KANSAS CITY - If not for the SWAT team showing up, the University of Toledo might have felled a giant yesterday.
The Rocket men did a lot of things well, but came up 10 points short of 12th-ranked Kansas, losing 68-58 before 16,488 fans at Kemper Arena.
What UT couldn't control was Kansas' overwhelming height advantage and the wingspan of many of those Jayhawks in full flight.
KU blocked 15 shots yesterday, the most ever recorded by the Jayhawks and the most by any opponent in Toledo's history.
"That was 15 times we went to the basket and couldn't finish," said UT coach Stan Joplin. "That was bad enough. But what it really allows Kansas to do is take chances on the perimeter and try to disrupt our offense out on top knowing they have some big men waiting in the back who can erase mistakes."
And the Jayhawks did a lot of erasing in upping their record to 8-2. The Rockets, meanwhile, ended a seven-game, season-opening road swing with a 2-5 record.
Keonta Howell hit four of six tries from 3-point range and led Toledo with 18 points. Justin Ingram added 13 and Florentino Valencia had 11 points and six rebounds.
Ironically, despite KU's 15-0 edge in blocks, the Rockets outrebounded the Jayhawks 37-35. Of course, there were a lot of boards to be had, especially in the second half when the teams combined for 17-of-52 shooting.
The Rockets never fully recovered from a 15-0 Kansas run in the first half that more than erased a 20-14 UT lead forged by Ridley Johnson, Howell and Ingram hitting treys on three straight possessions.
Kansas led by 10 at halftime after shooting 73 per cent from the field during the first 20 minutes. That included a 4-for-5 performance by Brandon Rush from beyond the 3-point arc, which in turn opened up a lot of high-low post action inside.
"They've got 6-9 and 6-10 guys whose wingspan makes them more like 7-footers," Joplin said. "First, we weren't getting to Rush on the catch and gave up too many open 3s. When we tried to adjust to that, their big guys started passing to each other inside."
After halftime, though, the Jayhawks converted just 7 of 28 (.250) shots.
"We wanted to put a little more pressure on the ball and cut down their high-low game," Howell said.
It gave the Rockets some chances, and inspired play by Jonathan Amos off the bench helped pull UT within six points.
Amos hit a 3-pointer before converting a steal into a layup. Another Amos steal led to a jumper by Shane Ross and when Howell netted a mid-range shot Toledo was within 55-49 with less than eight minutes to play.
The Rockets got a bad break shortly thereafter when Ingram drove to the basket and released a shot while drawing contact. Inexplicably, the referee ruled the basket no good. Toledo got the ball out of bounds, but failed to score and 6-11 Sasha Kaun made a hook shot at the other end. Instead of UT being within five points with a successful three-point play, Kansas went up by 59-49.
"I definitely thought that was an 'and-one' foul," Joplin said. "It changed the complexion of the game. We were where we wanted to be, we made a play we needed to make, and they didn't give it to us."
Ingram did come back to score two straight baskets, the second a 3-pointer that pulled the Rockets within 61-54 with 1:46 to play, but UT was forced to foul from there and Kansas iced things with its final three blocked shots in the last 90 seconds.
"We'd run the offense and we'd execute pretty good and get a good shot, then somebody would come out of nowhere and swat it away," Howell said. "It was tough for us because our guards usually get to the basket pretty well."
Tough, indeed, but the Rockets never stopped trying.
"I kept telling our guys that a blocked shot is a blocked shot, to take it right at them and if they blocked it, we'd just try again. Kansas altered some shots and blocked some shots, but we stayed at it.
"We held our own on the boards and scored some in transition. The effort was good and we had them in sight down the stretch. It's about all we could have asked for. Kansas is just a really good team."
Toledo's 37 rebounds and 10 steals were season highs for KU opponents. It was only the second time in 10 games that the Jayhawks were outrebounded.
"Our big guys combined for two offensive rebounds," Kansas coach Bill Self said, shaking his head. "It was kind of a dud win. I thought in the first half we made shots but we didn't guard. In the second half, we guarded better but didn't make shots."
Rush, a 6-6, do-everything guard, led the Jayhawks with 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots. Kaun tied him with four blocks and added 10 points.
Contact Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.