• Omaha - Bill Self told his team before the game to relax and play their game. They did – defensively. The Jayhawks just couldn’t get the ball in the hoop, but did play to their high level on the defensive end, beating LSU 56-48. Kansas will face Ohio St. in Houston, heading for yet another Sweet 16 appearance after bowing out early last season. According to coach Self, a win is a win, and the win means familiar territory for coach Self, who now has 11 Sweet 16 appearance in his tenure at KU.

    “Ugly. More than ugly. That was atrocious,” Self said after the game, “I have no idea how we can miss so many open shots. But we won. That’s what counts. The name of the game in March is just finding a way to win.”

    Luckily for Kansas, the Tigers from Baton Rouge couldn’t find the hoop either. But LSU’s challenges were greatly related to KU’s stifling defense. In the first half, the Tigers didn’t even attempt a shot on two straight possessions where the shot clock expired. On two other consecutive possessions, their shots didn’t even draw iron. Kansas defense was oppressive.

    LSU coach Will Wade was impressed. Wade extolled the strength of KU’s defenders, “That’s the best defensive team I’ve ever seen. We just couldn’t get anything going. They’re so quick and long. (Marcus) Garrett’s everywhere. They’re always in the right spots. And then there’s the beast inside.”

    That beast was Udoka Azubuike. The 6’11" senior blocked a career high 8 shots and pulled down 16 rebounds, 14 on the defensive end. On the other end of the court, Azubuike controlled the game inside, scoring 21 points in a uncharacteristically poor shooting night – going 9 of 18 from the field. Azubuike, who leads the nation in shooting percentage at 78.5% heading into the game, missed two dunks and was challenged by LSU’s double-teams and sometime triple teams in the post.

    “We tried. He’s just big and strong,” said LSU freshman Trendon Waford. “I’m not sure what else we could have done. I guess we could have shot better,” Watford added.

    One of Azubuike’s best plays of the game was a lob pass out of a triple team to KU sophomore Ochai Agbaji, for thunderous one hand dunk. Azubuike did have 5 turnovers but with LSU’s inability to score, that had little impact.

    LSU was downright bad from the field. When a shot wasn’t contested, the Tigers couldn’t capitalize on open looks, going 3 of 15 from the three point line and shooting 34% total from the field. The only thing that kept LSU close was their free throw shooting. The Tigers went 12 of 15 from the free throw line, including sophomore Ja’Vonte Smart, who was successful on 8 of 10 attempts from the charity stripe. Smart also led the Tigers with 14 points. Watford chipped in 12.

    On the Kansas side, Christian Braun got the start of senior Isaiah Moss and scored 11, as did sophomore Devon Dotson. Both Braun and Dotson fouled out late in the game. Kansas led 44-30 when Dotson fouled out at the 5:35 mark of the second half. Braun fouled out on the next possession. But it didn’t matter.

    Kansas jumped to a 7-0 lead to start the game, and after LSU cut the lead to 7-2, LSU never got closer than the final margin of 8 points as Kansas jumped to a 17-5 lead at the 4:00 minute TV time out. With at 24-15 lead at halftime, Kansas defense set the tone for the rest of the game. At least until the end.

    Over the last two plus minutes of the game, LSU outscored Kansas 13-1, with Kansas missing 7 of 8 free throws. LSU, down 20, 55-35, started fouling at the 2:20 mark of the second half. But Kansas couldn’t convert. “We’re better than that,” said senior Marcus Garrett. “It’s all about focus and just executing. In a tighter game, that could have cost us.” Garrett missed 3 of 4 free throws in that stretch. Dotson, who leads Kansas at 83% from the line, missed all four of his attempts. “Really just unacceptable,” Dotson said of the late game free throw shooting. Adding to the late game issues was Moss, who made two unforced turnovers, one directly under the Tiger’s basket. The senior transfer drew coach Self’s ire in the opening round and was replaced by Braun in the starting lineup. Self was less than pleased with Moss this afternoon, as well.

    “We probably should have started (fouling) earlier. I thought we might get something going and then it was too late”, said Wade. The Kansas lead seemed to stay consistent around 10 - 15 points most of the second half, but consecutive three pointers by Braun and Dotson pushed the lead to 19 just inside the 7:00 minute mark, and the game was all but over.

    One can suspect from Self’s post-game comments that the Jayhawks are in for a few tough practices heading into next weekend. “Maybe. We’ll see,” Self said with wry grin. “I’ll have to be careful not to wear them out. The games don’t get easier. Somehow, though, we’ve got play better.”

    Ohio St. (25-10), the South region’s 5 seed, beat Butler 66-60 earlier in the date in Cleveland. Joining the Jayhawks (33-3) and Buckeyes in Houston will be #3 seeded Louisville and #2 seeded Kentucky. The Cardinals squeaked by #11 seed East Tennessee St., 74-71 earlier in Tampa. Kentucky played their first and second round games in St. Louis. After winning over the 15 seeded Northern Kentucky on a controversial non-call on Friday, the Wildcats paved their way to Houston, beating #10 Texas Tech 75-65.

    The NCAA turned down Northern Kentucky’s protest earlier today. Replays, available to the officials in the arena, showed a last second shot by the Norse senior Dantez Walton to be on a downward arc when tipped by UK’s Nick Richards. Officials refused to make a goal-tending call and give Northern Kentucky the basket, which would have resulted in 71-70 win. Instead, it was UK that advanced to play the Red Raiders.

    Game times have not been announced, but the Houston regional will play Friday/Sunday.

  • Excellent, the plot thickens. Happy KU got the ugly, can’t-shoot game out of the way. I like the casual mention that UK and Louisville are still alive…and that UK won on a violation. Of course they did.

    Hope Bill’s cough hasn’t gotten any worse.

  • @HighEliteMajor this is why Doke is a POY candidate. Even with Will Wade clearly gameplanning to take Doke out of the equation he finds a way to dominate.

    I hope Moss bounces back from this slump. Even though Brauns contributions have been nice we need Moss to give us good minutes. That meltdown down the stretch is what Moss was brought on to help us avoid.

    Huge win!

  • Interesting. LSU was one of the highest scoring teams in the country and the 2nd worst defensive team in Power 5.

Log in to reply