TULSA, Okla. — Two teams came in riding high on Sunday evening, thanks to big first-round victories in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State, coming off of a 20 point win over Miami in round one, and Kansas, who blew out the UC Davis Aggies on Friday night.
The two traditional powers traded blows in the first half, as Kansas utilized a big 13-2 run late to lead by as many as 11. But Michigan State found an answer to the Jayhawks immediately, and closed the half on a 6-0 run of their own to climb back within 5 at the break.
Early in the game, Frank Mason III reached another historic milestone, passing Darnell Valentine for 6th all-time in scoring at the University of Kansas.
One performance that perhaps aided Kansas the most in the first half was the work of Landen Lucas on the glass. The senior center from Portland tallied 9 of KU’s 18 boards in the opening period.
The second half of the thirteenth all-time battle between the two schools would decide who would advance to Kansas City for a date with Purdue in the Sweet 16.
For much of the second half, the game resembled that of two strong fighters trading blows, but this time Kansas would start to land the bigger blows. Kansas got the lead to 13 with 4:41 to go thanks to a Devonte’ Graham 3-pointer, and they never looked back.
Michigan State failed to score for the final 2:36 of the game, and Kansas kept on going, scoring the game’s final 7 points, and hitting their final four shots from the field to knock out the Spartans, 90-70.
Bill Self spoke on the way his team finished saying, “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.”
Freshman guard Josh Jackson put up 23 points on 9 of 16 shooting to lead all scorers. Jackson faced off against some familiar faces, being a Detroit, Michigan native, such as Cassius Winston and Miles Bridges, who scored 22 points of his own. Bridges and Jackson grew up competing and playing with and against each other throughout their youth, and Jackson commented on playing against Miles and company.
“I feel like we’re all competitors. I’ve been knowing those guys for a long time, and one thing that I do know about both of them is they both really like to win. So I knew it was going to be a fun game before it even started. So it was just really fun to be able to go out there and play against those guys and really proud to see them here and having success.”
In addition to Jackson’s 23 points, Mason III added 20 of his own. Graham pitched in 18 as well, on 4 of 6 shooting from long distance, and Lucas gave the Jayhawks another impressive performance on the interior with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The inside presence of Lucas will be put to the test on Thursday in Kansas City against Caleb Swanigan and the Purdue Boilermakers. You can follow that game, as well as the entirety of KU’s postseason run in the NCAA Tournament on 90.7 FM KJHK and kjhk.org.