Johnson Leads Kansas Past Texas A&M, 83-66, In Phillips 66 Big 12 Quarterfinals

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas junior guard Elijah Johnson set a career-high with 26 points and led the third-ranked Jayhawks on a 13-0 spurt midway through the first half to help KU defeat Texas A&M, 83-66, in Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship quarterfinal action at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday afternoon.

Kansas’ win over Texas A&M improved the Jayhawks to 27-5 on the season, while the loss ended the Aggies’ season with a 14-18 record. Kansas advanced to the semifinals where they will take on Baylor on Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.

Johnson was hot from outside, knocking down 5-of-7 shots from beyond the arc on his way to a new personal best scoring output. Johnson’s five triples tied a career-high as he also knocked down five in KU’s win over Ohio State in December. Johnson made 8-of-11 shots overall and also canned all five of his free throw attempts. Additionally, Johnson dished a team-best four assists in the win.

As a team, the Jayhawks had a strong performance from the perimeter as they connected on 10-of-15 from three, good for a season’s best 66.7 percent. The 10 three-pointers tied KU’s season’s best as it also had 10 in a win over Towson in the season-opener.

Out of the gate both teams stayed even collecting similar numbers on the stat sheet. Texas A&M strung together seven unanswered points by the 10:36 mark to gain a 17-12 advantage over Kansas. The Aggies used that surge to hold onto the lead until KU turned hot from behind the three-point arc.

Johnson hit a jumper with 8:36 to play in the first half to spark a 13-0 run by the Jayhawks. Three minutes later, senior Conner Teahanagain Johnson at the top of the arc as Johnson drained his second-straight trey. He finished with 15 first-half points.

As the half wound down, Taylor provided back-to-back three-pointers this time to push the Kansas lead to 38-24 at the 2:08 mark. The Jayhawks wouldn’t score again until 47 seconds to go, a fastbreak layup from Johnson. Texas A&M’s Dash Harris got in one last layup under the 20-second mark as KU went into the locker room with a 40-28 lead.

Johnson and Taylor combined for five three-pointers in the first half to help Kansas to a 62.5 field goal percentage (5-for-8) from long range in the opening frame. In contrast, the Aggies were just 2-for-9 (22.2 percent) shooting the three.

After trading baskets to open the second frame, Johnson again went to work knocking down consecutive threes, while Thomas Robinsonalso got in the action scoring 13 points in the second frame as KU extended the lead to as many as 22 points on three occasions before going on to the 83-66 victory. Robinson, who received his Big 12 Player of the Year trophy prior to tip off, would finish the game with 19 points and 11 rebounds marking his NCAA and Big 12 leading 23rd double-double of the season.

Taylor also finished in double figures for KU, dropping in 16 points. Taylor was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Jeff Withey was the fourth Jayhawk in double figures with 11 points and Travis Relefordfinished with seven tallies.

Kansas finished the game shooting 61.4 percent from the field, including the blistering 10-of-15 performance from three. KU made 19-of-28 from the foul line, good for 67.9 percent.

The Aggies were led by Khris Middleton’s 24 points and four other A&M players chipped in eight points apiece. Texas A&M made just 25-of-64 (39.1 percent) shots from the field and finished the game making 3-of-13 shots (23.1 percent) from the three-point line. The Aggies did win the rebounding battle, edging KU 31-30 behind eight boards from Ray Turner.

The win marked the 15th win in 16 tries for KU in its opening round game of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. KU also improved to 14-2 in quarterfinal action. Kansas will now take on 11th ranked Baylor, who defeated Kansas State, 82-74, in its quarterfinal match up. KU swept the Bears in regular season play, winning 92-74 in Lawrence and 68-54 in Waco.