds its opponent to 40 percent, blowouts usually follow. Not this time.
No. 10 Kansas appeared to be pulling away from Oregon State twice. The Beavers rallied both times, closing to within three points in the final minutes Friday night before the Jayhawks finally put the finishing touches on a tough and scrappy 84-78 victory.
"I've had a lot of teams shoot worse than 60 percent," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "You'd think it wouldn't be quite as difficult as it was. But we didn't guard the ball."
Ben McLemore scored 21 points for the Jayhawks (6-1) and Travis Releford added 20 while guard Ahmad Starks piled up 25 points for Oregon State (4-2) before a 100 percent Kansas crowd in the Sprint Center.
"We got a lot of layups," said Self. "They scored off us not being able to guard the ball, which is pretty important."
The Beavers came all the way back from a 14-point deficit in the first half and almost caught up again after Releford, McLemore and Jeff Withey helped build a 13-point advantage early in the second.
"We had a chance to break it open in the second half," Self said. "We just don't play too smart. We're not an execution team yet."
Starks led a 9-1 run to cut the deficit to 64-61. He was 7 for 13 from 3-point range and made a long 3 at the 1:26 mark that shaved Kansas' lead to 78-73. Then with 56 seconds to go, Releford made two free throws and Withey rebounded after Starks missed from 3-point range.
Starks had a big night even though, at 5-foot-9, he was giving away several inches to the Kansas guards.
"Those guys are big," he said. "I laughed when I was looking at their guards. Not in awe, but they're like 6-4 or 6-5 and big, athletic guards. They're good, so you look forward to the challenge and you just go attack them."
Roberto Nelson sank two free throws for Oregon State and Starks fed Devon Collier inside for a dunk that shrank Kansas' lead to 80-77 lead. With 13.9 seconds left, McLemore calmly sank two free throws, and with 8.5 ticks remaining, Kevin Young batted an Oregon State shot into the seats.
McLemore, a redshirt freshman, said he had a brief conversation with Self before going to the line.
"Coach asked me before the free throws am I going to make the free throws and I said, 'Yeah, I got 'em," said McLemore, who spent much of the game in foul trouble. "And I made the two free throws."
Withey, who had a triple-double in his previous game, had 17 points, five rebounds and three blocks for the Jayhawks, who were meeting Oregon State for the first time in the long basketball history of the two schools, who rank No. 2 and No. 20 on the Division I all-time victory list.
Nelson had 17 points for Oregon State while Eric Moreland had five points and 16 rebounds.
"You're always happy to get a win," Releford said. "But we know as a team we should be playing a lot better."
McLemore was 6 for 8 in the first half as the Jayhawks hit 12 of their first 15 shots and seized what looked like a comfortable 33-19 lead. But back came the Beavers, with five players contributing in an 18-4 burst. Nelson scored the last six points of the run with a 3-pointer that made it 34-37 and a fastbreak bucket and a free throw for a three-point play that knotted the score at 37.
Olaf Schaftenaar also had a 3-point bucket in the spree as the Beavers fought to beat a ranked team on the road for the first time since 1985.
The Jayhawks made nine of their first 11 shots in the second half and led 63-50 on Releford's fastbreak layup.
The Beavers were playing their second game since a knee injury ended the season for Angus Brandt, their top inside presence who was averaging 11.3 points and 8.5 rebounds. Oregon State hopes to get a medical hardship for the 6-10 senior.
"Mind you, we played this game without our starting center," said Oregon State coach Craig Robinson. "He is a pretty good player. I'm hoping the silver lining is these guys will start to believe they are as good as our staff believes they are."