WICHITA, KS – Following Kansas’s first round matchup with the University of Pennsylvania, a 16 seed has still never beaten a one seed, but that streak didn’t continue with ease.
The Ivy League champion Quakers backed up the hype as the best 16 seed ever, leading by as many as 10 with 8:01 to go in the first half.
“I think those guys — they were better than a 16 seed, if you ask me.” said Kansas guard Malik Newman in the post game press conference. “I mean, the same way they played on film , we knew that’s how they was going to come out — shoot threes, back cutting, and things like that. I mean, they did everything on the scouting report.”
Many will be quick to cite the score being far less indicative about the game than it really was, including Kansas Head Coach Bill Self. “We’re obviously very, very happy we won, but it wasn’t a 16-point game. It was much closer than that.”
Penn’s early lead had many questioning if this was going to be the first 16 to ever beat a one seed, but that wasn’t in the minds of Penn. “You know they’re going to make a run,” said Penn senior Darnell Foreman. “We just had to find a way to stay poised through it all, knowing that they’re a good team, and good teams go on runs.”
The tide seemed to turn late in the first half, as shots finally began to fall for the Jayhawks. Kansas finished the opening period on a 22-5 run, hitting five of their last six field goals, and took a seven-point lead into the locker room.
Devonte’ Graham made sure the Jayhawks stayed on top from there, tallying 29 points, six rebound and six assists in the win. His performance pushed him to a tie with Kevin Pritchard for 13th on KU’s all-time scoring list.
Bill Self commended the Big 12 Player if the Year after the game, saying “he was terrific when we needed separation the most and made some timely plays the second half. But we’ve seen this many, many times with him, and I don’t know if anybody could ever predict the guy would go from unknown to First Team All-American. But he is one terrific guard.
The National Player of the Year Finalist will take his team into battle once more on Saturday, when Kansas takes on Seton Hall, who defeated North Carolina State in game two on Thursday.