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March 16, 2007

Kansas cruises to easy blowout of Niagara

CHICAGO - No first-round exit for Kansas this time.

The fast-breaking and top-seeded Jayhawks took care of that early Friday night, running out to a 25-point halftime lead and routing Niagara 107-67 in the West Regional.

Sent to the sidelines by first-round losses against Bucknell and Bradley the last two seasons, Kansas (31-4) was too fast, too deep and too talented for the Purple Eagles.

And when they weren't running for points, coach Bill Self's Jayhawks were sinking shots from long range with ease in winning their 12th straight game.

When Mario Chalmers hit two 3-pointers and Russell Robinson added another to open the second half, the Jayhawks had a 61-33 lead. Then it was pretty much showtime.

The lead went to 81-40 with 10 minutes remaining after another steal and fast-break basket by Chalmers. A dunk by reserve Brady Morningstar with 3:44 left gave the Jayhawks 101 points.

Niagara (23-12), which beat Florida A&M 77-69 in Tuesday's play-in game at Dayton, had a 12-game winning streak ended after a busy week of travel.

Chalmers led Kansas - making its 18th straight and 36th overall appearance in the NCAA tournament - with 19 points. Charron Fisher paced 16th-seeded Niagara with 17.

The Jayhawks also got 16 points, eight assists and five steals from Robinson and 15 points, six assists and four steals from Sherron Collins, a former three-sport prep star in Chicago. Kansas had five players in double figures.

Played at the breakneck pace that is to the Jayhawks' liking, Kansas opened up a 12-point lead with the quick defense of Robinson and Collins generating the break. Julian Wright, another former Chicago-area prep star who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, converted a three-point play after a fast break. Brandon Rush scored again at the end of another break.

Collins' 3-pointer and Wright's left-handed follow gave the Jayhawks a 15-point cushion with 3 minutes left in the half. The lead grew to 50-27 in a hurry when Collins hit a 3 and Rodrick Stewart converted a three-point play after he was fouled on the break.

Kansas had a 27-15 edge in points off turnovers and 27-12 margin in fast-break points. The Jayhawks shot 54 percent for the game to 32 percent for the Purple Eagles, who were hurt by 21 turnovers.

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