Thursday’s basketball: Kansas rolls; Xavier upsets Arizona
Kansas City, Mo. — Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III poured in 26 points, Kansas turned on the jets in the second half and the top-seeded Jayhawks soared to a 98-66 blowout of No. 4 seed Purdue on Thursday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Devonte Graham also had 26 points and Josh Jackson had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Jayhawks (31-4), who led by 7 at halftime before their up-and-down pace finally wore down the Boilermakers.
Kansas used two big runs, including an 11-0 charge highlighted by Lagerald Vicks’ 360-degree drunk, to coast into a matchup with No. 3 seed Oregon on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.
The Ducks survived a nail-biter against Michigan earlier in the night.
Caleb Swanigan had 18 points and seven boards for the Boilermakers (27-8), but the 6-foot-9, 250-pound All-America candidate had to work for all of it. The Jayhawks kept collapsing on him in the post, forcing Swanigan to begin taking 3-pointers early in the second half.
It wasn’t much longer before the game was out of reach.
The Jayhawks rolled to easy wins over UC Davis and Michigan State to start the NCAA Tournament, and the cold, calculating way they dispatched Purdue should make them the favorite going forward.
If they weren’t the popular pick already.
The game shaped up as a contrast of styles: the slick, speedy athleticism that carried the Jayhawks to the Big 12 title against the bruising, post-dominated play of the Big Ten champions.
The Boilermakers stunned a sold-out Sprint Center early by hoisting up 3-pointers.
Their underrated guards took advantage of constant double-teams of Swanigan and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas inside, letting loose a barrage of deep shots. By the time Kansas realized the game had started, coach Matt Painter’s team had raced to a 25-18 lead midway through the first half.
The Jayhawks eventually found their footing, and the crowd that showed up a mere 40-minute drive from their campus in Lawrence provided the soundtrack to a strong end of the half.
Kansas closed on a 22-7 run to take a 47-40 lead into the locker room.
Things go so loud inside the downtown arena that Painter, who always maintained Kansas earned the right to the quasi-home game, had resorted to scribbling offensive sets on a dry erase board.
The roars for Kansas only got louder in the second half.
Ryan Cline’s 3-pointer got Purdue within 58-54 with 14:39 to go when the Jayhawks ripped off their game-defining run. Mason started and ended it, but it was Vick’s acrobatic dunk following a steal in the open court that brought a cheer that shook the playing floor.
When Mason knocked down his fourth 3, the lead had grown to 69-54 with 10 minutes left — and it just kept growing. It soon reached 20, then 30, as the Jayhawks began to party.
Gonzaga 61, West Virginia 58: At San Jose, California, Jordan Mathews hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with under a minute to play and top-seeded Gonzaga survived a rough shooting night for both teams to beat No. 4 seed West Virginia 61-58 Thursday night to advance to the West Regional final.
On a night that featured 51 fouls and only 34 made baskets, Mathews delivered the big shot that sent the Bulldogs (35-1) to their third Elite Eight in school history.
It didn’t come easily. West Virginia (29-8) had three shots to tie the game but Tarik Phillip missed a shot from the lane and Jevon Carter missed two 3-pointers after Silas Melson made one foul shot. The Mountaineers rebound both misses but couldn’t get another shot off before the buzzer.
Xavier 73, Arizona 71: Trevon Bluiett scored 25 points, Sean O’Mara scored inside with 40 seconds left and No. 11 seed Xavier upset No. 2 Arizona. Xavier (30-13) stayed with the second-seeded Wildcats behind Bluiett’s 18 first-half points and tracked down the Wildcats after they tried to pull away in the second half. O’Mara scored on a power move inside, but missed a free throw to give Arizona (32-5) a final chance.
Allonzo Trier missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds and Xavier was able to dribble out the clock, earning its first trip to the Elite Eight since 2008.
The Musketeers held Arizona scoreless over the final 2:52 to earn a sport in the West final against No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday.
Trier scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half and Dusan Ristic had 17 for Arizona.