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Kansas Doesn't Monkey Around With Syracuse


DAYTON, Ohio — Kansas finally got the monkey off its back. Now, it's coming along for the ride.

The Jayhawks, frustrated by second-round losses in the NCAA tournament the last three years, advanced to the Sweet 16 in overpowering fashion Sunday, pummeling Syracuse, 87-58, in a Midwest Regional game before 13,159 at Dayton Arena.

The fourth-seeded Jayhawks (26-6) outrebounded fifth-seeded Syracuse, 56-23, the fifth-largest disparity in tournament history, while pulling away from the ice-cold Orangemen in the second half.

Forwards Drew Gooden, Nick Collison and Kenny Gregory easily exploited Syracuse's renowned 2-3 zone, combining for 41 points and 37 rebounds.

Gooden, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, did most of his damage on the baseline and led Kansas with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

After the game, Kansas Coach Roy Williams, in reference to his team's tournament failings, produced a stuffed monkey the size of a Teddy bear and placed it on the dais during interviews.

"And don't say it looks like me," Williams cracked.

"I wanted to see how [the team] would be taking the monkey off my back."

The gesture summed up the mood of the Jayhawks, who broke open a 39-34 halftime lead with a surge that included runs of 9-0 and 8-0.

"We're ecstatic about the way we played," Williams said. "We caught Syracuse when they had an off day. It was one of our best games all year."

Not to mention one of Williams' most unusual meetings with the media.

Williams removed the monkey from a brown paper bag to begin the post-game session. The monkey, players said, will accompany the Jayhawks to San Antonio for their matchup with top-seeded Illinois, a 79-61 winner over Charlotte.

"We wanted to add some humor to college basketball," said Williams, in his 13th season. "I don't know if we haven't had much fun the last couple of years. We've had big challenges."

Syracuse (25-9) failed to penetrate Kansas' zone for much of the game and missed badly from the perimeter.

The Orangemen were 21 of 69 (30.4%) shooting, including five of 27 on three-point attempts. Syracuse made only one of 14 three-pointers in the second half and had one stretch in which it missed shots on six consecutive possessions.

Preston Shumpert and DeShaun Williams each had 20 points for Syracuse, but they were a combined 14 of 38 shooting. Shumpert was three of 11 on three-pointers.

But rebounding told the story.

"We knew we were going to be outrebounded," Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said. "But you can't get outrebounded by 30. That's not going to get it done."

Kansas held a 30-9 advantage in rebounds in the first half, but Syracuse avoided an early blowout by closing the half with a 21-9 run.

"We knew the key to the game was getting the ball inside as often as we could," said Gregory, who had 15 points. "We wanted to attack the offensive boards."

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