LAWRENCE, Kan. -- After Kansas coach Bill Self told his players there'd be times this season when they would have to "win ugly," they appear to be doing just that lately.
The 15th-ranked Jayhawks (5-2) followed a lackluster win over Florida Atlantic earlier this week with rough first half on Saturday in which they struggled to a three-point halftime lead. However, they managed to pull away after the break and beat South Florida 70-42.
"They've taken it to a different level than I ever imagined," Self said. "We were awful. ... I told our guys before the season that we were going to have to really enjoy winning ugly because we don't have as many offensive weapons like we've had in the past."
Tyshawn Taylor, held to four points in the first half, had 20 in the second, and Thomas Robinsin had 14 points and eight rebounds, ending his stretch of six straight double-doubles for Kansas (5-2).
After making only one of 11 3-point shots in the opening half, the Jayhawks got three straight 3s from Travis Releford, Connor Teahan and Taylor, triggering a long run that put Kansas firmly in command, finally.
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Kansas had more points (46) in the second half than South Florida had in the game.
"I don't know which team you want to talk about -- our first-half team or our second-half team," South Florida coach Stan Heath said. "Our second-half team lost a little focus and more than anything, couldn't keep pace with Kansas. I thought they did a great job in the second half of continuing to attack and having a little more patience."
Kansas opened the second half with a 7-0 run keyed by Robinson. The 6-10 junior rebounded a teammate's miss and scored on a soft putback to make it 28-21, then stole a Bulls pass and fed Taylor streaking downcourt on a fastbreak. Taylor rattled in the free throw to put the Jayhawks up 10.
Augustus Gilchrist had 11 points for the Bulls (5-4), who were facing their first ranked opponent of the year.
Hugh Robertson's bucket cut Kansas' lead to 38-31, then Releford's 3-pointer seemed to ignite the Jayhawks. Taylor, fouled by Gilchrist, hit a pair of free throws and then Releford scored on a fastbreak for a 51-35 lead that allowed the 167th straight sellout crowd in Allen Fieldhouse to finally breathe easy.
"I think we just came out in the second half with a different attitude," Taylor said. "First half was a little sluggish for us. We didn't have much energy as a team. n the second half, we just wanted to come out with a little more energy, pressure the ball a little more, get some fastbreak points. And that's what we did. We just tried to pressure the ball a little bit more."
Anthony Collins and Shaun Noriega each had eight points for South Florida. Teahen had 11 for Kansas.
In a seesaw first half that saw nine lead changes, the Bulls stayed close by slowing down the tempo, draining the shot clock and benefiting from awful Kansas shooting. The Jayhawks hit only five of their first 16 shots and never led by more than two until Teahan drove in for a layup and then made a foul shot for a 24-19 advantage.
Shaun Noriega cut it to 24-21 with the final bucket of the half. It was the third straight game the tenacious South Florida defense held an opponent under 30 points over the first 20 minutes.
With two seconds left in the half, Collins stole the ball and drove in for what would have been an uncontested dunk if the buzzer hadn't sounded just as he went up. After a review, officials disallowed the bucket, sending the 16-point underdogs into intermission trailing by only three.
Ron Anderson Jr., a transfer from Kansas State who had averaged 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the Bulls' last three games, had early foul trouble and spent much of the game on the bench. He finally fouled out with only two points.
Another reason for Kansas' sluggish play may be "the crud," according to Self.
"We've all got the crud. The crud's going around," he said. "That's no excuse. But head colds, guys not practicing. Throwing up. We've had several people at the infirmary, including the coach. They haven't felt great.
"But -- good gosh!"