Freshman Arthur drops 26 in first career start as KU rocks Towson

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- It took about 10 minutes for No. 3 Kansas to find its winning form again.

It took even less time for Darrell Arthur to show that -- even as a freshman -- he can lead a team full of stars.

The Jayhawks' young center scored 26 points in his first career start, leading Kansas to an 87-61 victory over Towson on Sunday night in the first round of the Las Vegas Invitational.

That took a bit of the bitterness out of Kansas' 78-71 home loss to Oral Roberts on Wednesday -- but only a bit.

"The taste is not gone," coach Bill Self said. "The taste is going to be there a while."

Arthur, who averaged 17 points as a reserve in Kansas' first two games and is now the Jayhawks' leading scorer with a 20-point average, was 10-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from the line. His eight rebounds were also a career high, and his aggressiveness inside early in the game helped Kansas start to break down Towson's zone defense.

"It's early in the season, so it's hard to tell what's going to happen," said Arthur, who started Sunday night because Darnell Jackson has a sore right shoulder. "Anybody can be the star. Anybody can be the leading scorer."

Mario Chalmers hit three key 3-pointers and added 15 points for Kansas (2-1). Brandon Rush had 13 points for the Jayhawks, most of that coming before he got in foul trouble midway through the first half, and Julian Wright scored all but one of his 12 points after the break.

Russell Robinson had eight assists, one short of his career high, for the Jayhawks. But it was Wright who provided the game's highlight-reel pass, a no-look throw over his shoulder that Arthur converted into a basket for a 73-46 lead.

The Tigers (2-1) opened in a 2-3 zone defense, and the Jayhawks struggled against it at first. They missed three of their first four 3-point tries and were up only 18-17 midway through the first half, giving Towson some hope of handing Kansas its second upset loss in five days.

"We saw that they weren't supermen and that they were beatable," guard Gary Neal said. "It gave us a little sign of hope when we saw that (Oral Roberts) score."

But Chalmers hit three 3s and Sheron Collins had two in a 24-8 run that made it 42-25 at the half, and the Jayhawks opened the second half on a 10-2 run -- capped by Arthur's dunk on an alley-oop pass from Robinson -- for a 52-25 lead with just under 16 1/2 minutes left.

After that, the Tigers never got the margin under 20 points.

"You can't give up runs when you're not as good as your opponent and you're on the road," Towson coach Pat Kennedy said. "That run really killed us, because we would have had to play almost perfect to beat them."

The Jayhawks were without Rush, their star sophomore guard, for much of their first-half surge. Rush had nine points in the first 9:15 -- he and Arthur accounted for the Jayhawks' first 17 points -- but sat down until halftime after picking up his second foul with 8:29 to go.

Collins' back-to-back 3-pointers, which opened the run, were his only points of the game.

Towson committed 24 turnovers -- 12 in each half -- which the Jayhawks converted into 33 points.

"All in all, it was a good step in the right direction," Self said.

Neal, who scored a career-high 41 points Thursday in the Tigers' 69-62 victory over Samford, was held to six first-half points on Sunday night. He finished with 17 points and was the only Towson player in double figures.

"They took us out of everything we were trying to do," Kennedy said.

The Tigers dropped to 0-4 against Big 12 teams, while Kansas is now 19-6 after a loss in three-plus seasons under Self.

Kansas hosts Tennessee State on Wednesday in the next round of the four-round, tournament, with the championship to be decided by the best overall record. Towson also plays its next tournament game Wednesday, at Western Kentucky, before the tournament moves to Las Vegas for the final two rounds on Friday and Saturday.