NCAA Tournament: Kansas Dances Past New Mexico State, 75-56
OMAHA, Neb. — Jamari Traylor’s breakaway dunk made for a memorable moment, but the biggest statement came from behind the arc. No. 2-seed Kansas unleashed the three-point brigade to defeat No. 15-seed New Mexico State, 75-56, in the NCAA Tournament Second Round Friday morning inside CenturyLink Center Omaha.
Kansas (27-8, 13-5 Big 12) met with a New Mexico (23-11, 13-1 WAC) squad that did not reflect a traditional 15 seed. In fact, it was the lowest seeding for NMSU in school history, the previous low (No. 14) coming in 1999. The Aggies were making their fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance after four-straight Western Athletic Conference (WAC) tournament titles. A senior-laden lineup, the Aggies came in on a 13-game winning streak and were completely comfortable in the Big Dance environment.
Landen Lucas pulled down nine rebounds.So, the Jayhawks made them uncomfortable – specifically the sharpshooters. Kansas made a name for itself as the Big 12 Conference’s best three-point shooting team earlier this season, but fell into a lull in recent weeks. On Friday, sophomores Frank Mason III and Brannen Greene and freshmen Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Devonte’ Graham all connected on multiple threes, landing Kansas at 69.2 percent (9-for-13) for the game, the best since Nov. 27, 1996 (71.4 percent vs. Virginia).
Kansas picked apart the Aggie zone. When attacking the basket caused the defense to close in, the Jayhawks kicked the ball out for long jump shots instead. The combination was lethal. The Jayhawks put together numerous scoring runs on the offensive end and forced scoring droughts on the defensive side to finish shooting 54.0 percent (27-of-50) compared to NMSU’s 35.7 percent (20-of-56). In KU’s 26-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances, that marks the 17th time the Jayhawks have shot 50 percent or better in its opening-round contest.
Making their first NCAA Tournament starts, Mason led the floor with 17 points and tied sophomore forward Landen Lucas with a game-high nine rebounds. Junior forward Perry Ellis hung up nine points, while the three-point patrol – Greene, Graham and Oubre – each tallied eight points. Together, Graham and Mason’s eight combined assists totaled the assist output of the Aggies. Traylor completed his well-rounded performance with eight points, five rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.
Seniors led the charge for the veteran Aggies. DK Eldridge led the team with 11 points, while fellow seniors Remi Barry and Tshilidzi Nephawe posted 10 points apiece in their last game together. WAC Freshman of the Year Pascal Siakam recorded eight points, eight rebounds and a game-high two blocks.
NMSU’s size played a role early. Ellis chalked up KU’s first bucket, but the Aggie big men pestered the Jayhawks down low. They altered close-range attempts, forcing Ellis and Lucas to miss under the basket. Lucas took the cue, moved a few steps back and drained a jumper to spark a 7-0 run. Just five minutes in, Kansas climbed to an 11-4 edge.
New Mexico State’s zone provided several opportunities of the like. Mason and Oubre each connected from behind the arc to build the lead. With the tone set, the Jayhawks returned to working the ball inside. Ellis and sophomore guard Wayne Selden, Jr. were game, finishing lobs from Traylor and Graham for back-to-back dunks. A three from Ellis put Kansas up by double-figures, 22-12, a trend the Jayhawks would stick with for the remainder of the day.
Graham used the zone defense as a dare, just asking him to test his three-point shot. He accepted. The first was a result of a broken play, which Lucas’ offensive rebound kept alive. The second, Graham just flat-out nailed from the top of the key. While New Mexico State suffered through seven-straight misses, Kansas piled on for its largest lead of the half, 34-16. Though another three from Barry snapped NMSU’s drought, the Jayhawks took a 36-23 margin to halftime.
Winners of 13-straight, New Mexico State wasn’t ready for its season to end. Both sides turned up the intensity: the Aggies on the press and the Jayhawks on the attack. Selden’s dunk got it started, but Traylor’s crowd-pleasing slam brought back the KU edge.
When NMSU drew in to protect the lane, Mason found his shooters. Selden knocked down a long two and Oubre pulled up for his second three-pointer of the game. Desperate to stop momentum, New Mexico State called a timeout down, 49-32.
When looking for an answer, a seven-footer is a good place to start. Freshman Tanveer Bhullar, a 7-3 center, checked in for four quick points to help his team chip away at the deficit. Yet, Lucas continued to step up in big spots, this time with an offensive board and the put back to reignite KU’s point production.
Mason sank a jump shot and Greene caught fire. The sophomore shooting specialist delivered all of his eight points in a four-minute window, including a pair of three-pointers to put his team up 20, 63-43. As the five-minute mark neared, Mason let another three fly to lock up the game.
WAC Coach of the Year Marvin Menzies checked his seniors and starters out of the game one-by-one, hugging each. On the other bench, AP Big 12 Coach of the Year Bill Self subbed in his walk-on reserves, leading to the first-career points for freshman Josh Pollard and KU’s last of the game. Kansas advanced with the 75-56 win.
Kansas now awaits the winner of the (7) Wichita State-(10) Indiana contest on Sunday, March 22, in CenturyLink Center Omaha in Omaha, Nebraska. Tip time and TV will be determined Friday evening.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): So. G Frank Mason, III (35/38), So. G Wayne Selden, Jr. (35/70), Fr. G Kelly Oubre, Jr. (26/26), So. F Landen Lucas (13/13), Jr. F Perry Ellis (33/70)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads, 3-0
ATTENDANCE: 16,907 (17,560 capacity)
- Made Kansas 27-8 on the season, giving KU 27 victories for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
- Marked the ninth-straight NCAA Tournament first-game victory (beginning in 2007) and improved KU’s overall record in NCAA Tournament first-round games to 30-2.
- Extended the undefeated hold in the all-time series with New Mexico State, which is now 3-0.
- Improved Kansas to 97-42 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
- Kept Kansas perfect in Omaha. Combined with the 2008 and 2012 NCAA Tournaments, KU is now 5-0 in the city.
- Upped Self to 352-77 while at Kansas, 37-15 in the NCAA Tournament (23-5 while at KU) and 559-182 overall.
- Made KU 2,153-830 all-time.
- According to ESPN, since the tournament expanded in 1985, Kansas’ 28 wins in the Round of 64 are the most of any program (North Carolina: 27, Duke: 25, Kentucky: 23 and Syracuse: 21).
- Kansas ended a 13-game NMSU win streak, the third-longest winning spree in school history. Prior to Friday, the Aggies had won 19 of their last 21 games.
- KU’s sizable margin of victory is not the largest in its series history with New Mexico State. In KU’s only meetings with NMSU, the Jayhawks chalked up 100-point efforts in each. The first came via a 102-51 victory in 1965 and the second a 100-79 win in 2008.
- After being held without a three-point field goal twice in the last six games, and overall only making 16-of-83 (19 percent) of its threes dating back to a Feb. 23 matchup at Kansas State, the Jayhawks rebounded on Friday to nail 9-of-13 (69.2 percent) of its attempts from beyond the arc against New Mexico State.
- Kansas’ percentage on Friday is the highest overall a KU team has shot from downtown since defeating Virginia on Nov. 27, 1996 in Maui. The Jayhawks made 5-of-7 three’s equaling out to a success rate of 71.4.
- In its 26-game streak of NCAA Tournament appearances the Jayhawks have now defeated their first-round opponents by 10 or more points in 18 of the last 26 opening-game matchups.
- In the last 26 opening-round games, the Jayhawks have shot better than 50 percent in 17 of those contests, including Friday’s 54 percent performance.
- KU’s numbers from beyond the arc on Friday with a minimum of 10 three’s attempted are the best since Dec. 8, 1993 when the Jayhawks played on the road at North Carolina State. Kansas coincidentally also made 9-of-13 three’s in that game.
- Over the previous two games Kansas is now 33-of-38 from the free throw line, making 87 percent of its shots from the charity stripe. However, in the first half, KU recorded only one made free throw (1-for-3), the fewest since also tallying one in the first half against TCU (2/15/14).
- KU also shot better than 50 percent over the course of the game (54 percent, 27-of-50) for the first time since hanging a 58.3 percent mark (28-of-48) on Feb. 21 against TCU.
- The Jayhawks are now 7-0 this year when making over half of their shots in a game.
- Typically a second half shooting team, Kansas burst out of the gate to make more than 50 percent of its shots (15-of-28) from the field. KU’s first half shooting marked just the eighth time this season that the Jayhawks made more than half of their field goal attempts.
- Added to KU’s 53.6 percent (15-for-28) shooting in the first half, the Jayhawks have shot 50 percent or better in a half in four of its last five games. It also marks the best KU shot in the first half of an NCAA Tournament game since last season vs. Eastern Kentucky (66.7, 14-for-21).
- Listed at 7-3, New Mexico State freshman C Tanveer Bhullar is the tallest player the Jayhawks have faced this season. He recorded four points in six minutes.
- Kansas is now 20-2 when leading at halftime in 2014-15.
- The Jayhawks are 20-2 when out-rebounding opponents in 2014-15.
- Kansas is now 14-0 on the season when the bench scores 25 or more points.
- Along with freshman G Kelly Oubre, Jr., sophomores Frank Mason and Landen Lucas made their first NCAA Tournament starts. Only sophomore G Wayne Selden, Jr. and junior F Perry Ellis had started an NCAA postseason game prior to Friday.
- They didn’t seem to mind. Mason led all scorers with 17 points and tied Lucas for the game high with nine rebounds.
- Mason’s nine rebounds are one short of his career-high (10 vs. Michigan State, 11/30/14). He has pulled down five rebounds or more 11 times this season. He also dished out four assists for the third-straight game.
- Junior F Perry Ellis scored nine points, inching him closer to 39th on KU’s all-time career scoring list (1,140), pulling within 12 of former star Billy Thomas (1,152). His two rebounds on Friday gives him 604 for his career, passing Kenny Gregory for 26th all-time at Kansas.
- Sophomore G Brannen Greene chalked up his 12th multi-three game of the year, but his first since going 2-for-3 at Texas Tech (2/10/15).
- Redshirt junior F Hunter Mickelson checked in with 2:48 to play – and still kept his block streak alive. He is the only Jayhawk to record a block in each of KU’s last seven games.
- Freshman G Josh Pollard recorded his first career points with the last bucket of the game.
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