Kansas routs Purdue to reach Elite Eight
(Reuters) KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It’s hard to imagine anything better, but Bill Self called his team’s performance “one of the best games” the Jayhawks have played this year.
Kansas got 26 points apiece from Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham to defeat Purdue 98-66 in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region semifinals Thursday at Sprint Center in front of 18,475 fans mostly clad in Kansas’ crimson and blue.
“I thought Purdue was great early and had us on our heels,” Self said. “We knocked down some shots to get us the lead at halftime. The second half I thought we were great on both ends, shot the ball extremely well. Our activity defensively was what spurred us.”
It was listed as a neutral-site game, but Sprint Center is less than an hour from Allen Fieldhouse, the home of the Jayhawks.
Kansas faces Oregon on Saturday, with a spot in the Final Four at stake. The Ducks defeated Michigan 69-68 earlier Thursday.
Kansas outscored Purdue 51-26 in the second half. The Jayhawks finished the first half on a 22-7 run and, after sputtering a bit in the second half, ran away from the Boilermakers. Purdue’s vaunted inside game never materialized as the Jayhawks owned a 36-29 rebounding advantage.
“We did a good job on the glass,” Self said. “I didn’t think we did a very good job on Isaac (Haas), obviously the first half, and he got where he wanted to, getting over his left shoulder. But (in the) second half we did a better job and got him off the block a little bit, and I thought we did a good job on Caleb (Swanigan) for the most part the entire game.”
Kansas didn’t do too much at the start of the second half, leading 58-54 at the 14:43 mark. But a steal and breakaway dunk by Lagerald Vick gave Kansas its biggest lead to that point, 63-54 with 12:09 left. When Jackson and Mason hit back-to-back 3-pointers to conclude a 16-3 run, the lead was 15 and the roar was deafening.
“(We’re) 35 miles away from Lawrence,” Mason said. “It’s basically in our backyard. We’re just thankful that we had the opportunity to play here. We wanted to take advantage of it. The fans brought unbelievable energy and (we’re) so thankful to have great fans.”
The Jayhawks have now won their three NCAA Tournament games by a combined 90 points. Painter said it will be hard to stop Kansas.
“If they play like they did the second half, they can’t (be stopped),” he said. “On a game where you get in a neutral site, anything can happen. They’re going to play a good Oregon team here in Kansas City, and they have earned that right.
“You cannot let them get in transition. They’re going to keep getting those opportunities; and, (if they) shoot the way those guards shot, then they can’t be stopped. They don’t shoot like that every single night.”
Kansas (31-4) also got 15 points from Josh Jackson, 12 from Vick and 10 from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
Purdue (27-8) was led by Swanigan’s 18 points. P.J. Thompson scored 12 and Isaac Haas 11.
Kansas held a surprising 17-15 advantage on the boards in the first half. The Jayhawks held Swanigan and Haas to two rebounds apiece.
The first half was a game of spurts, with Purdue leading for most of the period, owning an eight-point lead at 33-25 with 6:46 left in the half. Kansas led 47-40 at intermission.
NOTES: The teams won their regular-season conference titles by multiple games. Purdue won the Big Ten by two games, while Kansas won the Big 12 by four. ... Each team beat an opponent from the other’s conference in the last round. Kansas defeated Michigan State 90-70 and Purdue ousted Iowa State 80-76.