To give his team good luck, Kansas coach Roy Williams likes to spit in the Mississippi River whenever he comes to St. Louis. He did it nine years ago, when the Jayhawks made it through the Midwest Regional to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament.
It was the last time Kansas reached college basketball's promised land.
Williams might consider spending today standing on the bridge nearest to the Edward Jones Dome. After what happened to the Jayhawks last night, luck might not carry them to Atlanta.
Against Holy Cross, a 16th seed that barely made it out of the Patriot League final last week in Washington, the top seed in this year's Midwest Regional survived an opening-round scare before pulling away to a 70-59 victory.
The victory allowed Kansas (29-3) to advance to tomorrow's second round against the winner of last night's second game between eighth-seeded Stanford and ninth-seeded Western Kentucky.
But the victory also came at a price. The Jayhawks played the second half without junior guard Kirk Hinrich, who many consider the glue of the nation's second-ranked team. Hinrich sustained a sprained left ankle in the first half and didn't return.
In his place, Big 12 Player of the Year Drew Gooden picked up his game after a quiet first half to finish with a game-high 19 points and 13 rebounds. Junior forward led Holy Cross (18-15) with 13 points and nine rebounds.
It marked the second straight year that the Crusaders gave a big-name opponent a big-time scare in the NCAA tournament, following a four-point loss to Kentucky as a 15th seed.
The Jayhawks looked as if they were still reeling from Sunday's loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament championship game, and last night's performance did nothing to change the perception that Kansas could still be ripe for an upset.
After falling behind 11-4, Holy Cross cut its deficit to 21-20 before trailing 29-24 with 5:38 left in the first half.
Most figured the Crusaders were going to go quietly.
The Crusaders remained patient on offense, working to penetrate the Kansas defense to exploit the only advantage they seemed to have on the Jayhawks M-y a height advantage inside. Holy Cross closed the gap, tying the score at 31 on a pair of free throws by Ryan Serravalle with 2:19 to play.
The Crusaders took their first lead at 33-31 on a layup by reserve center Patrick Whearty with 1:38 left in the half. Whearty would later give Holy Cross a 35-33 lead with 58 seconds to play.
Kansas answered as Hinrich scored on a layup, but the junior guard came down grabbing his left ankle. It proved to be a pivotal play for the Jayhawks. Hinrich was helped off and returned M-y on crutches. His status is unknown for tomorrow.
With Hinrich in the dressing room, the Jayhawks watched the Crusaders jump to a 44-39 early in the second half. But Kansas went on 9-2 run to regain the lead on a dunk by reserve forward Wayne Simien with a little under 10 minutes left. Holy Cross took it back when Tim Szatko was fouled behind the three-point line.
Szatko made all three free throws to put Holy Cross ahead 49-48 with 8:48 to go, but Kansas guard Jeff Boschee knocked down a straightaway three. Just when it seemed that the Jayhawks were taking control, stretching their lead to 56-50, the Crusaders closed to within one on a pair of free throws by Szatko and a corner three by Brian Wilson.
Wake Forest 83, Pepperdine 74: The seventh-seeded Demon Deacons (21-12) defeated the 10th-seeded Waves (22-9) in Sacramento, Calif., for their first tournament victory since Tim Duncan starred for the team in 1997.
"We had a great start, a less-than-scintillating middle and a very gratifying finish," said first-year coach Skip Prosser.
Senior Craig Dawson led the Deacons with 19 points, including five three-pointers, in his first and last NCAA tournament.
Dawson has waited four years to play in the tournament. Last season, he sat out with a shoulder injury from the week before in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, and watched from the bench as the Deacons were upset by Butler in the first round of the NCAAs.
"Not being able to play last year was very tough," he said. "When I got out there, all the emotions I expected to have were there."
Dawson hit two big three-pointers early in the second half to put the Deacons back in front when Pepperdine twice held one-point leads. He punctuated the scoring on a dunk with 14.9 seconds remaining.
The Waves, who twice trailed by 13 points early in the game, kept it close most of the second half, but never took more than a two-point lead.
Oregon 81, Montana 62: Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson scored 18 points apiece as the second-seeded Ducks (24-8) overcame a slow start to beat the 15th-seeded Grizzlies (16-15) in Sacramento.
The Pac-10 Conference champions weren't terribly impressive, with streaky shooting and spells of indifferent defense that had coach Ernie Kent shaking his head. But the Ducks pulled away from the Grizzlies with two prolonged runs in the second half.
Frederick Jones, the Ducks' all-conference leading scorer, had 16 points while struggling with foul trouble. Jones took just seven shots, but he punctuated the Ducks' victory with a high-flying dunk with four seconds left.
Wire services contributed to this article.