Kansas City, MO (SportsNetwork.com) - Perry Ellis scored 14 points, the last two on a tie-breaking basket with 2:01 remaining, and 10th-ranked Kansas survived a stern challenge from No. 13 Utah to earn a 63-60 victory.
The Jayhawks squandered a 21-point lead early in the second half, but came up clutch down the stretch to record their seventh straight win since a blowout loss to top-ranked Kentucky in Indianapolis in mid-November.
"Well, if you're going to blow a 21-point lead, I guess I like the way we responded," said Kansas coach Bill Self. "Tale of two halves. They played much better than us obviously in the second half.
"It had to be 15, 16 minutes where we scored about nine points; just awful. And then we made some plays late. We actually did play well down the stretch, the last four minutes we were pretty good."
Ellis' big basket snapped a 55-55 tie, while Brannen Greene hit four critical free throws in the final seconds to enable Kansas (8-1) to hold on.
Delon Wright led the Utes' near-comeback by netting 12 of his 23 points in the second half, but Utah (7-2) failed to score on five straight possessions after claiming a 55-53 edge on Jakob Poeltl's layup with 4:36 left to play.
Kansas built a seemingly comfortable 39-21 halftime lead on the strength of a 60 percent shooting rate from the field, but it was a different story for both teams after the break.
The Utes, who struggled mightily to put up points over the initial 20 minutes, suddenly found their stroke to get back in it. Utah knocked down 7-of-9 shot attempts during a six-minute stretch in which it outscored Kansas by a 21-6 margin, reducing a 21-point deficit down to six when two Dallin Bachynski free throws cut the margin to 48-42 with 10:15 left.
Kansas, on the other hand, went 6-of-23 from the floor after intermission, with those shooting woes enabling the Utes to creep closer.
Wright put up six straight points to pull Utah even at 53-53 with just under five minutes left, and Poeltl scored on the Utes' next possession to send them ahead for the first time since midway through the first half.
Kansas then tightened up its defense, holding Utah without a point over the next four-plus minutes. Two Frank Mason free throws squared the game at 55-55, and Ellis hit a floater in the lane after Wright had a 3-point try blocked to put the Jayhawks back on top.
After Jamari Traylor made two from the line following another unsuccessful trip down the court for the Utes to extend the lead to four, Dakarai Tucker sank a three-pointer with 23.5 seconds showing to pull Utah within 59-58. Greene calmly sank both foul shots on the other end, however, then two more after Wright's layup to keep KU in front at 63-60.
Poeltl then missed badly on a corner 3-point shot as time expired.
The Jayhawks seized control of the first half by embarking on a 23-2 tear that turned a one-point deficit midway through the period into a commanding 39-19 lead. Wayne Selden began the huge run with five consecutive points, with Mason and Kelly Oubre Jr. draining back-to-back triples later on to further the margin.
Utah missed 11-of-12 shot attempts during the sequence, going more than six minutes without a point before Wright finally ended the dry spell with a dunk with 36 seconds to go in the half.
Kansas finished with a 41.9 percent field goal percentage, with Utah hitting on just 38.9 percent ... The Jayhawks were 21-of-23 from the foul line for the game ... The Utes were facing a top-10 opponent for the first time while ranked in the top 15 since the 1998 National Championship Game against Kentucky ... Kansas won the only previous meeting between the schools, a 79-68 decision in November of 1995 that also took place in Kansas City ... The Jayhawks improved to 13-4 against Pac-12 teams under Self.