When No. 11 Kansas finished off its 82-67 victory over Tennessee in the semis of the Orlando Classic on Saturday afternoon, the Jayhawks did not yet know their opponent in Sunday’s championship game. No. 20 Michigan State beat Marquette later on Friday evening.
But Self was sure about one thing. It would be a physical affair.
“It’ll be a Big Ten-type game,” Self said.
That’s not to say Self was expecting that Michigan State would defeat Marquette, which is led by first-year coach Steve Wojciechowski, a former Duke assistant.
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“Marquette plays ridiculously hard,” Self said. “Wojo is getting that thing going, and of course, Michigan State — we’ve had a lot of battles with them over the years, and nobody is going to play tougher. Nobody is going to get out in transition better, and nobody is going to rebound it better than those guys. Those are areas that you have to eliminate.”
▪ Sophomore guard Wayne Selden was whistled for a flagrant foul on Tennessee’s Kevin Punter in the first half. Punter made the layup, then made two free throws, and Tennessee scored on the ensuing possession. It added up to a six-point run.
Self said the official explained that the flagrant was for “excessive contact” above the shoulders.
“It wasn’t that it was a bad foul; he just hit him above the shoulders excessively, too hard,” Self said. “I know they’re doing as much as they can to protect kids when they’re put in awkward situations.”
▪ While Self looks for a clear rotation, he’s settled on one strategy for the second half of games: Play the guys who are playing the best.
On Friday, that meant playing a lineup that featured Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander. Mason, Selden and Ellis all ended up playing more than 33 minutes.
“I made a mistake early,” Self said. “I went to the bench too soon. I think we were up 14-7, and next thing you know, we’re down 17-15 in a three-minute stretch.”
▪ Key play: After Tennessee cut the lead to 35-31, freshman guard Svi Mykhailiuk drilled a three-pointer with 1:30 left in the half.
▪ Key stat: KU had 14 second-chance points.
▪ Key play: Freshman forward Cliff Alexander finished a layup and drew a foul, converting a three-point play that pushed Kansas’ lead to 67-62 with 5:37 to play.
▪ Key stat: KU outrebounded Tennessee 44-22.