University of Kansas

Auburn is next test for Jayhawks in NCAA Tournament: ‘They are a fast-paced team’

It’ll be No. 4 seed Kansas against No. 5 Auburn in a second-round NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional game Saturday at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Tipoff is approximately 8:40 p.m. Central time with a broadcast on TBS.

“Fast, three-point shooting team, very fun to watch,” KU forward Dedric Lawson said when asked what comes to mind when thinking of Auburn of the Southeastern Conference.

“They are a fast-paced team,” guard/forward K.J. Lawson said of the Tigers (27-9), who defeated No. 12 seed New Mexico State, 78-77, in Thursday’s first game in Salt Lake City.

“I know they are coached by Bruce Pearl from watching him at Tennessee. They’ll get after you, go at the ball. They’ve got a great leader in Jared (Harper, point guard). We’ve got to cut off the head early. He’s a great player, scorer, that’s Auburn,” K.J. Lawson added

KU will enter the game with a 26-9 record.

Agbaji on KU defense

KU freshman guard Ochai Agbaji on KU’s defense, which held Northeastern to 6 of 28 three-point shooting in Thursday’s 87-53 KU victory. KU hit 8 of 22 threes.

“Our game plan was to come out and play our game. We weren’t following so much what they were doing. We were sticking with what works for us and that really helped us,” Agbaji said after starting and scoring 13 points with five rebounds in 20 minutes.

“We put an emphasis on getting out to the shooters,” he added. “The way they can shoot it from beyond the arc, they were spectacular at that. I think focusing on getting out to the shooters and making them put it on the floor helped us.”

Grimes lauds Lawson

Freshman guard Quentin Grimes, who scored three points on 1-of-6 shooting, was impressed with Dedric Lawson, who scored 25 points with 11 boards.

“There were a lot of mismatches out there trying to guard Dedric like that. He’s really a guard in a big man’s body because he’s so mobile and so agile with the ball. So if we can get him the ball he’s going to make great plays whether he’s passing it to his teammates or getting the bucket himself,” Grimes said.

De Sousa completes bracket

KU sophomore Silvio De Sousa, who is not eligible to play in the tournament, was the Jayhawk chosen to put the “Kansas” sticker on the big bracket that NCAA officials brought into the locker room after the game.

“He broke it,” Dedric Lawson said with a smile of the board the bracket was on. “We wanted him to just put the sticker on it, not break it.”

De Sousa was smiling in the background as Lawson spoke with reporters.

Huskies cold from three

KU coach Bill Self on Northeastern hitting 6 of 28 threes: “I did think that defensively we were so much better and I didn’t feel like there was a lot of uncontested looks. Even when they made shots, I felt like we had a hand in their face and we didn’t put ourselves in a situation where we were playing catch-up throughout the entire possession.”

KU stifles Pusica

Northeastern’s leading scorer, Vasa Pusica, scored seven points on 2 of 13 shooting. He was 2 of 6 from three.

“He missed some shots that he normally makes, so that’s not really defense,” Self said. “Our whole game plan — we went under one ball screen on him and he made a three. Our game plan was to hard edge him, make him change direction and certainly go over every ball screen and every dribble handoff, and the switching helped us do that.”

K.J. on last year’s run

K.J. Lawson on being able to watch KU’s run to the Final Four last season as a redshirt transfer from Memphis. He could practice all year but not play in games according to transfer rules.

“It was a great moment,” Lawson said. “Being in that moment and watching those great guys that came before us, like Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonté Graham, and you want to be on the court with those guys. Actually being in the situation where we can play, it’s a great feeling my first tournament game playing.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star