NCAA Tournament: Traylor Changes Game as KU Tops EKU, 80-69
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Jamari Traylor turned and sprinted away from the goal following his last dunk of the game. With 30 seconds remaining, the sophomore forward had completed his role as the official spark that powered second-seeded Kansas to break away from 15th-seeded Eastern Kentucky and claim the 80-69 win Friday afternoon inside the Scottrade Center.
As the last 10 minutes of the game approached, Kansas (25-9) clung to a one-point lead against Eastern Kentucky (24-10) and was looking to gain ground from anywhere or anyone. Traylor accepted the role with authority – making all of his career-best seven shots from that point forward. At halftime, Traylor had a single point and four rebounds. By game’s end, he notched his first career double-double in NCAA Tournament fashion. His work fought off five lead changes in a five-minute span before the Jayhawks pulled away for good and played witness to his career-highs in points (17) and rebounds (14).
Sans the seven-footer for the fifth-straight game, the Jayhawk big men stepped up to compensate for Joel Embiid’s being on the bench. Sophomore forward Perry Ellis joined Traylor in the double-double ranks with 14 points and 13 rebounds, his fifth of the season and the fourth time that multiple Jayhawks recorded the feat in the same game this year. Senior forward Tarik Black broke his season-high with four blocks, while rattling off 12 points – 10 in the second half – to add to his five rebounds.
Traylor shifting into beast mode drew attention away from freshman guard Andrew Wiggins and his game-high 19 points that saw him break the Kansas freshman scoring record. He will enter the third round of the tournament just six points shy of becoming the first KU player score 600 points in his rookie season.
The winners of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament brought a finely-sharpened set of tools into the second-round meeting. Ranked second in the country in turnover margin, the Colonels were expected to take excellent care of the ball. They did exactly that, committing only seven turnovers while forcing 14 by the Jayhawks. In fact, both teams took advantage of each other’s weaknesses. Kansas ranks in the country’s top-10 in rebound margin and EKU, the bottom 10. KU capitalized, outrebounding EKU by a season-high, 43-19, margin.
On the perimeter, the Colonels were even more conniving. The 15-seed hung 12 three-pointers on the Jayhawks and kept KU from hitting a three (0-for-7) for the first time in 37 games. Kansas offset it with an overwhelming advantage in the paint, 54-20. The Jayhawks threw down 11 dunks in the win and the shorter Colonel squad came away away with two.
Kansas prevented the OVC Defensive Player of the Year, junior guard Corey Walden, from being the usual scoring backup to leader scorer, senior guard Glenn Cosey. In the first half, Walden had just two points and was relegated to the bench with three fouls. Though he did have a game-high three steals, Walden scored only once more before fouling out with four points.
Cosey led the offense with 17 points, 14 of which came in the first half. He collected five of EKU’s 12 three-pointers, but went 1-for-8 in the final frame. Fellow senior guard Tarius Johnson cranked out 15 points before he fouled out late in the game. Junior forward Eric Stutz, the only starter standing above 6-5, also tallied 15 points, but no Colonel pulled down more than five rebounds.
In the first four minutes, EKU had yet to commit a turnover, but had forced five. In the same span, Kansas had pulled down four boards while EKU was still looking for its first grab off the glass. This trend would hold for most of the afternoon. Though Cosey led a lethal attack from the perimeter, Kansas was more choosy with its shot selection. By the second media timeout, the Jayhawks had taken almost half as many shots with the same amount of makes as the Colonels.
After Cosey hit another to go a perfect 3-for-3 from behind the arc not yet midway through the first half, Frankamp checked in to take on the Cosey assignment. Immediately, Frankamp forced Cosey’s first miss and stayed in the game to hit his first three shots to cut the EKU lead to two, 16-14. Cosey wouldn’t stay down long and nailed his fourth three en route to a 7-0 run. Suddenly down nine, 23-14, head coach Bill Self used his first timeout.
Trailing for all but 46 seconds in the first half, Kansas needed a jolt. Freshman guard Frank Mason found one by way of a Wiggins alley oop. The rookie guard threw down the dunk, sending the St. Louis crowd into a frenzy and both teams to their benches on an EKU timeout. The Kansas defense came into play next, forcing a rare EKU turnover out of the pause and converting it into an Ellis layup. Finally within three, the Jayhawks readied for the fight to halftime. Less than 90 seconds remained on the first half clock when Wiggins went to the free throw line for the first time on the day. He sunk them both, turning the lead back to KU for the first time since the 19:14 mark, completing the 14-4 run Kansas used to erase the once nine-point deficit and send the teams to the lockerroom tied at 32-32.
Ready to claim control, Kansas used buckets from Ellis, junior guard Naadir Tharpe and a dunk from Black to shake off a Stutz three-pointer and take a 45-38 advantage, KU’s largest to that point, to start the second half. The Jayhawks’ eagerness to break open the game would have to wait, however, as the Colonels shot right back with a 10-0 run – led almost entirely by Tarius Johnson, who tallied eight in the rally that once again put his team in front, 56-55.
Traylor saw to it that the Colonels would not lead again.
He countered with a three-point play and followed that with a put-back slam to send Kansas on its way to the third round. His last jumper put the Jayhawks up by 10, marking the finishing touches on the 80-69 victory.
Kansas advances to the third round of the NCAA Tournament South Regional to face No. 7 seed New Mexico No. 10 seed Stanford on Sunday. Game times will be announced following the conclusion of the second session in St. Louis.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (30/30), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (34/34), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (34/34), So. Perry Ellis (33/36), Sr. Tarik Black (14/74)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 2-0
ATTENDANCE: 17,955 (18,750 capacity)
- Improved Kansas to 25-9 on the season, giving KU 25 victories for the ninth-straight season.
- Handed KU its 29th NCAA Tournament first-game win in the last 31 years, dating back to 1978.
- Made Kansas 11-8 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (5-6 in true road games, 6-2 on neutral floors).
- Changed the Kansas-Eastern Kentucky series to 2-0 in favor of Kansas.
- Made the Jayhawks 96-41 all-time in NCAA Tournament games and 8-1 in NCAA Tournament games played in St. Louis.
- Bettered KU’s record to 19-5 as a No. 2 seed and made the Jayhawks 6-0 against No. 15 seeds.
- Upped head coach Bill Self’s record to 325-68 while at Kansas and 532-173 overall. Self is now 36-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament (26-9 at Kansas).
- Moved Kansas to 2,126-821 all-time.
- Kansas’ 66.7 percent shooting mark in the first half tied for its second-best shooting effort in a single half this season (69.2, 1st half vs. Towson) and is the 14th time overall that the Jayhawks shot 60 percent or better in a half this season.
- Overall, KU’s 60.4 percent shooting mark (32-32) was also its second-best of the season and marked the third time that the Jayhawks shot 60 percent or better this season (61.5 vs. TCU; 60.0 vs. Towson).
- Ironically, Kansas was held to 0.0 percent from three-point range (0-7). That snapped a 36-game streak of at least one made three in every contest – the last time being an 0-6 mark against Western Kentucky, also in the second round of the NCAA Tournament (3/22/13).
- Eight of the nine Jayhawks that checked in on Friday scored; marking the fewest number of KU contributors since the KU vs. Michigan game on March 29, 2013.
- Prior to Friday, Kansas had surrendered eight or more steals in 10 total games. EKU racked up eight steals by halftime – but did not collect another for the rest of the game. After the Jayhawks turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, they settled down and gave the ball up only once in the second half.
- KU forced a season-high tying four turnovers from senior G Tarius Jackson, but swiped a season-low two steals in the win.
- Kansas nearly triples its opponents in dunks on the year (132-50), but outdid itself with an 8-2 dunk margin over the guard-heavy Colonels.
- Kansas became just the seventh team to score 80 points on the Colonels this season and fell short of tying the highest shooting percentage allowed by EKU this season by a mere 0.1 percent (Wisconsin, 60.5 percent, 12/14/13).
- Kansas entered the afternoon 10th-best in the country in rebound margin (+7.3) while Eastern Kentucky came in at ninth-worst (-6.1) Kansas outrebounded the Colonels, 43-19, KU’s largest rebounding margin of the season and the 30th time in 34 games that the Jayhawks bested their opponent on the glass in 2013-14.
- EKU didn’t record a rebound until the 14:23 mark in the first half, which was a team board following a block from senior F Tarik Black. The Colonels would wait another five before an individual grabbed one (Tarius Johnson, 9:52).
- Kansas had committed seven turnovers before EKU gave up the ball for the first time via a traveling call on Tarius Johnson. This would’ve given Kansas its first crack at points off a turnover, but KU turned the ball over on the very next possession. EKU won the points off-of-turnover battle, 19-9.
- Sophomore F Jamari Traylor was lights out in the second half, making a career-high seven field goals for a career-high 17 points. In fact, 16 of his 17 points came in the last 10:15 of the game.
- Traylor’s 14 rebounds were also a career-best and were the most by a Jayhawk sophomore since Cole Aldrich pulled down the same amount against Michigan State on March 27, 2009.
- Traylor and sophomore F Perry Ellis outrebounded the Colonels on their own (27-19) as Ellis pulled down 13 rebounds and added 14 points for his fifth double-double of the year.
- Ellis and Traylor marked the fourth time this season that two Jayhawks have posted double-doubles in the same game.
- Freshman G Andrew Wiggins led the floor with 19 points on Friday, bringing his career total to 593 points on the year – the most all-time by a Jayhawk freshman. For the second-straight season, a rookie has claimed a program record that had previously been held by KU legend Danny Manning for 28 years (496, 1985). Wiggins broke Ben McLemore’s mark (589, 2013).
- The layup that broke the record came with 7:35 remaining in the game and resulted in a foul call, in which he completed the three-point play.
- With 188 field goals on the year, Wiggins moved closer to Ben McLemore (198, 2013) for second-most shots made by a Jayhawk freshman.
- Wiggins improved his KU freshmen record for free throws made (174), free throws attempted (225), field goals attempted (416) and scoring average (17.4).
- Senior F Tarik Black had his previous season-high eclipsed by halftime with four blocks in the first half.
- Black totaled just two points in the first half, but added 10 in the final 20 minutes for his fourth double-digit scoring effort of the season.
- Freshman G Conner Frankamp had a similar first half effort. Aside from coming in and forcing EKU’s Glenn Cosey to miss his first three-point of the game, he tied his career-high six points on 3-of-3 shooting in the opening frame. He went 4-for-4 from the free throw line – his first free throws since the Wake Forest game – to set a new career-best 10 points.
- Frankamp’s four assists tied for the team-lead were also a career-high.
- Freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr. was in danger of not scoring for the first time this season. He registered his first point at the free throw line with 8:14 to play.
- Selden, Frankamp and freshman G Frank Mason all tied for the team-lead with four assists.