LAWRENCE — Not to suggest Kansas looked like it was awakening from a post-Christmas nap in the first half Tuesday against Belmont, but the Jayhawks restarted action from a timeout with four players on the floor.
Point guard Sherron Collins quickly noticed and waved to Tyshawn Taylor, who bounded from his seat into the game, then sheepishly walked off moments later to icy indifference from coaches and bench-sitting teammates stifling laughs.
Coach Bill Self took the blame, saying he blew the substitution. Still, it was that kind of start for the Jayhawks.
The finish was much better. Kansas shook off its sluggishness and won easily 81-51.
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Before five minutes elapsed in the second half, the Jayhawks had doubled their 10-point halftime lead. Everybody pitched in during a 65-percent shooting second half, including center Jeff Withey, making his first appearance in a Kansas uniform.
Withey entered the game with 12:02 remaining and the 7-foot Arizona transfer grabbed his first rebound five seconds later. With 46 seconds remaining, Withey scored his first Kansas points on a slam.
"I couldn't feel my legs, running up and down the floor, I couldn't feel anything," said Withey said who had been eligible for the previous two games but didn't play. "A lot of frustration out of the way: I can finally go on and start playing."
In the first half, only Cole Aldrich seemed to be alive.
Aldrich was halfway to a triple-double on the stat sheet with seven points, nine rebounds and five blocks, and it was his production in fewer than two minutes that served as the game's turning point.
Midway through the first half, Belmont grabbed a 15-14 lead. Kansas came out of a timeout and got the ball to Aldrich who baby-hooked his first basket. He then blocked Ian Clark's runner in the lane to start a possession that ended with Collins' three-pointer.
On the Bruins' next trip, Aldrich came up with a steal and assist on Taylor's layup.
"We were settling too much," Aldrich said. "Our bigs are a good component."
Still, bring the same approach to the next part of the Jayhawks' schedule and Kansas might not survive.
If Saturday's game at Temple isn't Kansas' most difficult task to date, the game at Tennessee eight days later will be.
"Right now we play best when it's a pretty game and on Saturday there's not going to be anything pretty about that," Self said. "The one grind it out game we had we didn't play well."
That was Memphis, and Kansas hung on for dear life in a two-point victory.
The Jayhawks have played a formidable schedule in name only. Kansas caught UCLA and Michigan in slow starts. They pulled away late to put away California, and Memphis nearly got them.
Temple becomes Kansas' first ranked opponent at tipoff time. The No. 18 Owls have been stoked for this one for weeks. After beating Villanova on Dec. 13, fans stormed the court and chanted "We want Kansas!"
Temple will be getting a Jayhawks team that's been ranked No. 1 longer this season than all but one other in their history. None of the NCAA title squads or the Wilt Chamberlain teams spent as much time atop the polls as these Jayhawks, who started there in the preseason and haven't been budged in the six rankings since.
But the Jayhawks didn't seem like the nation's best team to Self on Tuesday.
"We have to get tougher," he said.