Southeast Missouri (0-1) gave No. 7 Kansas (1-0) all it could handle in a 74-55 loss Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 16,300 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Although the final score may not have indicated, Southeast had the nationally-ranked Jayhawks on the ropes in the second half.
The Redhawks trailed, 32-17, at halftime before climbing their way back in the game in the second half.
A pair of Lucas Nutt free throws spurred a 14-7 run as Southeast sliced KU’s lead to six points.
Tyler Stone scored five points and the Redhawks added six more at the free throw line, including two by A.J. Joneswhich narrowed the gap to 43-37 with 12:10 remaining.
Nick Niemczyk had a nice look on Southeast’s next possession after that run, but his three-pointer bounced off the rim.
After that, KU countered with a 17-6 run over the next 5:43 and Southeast couldn’t recover.
“This was a special game for us,” said Southeast head coach Dickey Nutt. “I thought we played hard and was proud of our team. We pressed a lot in the first half, but did a better job of shutting them down in the second half.”
KU opened the game on an 11-0 run as Southeast missed five field goals and turned the ball over twice on its first seven possessions. Nino Johnson ended a 4:08 scoreless drought for the Redhawks when he buried a jumper with 15:52 left.
Shortly after Travis Releford’s layup gave the Jayhawks a 15-4 advantage, Nick Niemczyk scored eight-straight points off the bench.
Niemczyk netted his first points of the season on a layup and then buried a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions. His first three narrowed KU’s lead to 15-7 at the 10:29 mark.
Southeast again pulled to within eight (20-12) when true freshman Colin Ferguson knocked down a jumper with 7:51 remaining, but the Jayhawks put together an 8-2 jaunt to extend their lead to 28-14.
Both teams shot under 30 percent from the field in the first half. KU made 9-of-32 attempts (28.1) and Southeast hit 6-of-29 (20.7).
Jeff Withey led KU with a double-double 17 points and 12 rebounds, and gathered a game-high five blocks, while Naadir Tharpe followed with 10 points and Ben McLemore chipped in nine points and 12 boards.
The Jayhawks shot just 2-of-21 (9.5 pct.) from three-point range, but knocked down 24-of-28 at the free throw line. KU shot 50 percent (15-of-30) from the field in the second half, as well.
Niemczyk led Southeast with 14 points and Johnson notched a career-high 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
Southeast fell to 9-13 all-time in season-opening games and 0-9 against ranked NCAA Division I opponents.
Friday’s game marked KU’s 181st-consecutive sellout at Allen Fieldhouse where the Jayhawks are 92-1 in their last 93 home games.
Southeast will host Lyon College in its home-opener on Nov. 12. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m., CT, at the Show Me Center.