OKLAHOMA CITY — For a while, it appeared Lehigh was going to take down the biggest Goliath of them all.
Top-seeded Kansas hung in and survived a scare before pulling away for a 90-74 win over scrappy Lehigh and avoiding a monumental upset in the Midwest Regional Thursday night.
Marcus Morris had 26 points and Sherron Collins added 18 as Kansas (33-2) fell into its season-long pattern of playing in spurts, giving No. 16 seed Lehigh (22-11) hope of making college basketball history.
The Jayhawks led by just six in the first half and didn't pull away until midway through the second to keep from becoming the biggest team to be crossed off the brackets on a wild opening day of the NCAA tournament.
Tyrel Reed added four big 3-pointers for Kansas as it moves on to face gritty Northern Iowa in a second-round game that suddenly seems much more daunting.
Lehigh made its fourth NCAA appearance a memorable one, stretching the nation's No. 1 team to the brink of disaster.
Freshman C.J. McCollum showed no fear against the mighty Jayhawks, scoring 26 points, and Zahir Carrington added 17.
The Jayhawks weren't just facing Lehigh. They were up against fate, too.
Five years ago, Kansas suffered one of the most embarrassing losses in the program's storied history, to Bucknell in the opening round.
By itself, no big deal. The eerie part was this game was on the on the exact day, at the same time, in the same arena, against the same opponent (the Patriot League champion) in a season Kansas opened No. 1.
This year was supposed to be different.
Kansas had one of its best seasons, winning a sixth-straight regular-season title in the tough Big 12 and a seventh conference tournament championship. The Jayhawks are a favorite to win a second national title in three years and were picked by Presidential prognosticator Barack Obama to cut the nets.
Kansas had history on its side, too: No. 1 seeds were 101-0 before tip-off.
And this was a classically monumental mismatch: the tiny academic school (enrollment of 4,700) from Bethlehem, Pa., against the powerhouse program with a place on college basketball's Mount Rushmore.
Even after winning a school-record 22 games this season and the Patriot League title game over rival Lafayette, the Mountain Hawks figured to be in trouble, especially with the Ford Center bathed in Kansas blue from all the fans who made the five-hour trip from Lawrence.
Lehigh wasn't buying it.
Refusing to be stirred by KU's blue blood, the Mountain Hawks went right at the Jayhawks, forcing four turnovers and five missed shots on the way to a 12-4 start that had Kansas coach Bill Self signaling for a timeout.
Then things seemed to fall back into 1-vs-16 order after that. Kansas responded to Self's admonitions with an inevitable-feeling 15-0 run that became 21-2, putting Kansas up 25-14.
That was it, right?
Nope. Lehigh answered with a 9-0 run, pulling within two on Carrington's turnaround jumper. The Mountain Hawks hung in there until halftime, trailing by just 35-29 to give the improbable a sprinkle of potential that carried well into the second half.