Des Moines, IA — After Kansas’ win over Connecticut Saturday night, Kansas coach Bill Self handed young Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie the first NCAA tournament loss of his career.
Though Self is the more successful and experienced coach, his Kansas team has lost plenty in the tournament. With the 73-61 win at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, the Jayhawks advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013. In Louisville, Kentucky, the Jayhawks will have the winner of the game between Maryland and Hawaii to be played Sunday evening.
While Kansas was in control for most of the game, there was stretch of play that had KU players and fans on edge; at the beginning of the second half, Connecticut cut the 20-point halftime lead to single digits. “The second half, we didn’t do very many of the same things that we accomplished in the first half,” Self said. “We became very passive.”
Kansas forward Wayne Selden said the team learned to be aggressive and grab hold of their chance to move on. Selden was the leading scorer for the Jayhawks with 22 points. “Being aggressive and making it happen,” was what was going through Selden’s mind as Kansas faced adversity. “We have good guards and they penetrated and we penetrated off of them.”
“You know, there was a lot of motivation from last year, that feeling that we had, and we just wanted to continue and play the way we are and have fun,” said Ellis.
As Kansas was challenged by Connecticut late, Selden capped the wake-up call with a huge boost of energy off of a one-handed alley-oop dunk. The dunk gave Kansas a 12-point lead with just under four minutes to go.
Senior forward Perry Ellis noted that Kansas’s exist at this stage in the tournament last season was enough incentive to come out on top; the senior scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “You know, there was a lot of motivation from last year, that feeling that we had, and we just wanted to continue and play the way we are and have fun,” said Ellis.
KJHK Sports will bring you live broadcasts from Louisville with the first matchup against the winner of Maryland vs. Hawaii and a regional final pending a win.