Trailing by one at halftime, New Mexico coach Craig Neal told his team if it just got a couple of quick baskets it could put No. 13 Kansas on the ropes.
Instead, it was the Jayhawks that went on a run.
Kansas scored 16 of the first 20 points in the second half, and then rolled to an 80-63 victory Saturday night that ended a two-game losing streak.
"That pretty much buried the game right there," said New Mexico guard Kendall Williams, who had 24 points. "We weren't able to back bounce from that. That run was pretty much the tale of the game."
Cameron Bairstow also had 24 points, but that was about it for New Mexico (7-2). Alex Kirk, who came into the game averaging 18.6 points, was held to just five on 2-for-8 shooting before fouling out with 2:53 remaining in the game.
"He's such a good player that when you lose someone of his calibre it's going to be tough to make it up," Bairstow said. "He just couldn't really get into a groove which is hard when you're sitting the first half on the bench. It's really hard to come in the second half and make it all happen."
Perry Ellis scored 21 points for Kansas (7-3), and Joel Embiid added a career-high 18. Andrew Wiggins, who dealt with foul trouble much of the night, had 11 points for the Jayhawks, who led 39-38 at halftime.
"They came out ready to play in the second half and I don't think we did," Neal said. "I thought we had them in a good spot in the first half. We just couldn't get over the hump when they got up."
It was the Jayhawks' ninth straight win at the Sprint Center, including their run to last year's Big 12 tournament title. After dropping games at Colorado and Florida, the win also kept Kansas from losing three straight non-conference games for the first time since the 1982-83 season.
The Jayhawks struggled with foul trouble in the paint in the first half, depriving coach Bill Self of Ellis, Embiid and Jamari Traylor for long periods of time. That allowed the 6-foot-9 Bairstow to go to work inside, scoring on an array of putbacks and spin moves.
The senior from Brisbane, Australia, had 16 points at the break.
The Lobos got within one at halftime on a buzzer-beating basket by Arthur Edwards, but Kansas quickly seized control in the second half.
Embiid had nine points and Ellis the other seven during the key 16-4 spurt, but it was really fueled by the Jayhawks' defence, which finally slowed down Bairstow and Williams on the other end.
The Lobos chipped away at their 55-42 deficit, most of the surge coming from the foul line. By the time Williams converted a four-point play, New Mexico had managed to scrap and claw to 63-58 with 8:03 left, and briefly silence a crowd heavily in favour of Kansas.
That's when the Jayhawks turned to Ellis and Embiid again.
Embiid answered Williams with a pair of foul shots, Ellis added a free throw moments later, and Embiid threw down a dunk as the crowd roared. Ellis added a dunk of his own moments later, forcing New Mexico to burn a timeout that didn't do a whole lot of good.
"Our bigs were really good," Self said. "Perry was the most consistent one and he scored the most points, but there was a stretch in the second half where Joel looked pretty good."
Williams missed after the timeout and Embiid scored again at the other end, pushing the Jayhawks' lead to 74-59 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the game.
"We felt really good after halftime, really fought them off. It really boiled down to their second-half run," Williams said. "That was really the story."
Kansas merely coasted from there, wrapping up the victory in the first meeting between the schools since the 1964-65 season and ending nearly a month spent playing games away from Allen Fieldhouse.
"We came out a lackadaisical to start the second half and they took advantage of it," Neal said. "Kansas came out really aggressive in the second half and that cost us."