TULSA, Okla. – Third-ranked and top-seeded Kansas basketball used a torrid first-half run to pull away from UC Davis, 100-62, in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on Friday night at BOK Center.
National Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III led the Jayhawks with 22 points and eight assists as the Jayhawks improve to 32-2 in round-of-64 games during the NCAA tourney.
Kansas took control of the contest late in the first half by breaking a 21-all tie with a 31-7 run, which extended to early in the second half.
The Jayhawks finished the night shooting 56 percent from the field, draining 11 3-pointers, and out-muscling the Big West Conference champions to the tune of a 45-27 rebounding advantage and a 42-22 points in the paint advantage.
Senior center Landen Lucas used his reliable combination of shooting with touch and a hunger for rebounds to reach his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 13 points with 11 rebounds. Big 12 Freshman of the Year Josh Jackson displayed his dynamic skills for an electric 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds.
UC Davis was led by Chima Moneke’s 20 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes of action.
Both teams started slow out of the gates. UC Davis missed its first five shots and both teams didn’t convert any points on their first two possessions, respectively. Lucas assisted Jackson for the first field goal of the evening, passing-up an open jump shot in favor of the sure-thing as he found Jackson cutting across the baseline for a wide open layup on the blocks.
Kansas started to heat up from the outside with consecutive 3-pointers by Jackson and Graham to quickly turn an 8-5 deficit into an 11-8 lead in just 30 ticks of the clock.
UC Davis stuck in the game with a couple big shots from Lansing, Kansas, native Siler Schneider, who made consecutive shots – a jumper and a 3-pointer to tie the contest, 13-13, at the 12:13 mark of the first half. Schneider was a former teammate to Clay Young at Lansing High School, just 30 miles away from KU’s campus.
Despite Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk missing his first three attempts from beyond the arc, the junior guard turned in a productive night with 16 points by making five of last seven attempts from the field. His first make of the night came from beyond the arc at the 10:35 mark to give Kansas a 19-15 lead.
Mason passed KU great Sherron Collins on the all-time assists list with an alley-oop lob to Jackson, giving Kansas a 21-15 lead. With his eight assists by the end of the night, Mason moved into sole possession of eighth-place on KU’s career assists list with 560.
Kansas would not score again until nearly three minutes later, opening the door for UC Davis to tie the game at 21 after a put-back layup by Brynton Lemar and jumper by Schneider.
Jackson made what would be the go-ahead bucket on a reverse layup to give Kansas a 23-21 lead with 7:25 remaining before halftime. Jackson’s acrobatic layup reaching from the baseline, which drew comparisons to Dr. J, sparked a 29-7 run by the Jayhawks until halftime. Kansas went into the locker room with a 50-28 lead.
KU’s dynamic trio of guards – Mason, Graham and Jackson – each scored 11 points in the first half. Mason added five assists and five rebounds to reach the half-way mark of a triple-double.
Kansas shot 56 percent in the first half and held UC Davis to 1-of-12 shooting in the final seven minutes of the period. The Jayhawks also doubled the Aggies in rebounds, 26-13, in the first 20 minutes.
Mason quickly assisted Jackson on a dunk just 10 seconds into the second half to extend KU’s run to 31-7 and set the tone for another 50-point half for the Jayhawks, on the way to their second-consecutive 100-point effort in an NCAA first-round game. Last season KU defeated Austin Peay, 105-79.
Graham made his second steal of the game and was fouled on a fast break layup, making the ensuing free throws to extend KU’s lead to the largest of the night, 60-32, at the 18-minute mark.
Bragg scored four of his six points within a span of 30 seconds as he converted a pair of free throws coming out of the under-16 media timeout and tipped in one of Jackson’s rare misses from the field on KU’s next possession.
Mykhailiuk made a fade-away 3-pointer to beat the shot clock buzzer and give KU a 77-43 lead before the under-12 minute media timeout.
Mason drained a 3-pointer with 10 minutes remaining to give KU an 82-43 lead and also give Mason 20 points for the fourth-straight game and seventh time in the last eight games.
The Jayahwks continued to enforce their will as Graham pick-pocketed UC Davis’ Arell Hennings, took it the length of the court, and dished it to Mason for a reverse layup to give KU a 84-45 lead with just under eight minutes remaining.
Freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot fed Lucas for a dunk with 3:25 remaining to put Kansas up 93-51 – its largest lead of the game.
The “Red Team” made the most of their minutes played as Self converted two free throws, Coleby flushed a dunk and Young diligently guarded his former high school teammate, Schneider.
Self put and exclamation point on KU’s victory by draining a 3-pointer with 20 seconds remaining, sending the Jayhawks bench into a frenzy and reaching the century mark for the Jayhawks, 100-58.
The Jayhawks will face No. 9 seed Michigan State on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region. The Spartans are coming off a first-round victory over No. 8 seed Miami on Friday. Tipoff time approximately 4p.m.