LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Christian Braun had 18 points and seven rebounds, Ochai Agbaji added 17 points, and No. 4 Kansas beat Iona 96-83 on Sunday in the first meeting between Hall of Fame coaches Bill Self and Rick Pitino.
David McCormack scored 13 points for Kansas (5-1). The Jayhawks were was coming off their first loss of the season, 74-73 to Dayton on a buzzer-beater in an ESPN Events Invitational semifinal on Friday.
Beating Pitino’s Iona team, which opened the tournament with a win over No. 10 Alabama, was enough to salvage third place in the tournament for Self’s Jayhawks.
“Now that I’ve faced Kansas, I’m glad we didn’t play them in all those years,” Pitino said. “I’ve always admired him. I’ve always thought he’s one of the best coaches in the game. What I admire most is, whether it’s his fast break, his offensive sets, his rebounding, he doesn’t have a weakness as a coach.”
When asked what he had to say to Pitino, a smiling Self said: “Good game and he said good game, too.”
“The way that his teams always competed on a very national high level and doing it without five-star recruits compared to the way some other people do it means they develop and they get the most out their guys,” Self said.
Iona (6-2) got 14 points apiece from Tyson Jolly and Ryan Myers. The Gaels also lost for the first time Friday, dropping a 72-65 decision to Belmont.
Both teams had five players score in double figures.
Unlike its first two games in the invitational, Kansas built a double-digit first-half advantage and held onto it, taking a 46-31 lead at the break behind 13 points from Braun.
“We didn’t accomplish the goal,” Braun said of the Jayhawks’ tournament performance. “All of us weren’t pleased. We have stuff to improve on. We’re going to do it.”
Agbaji had a dunk and Braun made a 3 during an 8-0 surge that made it 64-43 with 11 minutes left. Another long-range jumper by Braun gave Kansas a 75-52 lead 3 1/2 minutes later.
Myers, who came off the bench, had a pair of 3-pointers that helped Iona get within 80-68 with 5 minutes remaining, but the Gaels got no closer.
The Jayhawks put together first-half runs of 12-0, 10-0 and 8-0, and shot 58.8% (20 of 34). They shot 54.9% (39 of 71) overall and had 22 assists.
Iona had a pair of 4 1/2-minute scoring droughts, and turned the ball over 10 times during the opening 20 minutes.
Kansas: The Jayhawks tried to make a case to stay in the Top 10. They are 104-15 after a loss under Self since 2003-04. Kansas won its opener at the invitational 71-59 over North Texas.
Iona: The Gaels look like a squad that could reach the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season with Pitino at the helm.
“We’d like to get to the point where we have the same type of talent Kansas has,” Pitino said.
Kansas: At St. John’s on Friday night.
Iona: At Marist on Wednesday night.