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College basketball

Kansas breaks UAB press

By Associated Press
Published March 27, 2004

ST. LOUIS - Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles and Kansas put Alabama-Birmingham through its own version of "40 Minutes of Hell."

Simien had 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists, and the Jayhawks had few problems handling UAB's frenetic defense Friday night, moving a step closer to their third straight Final Four with a 100-74 victory in the St. Louis Region semifinals.

Fourth-seeded Kansas (24-8) plays Georgia Tech for a trip to San Antonio. The region final will be played Sunday.

"When they got us down, they kept us down," UAB's Gabe Kennedy said. "They just stepped on our throat and wouldn't let up."

The Jayhawks, who practiced against eight players this week to prepare for UAB's pressing defense, committed 17 turnovers and were forced into plenty of silly errors but offset that by beating the Blazers at their own chaotic game.

Miles keyed it by outrunning the press, either hitting twisting layups or dishing off to open teammates. He finished with 10 assists.

"It was like a day back in the rec center," Miles said. "You know, if your guy doesn't guard you, you get an easy layup."

Freshman J.R. Giddens had 18 points and Jeff Graves 13 points and eight rebounds.

The ninth-seeded Blazers (22-10) made it to St. Louis after ousting the tournament's top overall seed, Kentucky. They had boasted about how their run-and-gun style had worn down the heavily favored Wildcats.

In the end, it was UAB that looked weary.

The Blazers shot 32 percent from the field, were outrebounded 45-33 and allowed an opponent to score more than 100 for the second time this season.

Second-year coach Mike Anderson learned the renowned "40 Minutes of Hell" defense while serving as an assistant under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas and Tulsa for 20 years.

That defense sent Arkansas to three Final Fours and the 1994 national championship. It also helped turn around UAB's mediocre program, propelling the Blazers into the round of 16 for the second time in their 25-year history.

Kansas even looked ripe for an upset, with five key players dealing with injuries.

It didn't matter.

Kansas coach Bill Self now has taken three teams, after Tulsa in 2000 and Illinois in 2001, to the round of eight. He never has been to a Final Four.

"We haven't punched the ticket yet. Hopefully this is the year we cash in," Self said. "I would say there's been far less fanfare with this team than the other two. I haven't been to the Final Four, but they have."

[Last modified March 27, 2004, 02:10:29]

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