Des Moines, Iowa — Devonte’ Graham dribbled into the UConn end and lobbed a pass that Wayne Selden Jr. stretched to catch with one hand. He slammed the ball through the basket in the same motion for a 15-point lead in the closing minutes, sending the Kansas bench and crowd into a frenzy.
The Jayhawks finally had some fun with a second-round NCAA Tournament game.
Selden and Perry Ellis carried Kansas on a sweet romp to the round of 16, combining for 43 points in a 73-61 victory by the Jayhawks over Connecticut on Saturday to hand Kevin Ollie his first NCAA Tournament loss as head coach of the Huskies.
“It was hunger. We just really wanted it,” Selden said. “I just looked down the roster, and everybody’s eyes before the game were focused.”
Selden had 22 points and seven rebounds, Ellis scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds and the No. 1 overall seed Jayhawks (32-4) advanced to the South Region semifinals on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, to play the winner of the Hawaii-Maryland game on Sunday.
Sterling Gibbs had 20 points for the No. 9 seed Huskies (25-11), who fell into an irreparable deficit that reached 24 points in the first half.
After winning the 2014 national championship in Ollie’s second season as a No. 7 seed, the Huskies returned two years later with the hope of repeating that run. The Jayhawks did everything better on this night, well enough to endure an ugly second-half stretch of their own.
“They’re going to be a very, very tough out in this tournament,” Ollie said.
Selden and Ellis combined to shoot 17 for 27 from the floor, shooing away the disappointment of second-round defeats in each of the last two years. Graham pitched in 13 points for Kansas, which had scoring surges of 16-0 early and 19-0 late to cruise into the intermission in full control.
“We just want to continue to play the way we are,” said Ellis, the smooth senior power forward who hit 20-plus points for the sixth time in seven games.
Selden, after averaging 2.5 points on 4-for-21 shooting over his first four NCAA Tournament games, has begun a junior-year breakout. He had 14 points in 19 minutes against Austin Peay in the first round.
“He’s as big a key as anybody,” coach Bill Self said.
Thousands of Jayhawks fans made the easy drive up Interstate 35 from Kansas, packing Wells Fargo Arena with their blue jerseys, T-shirts and jackets for the chance to cheer the team chasing its first national championship since 2008. The Huskies fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first round against Colorado, but the Jayhawks are just a different caliber team.
Jamari Traylor had a couple commanding blocks in the paint to fire up the Kansas bench and crowd during the 19-0 spurt. The Huskies missed 12 straight shots during that stretch that pushed the lead to 40-16.
The Jayhawks made six of their first nine tries from 3-point range. When the jumpers didn’t fall, the long arms of Landen Lucas, Traylor and Ellis were there to snag them. The final rebounds tally was 44-24, Jayhawks.
UConn came within nine points around the midpoint of the second half, but Ellis and Selden got going again. With 1:38 left, the time for tricks arrived, in the form of that Graham-Selden alley-oop.
“That’s his swagger, man. He’s feeling it. After a dunk like that, how could you not feel it?” Traylor said.
The Huskies were out of sorts in their half-court offense. Daniel Hamilton was hounded anytime he was inside the arc, forcing multiple off-kilter shots and finishing 4 for 14 for 11 points with eight rebounds and six assists. Rodney Purvis had 17 points but went just 2 for 7 from 3-point range.
“We tried to play one-on-one in the first half. We can’t win like that,” Hamilton said.
Gibbs, the fifth-year senior transfer who played at Texas and Seton Hall before coming to UConn, couldn’t get his answer out when asked at the postgame news conference to reflect on his season with the Huskies. He tearfully bowed his head, and Ollie reassuringly reached over to pat his neck.
No. 3 Miami 65, No. 11 Wichita State 57: Angel Rodriguez took over after Miami blew a 21-point lead midway through the second half, hitting a big 3-pointer with 1:12 remaining and scoring 28 points to lead the Hurricanes over Wichita State.
Miami (27-7) made it that far three years ago under Jim Larranaga, in his fifth season as head coach. Sheldon McClellan finished with 18 points and Davon Reed had 10 for the Hurricanes.
Fred VanVleet and Shaquille Morris had 12 points and Ron Baker 11 for Wichita State (26-9), which put on a furious rally in the second half of a bruising game, taking a 43-42 lead with 10:24 to go.
The Hurricanes will play either Iowa or Villanova next weekend in Louisville in the South Region semifinals.
No. 4 Duke 71, No. 12 Yale 64: Grayson Allen had 29 points, including five 3-pointers, to help Duke fend off a furious rally by Yale and advance to the Sweet 16.
Brandon Ingram added 25 points and five rebounds for the defending champions, who will play the winner of top-seeded Oregon and Saint Joseph’s.
Duke led by as many as 27 points in the battle of the brainy schools before seeing that dwindle to just three points with less than a minute to play.
Yale came close to forcing a needed turnover, but eventually had to foul. Duke connected on 4 of 5 free throws to close out the game.
Brandon Sherrod had 22 points and Justin Sears added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs.
No. 1 North Carolina 85, No. 9 Providence 66: Brice Johnson had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and North Carolina pulled away from foul-hit Providence. Joel Berry II added 15 points for the East Region’s top seed, which found itself in a fight well into the second half against the Friars’ high-scoring duo of Ben Bentil and Big East player of the year Kris Dunn. But the Tar Heels (30-6) stepped up their offensive efficiency, attacked the paint and started cashing in at the line as the fouls piled up for Providence (24-11).
Justin Jackson scored on a drive to start an 8-0 run that broke a 41-all tie, and then Johnson scored six straight points in the 10-0 burst that put the Tar Heels up 17 with 6 1/2 minutes left.
No. 5 Indiana 73, No. 4 Kentucky 67: Thomas Bryant scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half and Yogi Ferrell had 18 as Indiana beat Kentucky.
The Hoosiers (27-7) will return to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2012, despite losing starting guard Robert Johnson to an apparent left ankle injury late in the first half.
Indiana took control with a 17-4 run to go up 10 with four minutes left. Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress pulled Kentucky within 69-67 on free throws, but Bryant hit two from the line with 10 seconds to go to seal the win.
Ulis scored 27 points for Kentucky (27-9), which suffered its earliest NCAA Tournament exit since 2008.
No. 1 Virginia 77, No. 9 Butler 69: Malcolm Brogdon scored 22 points and Virginia used some hot second-half shooting to beat Butler. Anthony Gill added 17 points and Marial Shayok finished with 12 for the top-seeded Cavaliers (28-7).
They shot 73 percent after halftime, hitting 14 of their first 16 shots of the second half, and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.
They will face Iowa State (23-11) on March 25 in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Andrew Chrabascz scored a season-high 25 points for ninth-seeded Butler (22-11). Roosevelt Jones pulled the Bulldogs within 72-69 by hitting the first of two free throws with 36.2 seconds left.
He missed the second, Shayok pushed Virginia’s lead back out to four with a free throw with 28.3 seconds left and Kellen Dunham’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go bounced off the iron.
No. 11 Gonzaga 82, No. 3 Utah 59: Gonzaga stayed on a roll, getting 22 points from Eric McClellan and another double-double from Domantas Sabonis. The 11th-seeded Bulldogs (28-7), who beat Seton Hall by 16 points in the first round, are onto the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.
This game was billed as a battle of big men, between the 6-foot-11 Sabonis and Utah’s 7-footer, Jakob Poeltl, but it never materialized. Poeltl finished with five points and four rebounds, while Sabonis had 19 and 10 for his 22nd double-double of the season.
The third-seeded Utes (27-9) trailed by 15 at halftime and by as many as 30 in the second half.
Gonzaga’s next game is Friday in Chicago, against either Syracuse or Middle Tennessee.
No. 4 Iowa State 78, No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock 61: Georges Niang scored 28 and Iowa State kept Little Rock’s Josh Hagins from any more second-half heroics.
The Cyclones (23-11) advanced to their second Sweet 16 in three years. They will play the Virginia-Butler winner in Chicago next weekend.
Niang, the winningest player (97) in Cyclones history and Iowa State’s only two-time All-American, was simply too much for the Trojans (30-5) of the Sun Belt.
For the second straight game, Hagins had just two points at halftime.
Unlike last time, when he went off for 29 more in a double-overtime win against Purdue, Hagins added just six after the break.