KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Trailing by one at halftime, New Mexico coach Craig Neal told his team if it just got a couple of quick baskets it could put No. 13 Kansas on the ropes.
Instead, it was the Jayhawks that went on a run.
Kansas scored 16 of the first 20 points in the second half, and then rolled to an 80-63 victory Saturday night that ended a two-game losing streak.
“That pretty much buried the game right there,” said New Mexico guard Kendall Williams, who had 24 points. “We weren’t able to back bounce from that. That run was pretty much the tale of the game.”
Cameron Bairstow also had 24 points, but that was about it for New Mexico (7-2). Alex Kirk, who came into the game averaging 18.6 points, was held to just five on 2-for-8 shooting before fouling out with 2:53 remaining in the game.
“He’s such a good player that when you lose someone of his caliber it’s going to be tough to make it up,” Bairstow said. “He just couldn’t really get into a groove which is hard when you’re sitting the first half on the bench. It’s really hard to come in the second half and make it all happen.”
Perry Ellis scored 21 points for Kansas (7-3), and Joel Embiid added a career-high 18. Andrew Wiggins, who dealt with foul trouble much of the night, had 11 points for the Jayhawks, who led 39-38 at halftime.
“They came out ready to play in the second half and I don’t think we did,” Neal said. “I thought we had them in a good spot in the first half. We just couldn’t get over the hump when they got up.”
It was the Jayhawks’ ninth straight win at the Sprint Center, including their run to last year’s Big 12 tournament title.