TULSA, Okla. – No. 1 seed Kansas staved off the madness of March through 11 first-half lead changes and broke away late from No. 9 seed Michigan State for a 90-70 victory to advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen® on Sunday at BOK Arena.
The Jayhawks reach 30 wins and advance to the round of 16 for the second-straight season behind two 20-point efforts from Frank Mason III (20 points) and Josh Jackson (23). Mason added a team-high five assists with no turnovers.
“Obviously, you know, the final margin didn’t dictate what a hard game it was,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said after advancing to his 12th Sweet 16. “I thought both teams tried real hard – I thought we tried too hard at times. Shot selection wasn’t great. But when they cut it to one, that’s when we played our best ball. And that was fun to see and certainly it was good to see our guys get in a nice rhythm.”
Despite starting the game 2-for-8 from the field, Kansas (30-4) finished the contest shooting 53 percent and 14-of-15 from the free throw line. The Jayhawks limited its turnovers to seven and outrebounded MSU, 36-28.
Senior center Landen Lucas contributed his second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Junior guard Devonte’ Graham drained three 3-pointers in the final five minutes of regulation to finish with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting with four dimes.
Jayhawks celebrate a berth in the Sweet Sixteen.
Jackson scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half to help fuel a 19-5 Kansas run to end the game, including a 7-0 run in the last two minutes.
Much was made about the matchup between the pair stand-out freshmen from Michigan – KU’s Jackson from Detroit, and MSU’s Miles Bridges from Flint. Jackson edged his fellow Michigan native in the winning column as well as scoring, as Bridges registered an MSU-high 22 points with eight rebounds.
“As the game went on, I felt like the game started slowing down, it came to me a little bit more,” Jackson, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, said. “I just had to realize it was just another game, and it was about Kansas basketball versus Michigan State, and it wasn’t about me versus Miles.”
After the two powerhouse programs traded blows on the way to 11 lead changes in the first half, junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk made a layup with just under five minutes remaining before halftime to break a 27-all tie and spark a 13-2 Kansas run. The KU run included a Jackson 3-pointer and a fast-break alley-oop from Graham to Mykhailiuk.
KU’s burst of momentum to end the half was enough to retain the lead for the remainder of the game.
The Jayhawks went into halftime with a 40-35 lead behind a trio of nine-point scorers – Mason, Jackson and Mykhailiuk. Kansas started the game making just two of its first eight shots, but warmed up by draining 14 of its last 24 shots – 58 percent shooting in the last 15 minutes of the opening half.
Michigan State began the second half in a flurry to cut KU’s lead to one, 54-53, with 12:17 remaining. With Lucas in foul trouble – his third coming with 10:38 remaining – junior forward Dwight Coleby subbed in to contribute some vital minutes to help preserve KU’s lead.
Coleby’s final line was a humble four points and three rebounds in nine minutes, but his impact was far beyond what the box score reads.
“He gave us the spark we needed,” Mason boasted about Coleby. “Landen got in foul trouble, and he came in prepared and ready to play. We’re going to need that moving forward because you never know who’s going to get in foul trouble or injury or anything like that. So you just have to stay ready when your number is called, and that’s what he did.”
Coleby rebounded a Mason miss for a put-back layup to give KU a seven-point lead with nearly 10 minutes remaining. With just under five minutes remaining, the Bahamas native grabbed another offensive board, allowing Mason to reset the offense and find Graham for a trey to give KU a 13-point lead and all but seal the victory for the Jayhawks.
Kansas faces No. 4 seed Purdue in the NCAA Championship Midwest Regional Semifinals on Thursday, March 23 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Tipoff time and TV information for KU’s Sweet Sixteen appearance will be announced at a later date.
The winner of Kansas-Purdue will face the winner of No. 3 seed Oregon against No. 7 seed Michigan on Saturday, March 25.
• Kansas advances to face Purdue in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. Game time is TBA.
• The Jayhawks advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the 30th time in school history, including ninth time under coach Bill Self.
• The Big 12 Conference has three teams in the Sweet Sixteen (Baylor, Kansas, West Virginia) for the fourth straight year.
• Kansas improves series record against Michigan State to 6-7 including a 2-1 mark in NCAA Tournament games with a previous win in the 1986 Midwest Regional Sweet 16.
• After Coach Bill Self took time out with 12:14 left in game after Michigan State pulled within 54-53, the Jayhawks shot a sizzling 77.7 percent from the floor making 14 of 18 shots to erect a 90-70 lead closing out the game.
• There were 11 lead changes and four ties in the first half before Kansas closed out the period making its last six shots to enjoy a 40-35 lead. It marked the fourth straight game that Kansas scored 40 or more points in the first half and the 20th time this season. The Jayhawks enjoyed their biggest lead at 40-29 following a steal by Frank Mason III that led to a fast break dunk by Svi Mykhailiuk with 1:14 left. Kansas hit four straight shots (from four different players), going on a 9-0 run to turn a 27-27 tie into a 36-27 lead it never relinquished.
• Kansas, winning its second straight game, improves to 30-4 — the eight season with 30 or more wins during Bill Self’s 14-year coaching tenure at the school.
• Kansas improved its NCAA Tournament record to 102-44, including a 34-11 record as a No. 1 seed; a 22-10 record in the round of 32 and a 6-2 record against No. 9 seeds.
• Kansas is 4-0 in the BOK Center, winning first and second-round games against Boston University (72-53) and Illinois (73-59) in 2011 as well as this weekend’s two games.
• Frank Mason III posted his 21st game with 20 or more points this season, finishing with exactly 20. It has the 10th time in 12 games he has scored at least 20 and he has led the team in scoring in 25 games this year.
• With 20 points today Frank Mason III has scored 204 career points in 10 career NCAA Tournament games.
• Landen Lucas owns 10 career double-doubles, including six this season, after scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Landen Lucas led all players with nine rebounds in the first half, exactly half of Kansas’ 18 team total rebounds. Lucas also has enjoyed 13 double-figure scoring games.
• Freshman Josh Jackson posted his ninth game with 20 or more points this season, finishing with 23 (14 in the second half, all over the final 12 minutes).
• Kansas shot 53.1 percent (34-of-64) from the field, marking the 17th time the Jayhawks have shot 50 percent or better in a game.
• Kansas outrebounded Michigan State, 36-28, improving to 18-1 when outrebounding its opponents.
• Devonte’ Graham had 18 points and four 3-pointers tonight. He has made 17 three-pointers in his last five games and multiple treys in 15 of his last 16 contests. Graham has made 46 threes in KU’s last 16 outings and leads KU with 88 3-pointers on the year.