OMAHA, NE – In a tournament filled with unbelievable comebacks and stunning upsets, it appeared another one might be beginning to unfold inside the CenturyLink Center.
Kansas led by 20 as late as the 12:01 mark after a basket by Silvio De Sousa. The combination of Udoka Azubuike down low (14 points, 11 rebounds) and the shooters around the arch allowed the Jayhawks to seize full control.
Clemson would not go down without a fight however. Gabe DeVoe was the star of the show for the tigers as he poured in 31 points on 10-17 shooting to go along with 9 rebounds.
The Jayhawks let their foot off the gas a little and foul trouble kept Devonte’ Graham and Udoka Azubuike out of the game for streches. Clemson chipped away and chipped away. After a Shelton Mitchell steal and dunk, the lead was all the way down to 6 points with 2:27 to go.
The ensuing Jayhawks’ possession, Mykhailiuk had a wide open three from the corner that didn’t go down, but Graham was there to corral the offensive board and Kansas milked away another 30 seconds off the clock.
Kansas didn’t convert the second chance opportunity but on the other end, Clemson missed back to back shots and the game was sealed from there.
“For 30 minutes, I thought we played very well. We just kind of played not lose down the stretch. They say this time is survive and advance and we did that,” coach Self said after the game.
Nonetheless, Kansas survived and advanced. Malik Newman was the leading scorer with 17 points.
KU advances to their 3rd straight Elite Eight, a program record. However, in the past two trips to the regional final game, the Jayhawks have come out on the losing end. Last season they lost 74-60 to the Oregon Ducks, and in 2016 Kansas faltered at the hands of the Villanova Wildcats by a score of 64-09.
Kansas will meet the Duke Blue Devils Sunday at 4PM in Omaha. A win would put the program back into the final four for the first time since 2012.
“This is the team everyone would have thought, would not be in this game. We’ve got a legitimate shot to go to San Antonio. I think we’ll play with no `what ifs.’ I think we’ll be loose,” said Bill Self.
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feature image courtesy of KUSports.com