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March 20, 2008

One down, five to go for Kansas

Darrell Arthur got free in the lane and rocked the basket with a thunderous dunk. Darnell Jackson went flying down the court and slammed one through. Then it was Arthur's turn again - yes, he soared above the rim for another jam.

Just over 3 minutes into the game, it was quite clear Kansas wasn't in the mood for another first-round stunner.

Dunking on the inside and swishing 3s from beyond the arc, the top-seeded Jayhawks romped to an 85-61 victory over a Portland State team that got quite a hazing in its first NCAA tournament appearance Thursday. Brandon Rush scored 18 points and everyone wearing blue had a blast.

Kansas' five seniors and Rush, a junior star who might be headed to the NBA, are determined to go out in style after some bitter disappointments in the tournament.

The Jayhawks still remember being knocked off two straight years in the opening round, losing stunners to 14th-seeded Bucknell in 2005 and No. 13 Bradley in '06. Last year, they were within one victory of the Final Four but lost to UCLA in the regional finals. This season, they won't be satisfied unless they're cutting down the nets in San Antonio.

Well, Kansas (32-3) is off to a good start. No 16th-seeded team has ever beaten a No. 1, and Portland State never had a chance in this one.

The Jayhawks led all the way against the overmatched Vikings (23-10), who got in the 65-team field by winning the Big Sky tournament. Portland State competed hard and had a few moments they'll remember for a lifetime - such as Deonte Huff stuffing Jackson's shot on the inside - but the 22-point underdogs simply didn't have enough weapons to cope with the size, depth and skill of a Big 12 powerhouse.

The Vikings' predicament was epitomized by their best player, 5-foot-6 Jeremiah Dominguez. He was smothered by Kansas' bigger guards and had trouble even getting a look at the basket. He was overmatched at the defensive end as well, at one point finding himself matched up with Rush, who's a foot taller and 55 pounds heavier.

Dominguez did lead the Portland State with 13 points, but Alex Tiefenthaler was his only teammate in double figures with 10. The Vikings shot just 38 percent (21 of 55) from the field and turned it over 16 times.

By comparison, Kansas made 54 percent on 33-of-61 shooting, including 12 of 25 from 3-point range. Arthur had 17 points, Mario Chalmers 16 and Jackson 10. Ten players scored for the Jayhawks.

Kansas had a double-digit lead before the game was 5 minutes old, going up 13-3 on Arthur's jumper. With a little over 2 minutes left in the half, the Jayhawks pushed the margin to 20 for the first time on Rush's 3-pointer, which made it 44-24.

Not everything went Kansas' way. With the clock running down on the first half, Chalmers grabbed a loose ball and launched a 60-footer that caught the backboard and rim but bounced away as the predominantly Jayhawks crowd let out a collective, ``Ooooooh.'' Their team had to settle for a 49-26 lead at the break.

The stat sheet shows Kansas' total domination in the opening 20 minutes. They hit 18-of-28 (64 percent) shots from the field - four of them dunks, eight of them coming from outside the stripe in 13 attempts. Rush had 15 points, Chalmers 10 and two other players, Arthur and Sherron Collins, were on the cusp of double figures with nine each.

Portland State made just 10 of 25 shots in the opening period and turned it over 10 times. Everyone in the Vikings' starting lineup had at least one turnover by halftime.

The second half was academic, though Kansas got a chance to have more fun above the rim against a team that mostly played below it.

Jackson muscled inside for two more jams, giving him three on the day, and Sasha Kaun got one, too. It's not an official stat, but in case you were wondering: The Jayhawks went 7-for-8 on dunks overall, the only miss coming when Rush botched an alley-oop pass.

Portland State coach Ken Bone, who figured his team had to be close with 10 minutes left to have any chance, instead looked up to find the Vikings down by 25 at that point.

After J.R. Moore put up an airball, Bone covered his eyes with his hands.

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