To the delight of its fans who rocked Sprint Center on Thursday night, Kansas is just one victory from its first Final Four appearance since 2012, and third in the 14-year Bill Self era.
The Jayhawks (31-4), the top-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional, continued to play to its lofty seeding, blasting Big Ten regular-season champion and No. 4 seed Purdue 98-66 before a sellout crowd of the 18,475 at the Sweet 16 game — a crowd that appeared to include at least 80 percent KU fans.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Devonté Graham and Frank Mason each scored 26 points, while Josh Jackson had 15 points, Lagerald Vick 12 and Svi Mykhailiuk 10 for KU, which will now meet Oregon at 7:49 p.m., Saturday for a spot in the Final Four in Phoenix.
Caleb Swanigan had 18 points for Purdue.
Kansas became the first team since UConn in 1995 to score 90 or more points in its first three tourney games, totally rolling on the offensive end.
“It was unbelievable,” said Graham. “Playing here in Kansas City is great. The crowd is behind us to give us so much momentum and energy throughout the game.”
Graham hit 7 of 15 shots from the field, including 5 of 9 on three-pointers. He hit 7 of 9 free throws.
“Thirty five miles away from Lawrence, basically in our backyard … we’re thankful we had the opportunity to play here,” said Mason, who hit 9 of 11 shots, including 4 of 5 from three, with seven rebounds and seven assists.
Jackson had 12 rebounds to go with his 15 points. KU hit 54.8 percent of its shots from the field, including 15 of 28 on three-pointers. Kansas hit 15 of 22 free throws. Purdue, meanwhile, hit 42.9 percent of its shots, 10 of 27 on three-pointers and 8 of 12 from the line.
Graham was on fire the second half as the Jayhawks won going away.
“It was great to see Devonté do the things he did,” Mason said. “He was great out there. It’s probably one of the best games I’ve seen him play.”
The Jayhawks used a 22-7 run to close the first half and turned a 33-25 deficit (at the 6:45 mark) into a 47-40 halftime lead.
Kansas then went on a 16-3 second-half run (highlighted by a Lagerald Vick 360-degree slam) that upped a 53-51 lead to 69-54 with 10:42 left in the game. KU built the margin to 16 points (72-56) at 9:41 and 74-58 at 9:03. The margin increased to 18 points — 78-60 at 7:58 and 24 points at 84-60 with 5:28 left and all the way to 91-64 at 3:01.
Kansas just kept scoring and scoring in the second half. They ended up with scoring 51 points in the half.
“Our defense and rebounding was good the second half,” Kansas coach Self said. KU outrebounded Purdue, 36-29. “Purdue is really good. You play teams this deep in the tournament, they are good.”
Self cited one key.
“The whole game … look at Landen’s stats. Landen (Lucas) got four rebounds. Caleb (Swanigan) only got seven. If you told us before the game that would be the give and take, I’d have sold out for that.”
Vick’s dunk was a crowd-pleaser. He raced in unchallenged and twirled all the way around for a slam that made the score 63-54.
Of Vick’s dunk, Self said: “Lagerald is unbelievably athletic. That is an athletic play. I’m just glad he made it. It would probably be a sore spot if he hadn’t. He’s athletic and able to do that.”
The Boilermakers (27-8) started out strong. They led 8-2 out of the gate and, 18-11 at 13:59 left in the first half after hitting 6 of 9 shots. Purdue led 25-18 at 10:51 and 33-25 at 6:45.
At that point, the Jayhawks started to click, closing the half on the big run and taking a 47-40 lead into the break. Mason scored 15 points in the first half and Graham 10, while Mykhailiuk had eight and Jackson seven. KU hit 8 of 16 three-pointers in the half and 45.7 percent overall.
Purdue’s Isaac Haas did some damage inside, scoring 11 points the first half on 5-of-6 shooting. He had zero points in the second half. Big Ten player of the year Swanigan, however, had just six points in the first half, making one basket in two tries and three of four free throws.
Kansas’ late run 22-7 was the big story of the first half, turning the eight-point deficit into a seven-point halftime lead.
Mykhailiuk hit back-to-back threes during an 11-2 portion of that run that gave KU a 36-35 lead at 4:41. Jackson then scored KU’s next five points on a slam dunk and a three-pointer as KU led 41-36 at 2:45. Mason hit a free-throw to make it 42-36 as KU had scored 17 of the game’s last 20 points. Purdue cut it to, 42-40, on a Haas bucket at 1:07 that followed a hoop by P.J. Thompson.
Mason, assisted by a Dwight Coleby screen, hit a three-pointer with 41 seconds left in the half, and KU scored the final bucket of the half in spectacular fashion to go up, 47-40. Vick stole the ball near halfcourt in the closing seconds, the ball hitting a ref and staying in bounds. Vick dished to Graham, who dished back to Vick for a slam to conclude the first-half scoring.
The Jayhawks have reached the regional final for the 23rd time in school history and seventh time under Bill Self. … KU has 31 wins for the second-straight season and 12th time in school history with eight of those in the Bill Self era ... KU is 17-3 away from Allen Fieldhouse this season. … The Jayhawks are 103-44 all-time in NCAA Tournament action. … KU is 4-2 all-time versus Purdue. Self’s KU teams are 33-12 in the NCAAs. … KU improved to 35-7 at Sprint Center where the Jayhawks have won the 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2016 Big 12 tourneys and the 2012 and 2016 CBE Hall of Fame Classics. … KU has played 301 games in Kansas City, compiling a 220-81 record.
KU is 4-3 versus Oregon
Saturday’s foe, Oregon, defeated Michigan, 69-68, in Thursday’s other semifinal.
In the only NCAA Tournament meeting between the teams, KU rolled, 104-86, in an Elite Eight battle on March 24, 2002 in Madison, Wis. KU ultimately lost to Maryland, 97-88, in a Final Four semifinal on March 30, 2002 in Atlanta. The Jayhawks beat Oregon, 66-49, in the semifinals of the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 24, 1984, in Anchorage. The Jayhawks beat the Ducks, 77-67, on Dec. 13, 2003 in Kemper Arena. KU lost to Oregon the year before, 84-78, on Dec. 7, 2002 in Portland.
KU has played the Ducks just once at Allen Fieldhouse, winning, 67-49, on Dec. 15, 1973. Oregon beat KU twice in Eugene, Ore.: 66-61 on Dec. 29, 1947 and 61-53, on Dec. 30, 1947. Yes, KU played Oregon on consecutive nights to make the most of its long trip to Oregon.
Faces in crowd
Former KU coach Larry Brown, former KU assistant Joe Dooley, the head coach at Florida Gulf Coast and former KU chancellor Gene Budig attended. Malik Newman, who was able to practice but who is ineligible to play in games this season after transferring from Mississippi State, sat to Brown’s right and Dooley to Brown’s left.
FanRag Sports reports that LIU-Brooklyn has approached Brown about its head coaching vacancy. Brown, 76, has spent the past year outside of coaching after leaving SMU following the 2015-16 season after four years at SMU. He had considered coaching at a Long Island, N.Y., high school this past season, but wound up not taking the job because of so many commitments he’d made to visit various colleges, including KU.
Long Island went 20-12 this past season and placed second in the Northeast Conference. Coach Jack Perri was fired at the end of the season.
Former KU guard Wayne Selden, who recently was called up from the NBA Development League by the New Orleans Pelicans, this week Tweeted: “Think about having the NPOY (Frank Mason) and #1 Draft pick (Josh Jackson) on the same team, and they aren’t the same player.... and Dtae (Devonté Graham)!” … Former KU forward Perry Ellis of the Greensboro (N.C.) Swarm told NBA.com, “If the guards are playing at a high level and shooting well, which they are, then the sky is the limit.” Of Josh Jackson, Ellis said; “I met Josh this summer when I was at KU. I like his game. He has a mean streak about him. I like his aggressiveness.” And of Frank Mason, Ellis stated: “he has been playing his heart out.” … Future Jayhawk guard Markese Jacobs of Chicago’s Uplift Community High, who still has two years of high school remaining, Tweeted: “Game Day fellas,” and posted a picture of a Jayhawk on Twitter.