Freshman guard Frank Mason hit Andrew Wiggins on a transition alley-oop that cut Eastern Kentucky’s early nine-point lead to 27-26 with 2:06 left in the half.
KU had 13 turnovers.
Sophomore forward Jamari Traylor had a putback dunk that stretched KU’s lead to 59-56 with 8:14 left. Kansas never trailed again.
KU had one turnover.
Wiggins sets record
It took Wiggins a little while to get comfortable on Friday. For Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer, that was by design.
Eastern Kentucky’s defenders denied Wiggins all over the court, forcing him backdoor.
“The best way to guard him is don’t let him touch it,” Neubauer said, “and we did that very well, especially early in the game. And then they figured that out.”
Wiggins finished with 19 points, helping him surpass former KU guard Ben McLemore as the all-time freshman scoring leader in program history. Wiggins, who is averaging 17.4 points per game, now has 593 points this season, more than the 589 McLemore scored last season before becoming a first-round draft pick of the Sacramento Kings.
“The second half,” KU coach Bill Self said, “I thought he put his head down and drove it, and he still impacted the game in a big way.”
Wiggins also increased his KU freshmen records for free throws made (174), free throws attempted (225), field goals attempted (416) and scoring average (17.4).
• Neubauer marveled that KU could be so dominant inside while playing without freshman center Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks outrebounded the Colonels 43-19 and had seven blocks.
“You look at the stat sheet and Embiid has 72 blocks,” Neubauer said. “And you think, ‘Hey, he is not playing, so the basket is no longer protected.’ But what I noticed throughout the Big 12 tournament is that they still had all these athletes flying in there blocking shots.”
• Kansas has won its opening game in the NCAA Tournament in 29 of the last 31 years. The only two losses were back-to-back, in 2005 and 2006.