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Hinrich fights through bad back with 27 points

12/22/2002

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Kirk Hinrich has a sore back that his
coach says might never be at 100 percent this season.

The senior swingman says his back feels great. And the way he's
playing lately, there's no reason to doubt him.

Hinrich led Kansas (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 Associated Press) on both ends of the floor in the 87-70 victory Saturday over UCLA. He hit four 3-pointers and
scored 27 points -- one shy of his career high -- and helped to keep
Bruins star Jason Kapono from getting into an offensive flow for
much of the game.

''I think Kirk has been the guy who can give us a big 3 for some
time now,'' Kansas coach Roy Williams said. ''It's just that his
shot wasn't falling earlier because of his back. But Kirk Hinrich
was sensational tonight.''

Wayne Simien added 19 points and 10 rebounds and Nick Collison
had 18 points for Kansas (6-3), which withstood the Bruins'
second-half comeback for its third consecutive victory.

''The first half, I'd give us an 'A','' Hinrich said. ''The
second half -- 'C-minus', probably.''

UCLA (2-4), which trailed by as many as 26 points in the first
half, went to a full-court press in the second half and closed to 77-66 when Dijon Thompson hit a layup and was fouled by Simien with
3:01 left.

Thompson, who led the Bruins with 21 points, missed the free
throw. UCLA rebounded but failed to convert, and Kansas put the
game out of reach on Hinrich's 3-pointer with 2:44 remaining and
Simien's thundering fastbreak dunk 17 seconds later.

Kapono came in averaging a team-high 17.6 points for the Bruins
but missed his first four field goal attempts before scoring on a
putback with 4½ minutes left in the first half. Playing under heavy
pressure from Aaron Miles and Keith Langford, he finished with 13 points
on 5-for-14 shooting and had 13 rebounds.

''Kansas did a great job and made him catch it outside of his
comfort zone,'' UCLA coach Steve Lavin said. ''They really got in
his face.''

Kapono left without speaking to reporters.

The only negative to Kansas' performance against Kapono,
Williams said, was that he had eight offensive rebounds -- most of
them against Langford -- as UCLA finished with 20 offensive boards.

''They kicked us pretty hard on the offensive backboards,''
Williams said. ''When you give up 20 offensive rebounds, you don't
usually win the game.''

Langford added 13 points and Miles had nine assists for
Kansas, which held UCLA to 38 percent shooting (29-for-75) from the
field.

The Bruins missed their first five field goal attempts and
didn't score until almost five minutes were gone in the game.

The Jayhawks built a 9-0 lead over that span but struggled to
pull away until a 14-0 run gave them a 33-11 lead with more than 5½
minutes left in the first half.

At that time, Hinrich had more points -- 13 -- than UCLA's entire
team.

''We just dug ourselves too big of a hole,'' Thompson said. ''We
let their pressure get to us, and they got a lot of fastbreaks.''

Hinrich hit a 3-pointer and completed a conventional three-point
play during the run, but it was the 6-foot-9 Collison -- showing off
his newfound agility -- who made the most spectacular plays.

He scored twice after his own steals, once dribbling behind his
back and hitting a layup after stealing an inbounds pass and once
swooping in for a dunk after swatting the ball loose at halfcourt.

Actually, Collison said, he's always been able to make plays
like that but hasn't felt that the Jayhawks needed him to do it.

''The biggest thing I want is to be effective,'' said Collison,
a coach's son. ''I don't want to be out there trying to show off,
because that's pretty stupid -- you can get in trouble that way.''

Andre Patterson added 12 points for UCLA.