Defense lifts Jayhawks into Big 12 semifinals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Holding the Longhorns to just three field goals over the final seven minutes of regulation, the No. 17/18 Kansas Jayhawks outlasted Texas, 65-57, in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championships Thursday night at Sprint Center. Freshman guard Devon Dotson led the Jayhawks with 17 points and was one of four KU starters to score in double figures. No. 3 seed Kansas advanced to meet No. 10 seed West Virginia in the tournament semifinal, to begin at approximately 8:30 p.m. (CT), Friday, March 15.
The win moved Kansas to 24-8 on the season and pushed the Jayhawks into the Big 12 semifinals for the ninth time in the last 10 years. Texas fell to 16-16 in its 2018-19 campaign.
The Jayhawks began the game clicking on all cylinders. David McCormack and Dedric Lawson helped KU jump out to an early lead, combining for nine points as the Jayhawks built an 11-4 edge over the opening three minutes of action. Texas wasn’t fazed by Kansas’ early run, however, as the Longhorns knotted up the score less than three minutes later with a 7-0 run. KU managed just a pair of field goals over a nine-minute span, but its work on the defensive end kept the Longhorns from taking advantage of its scoring drought.
The Jayhawks forced four first-half UT turnovers to go along with four blocks to keep the Texas shooters at bay. The Longhorns never led by more than four points over the first 20 minutes, but took a 29-25 edge into the final 1:40 of the half. A pair of Devon Dotson free throws and a Marcus Garrett lay-up off a Charlie Moore steal pulled the Jayhawks level with UT prior to the intermission, 29-29.
Kansas came out of the halftime locker room and quickly regained the momentum. After a Dylan Osetkowski 3-pointer handed the Longhorns a 32-31 lead 30 seconds following the restart, KU took control. Four different Jayhawks scored during a 13-3 run that saw the No. 3 seed build a 44-35 advantage with McCormack’s putback at the 15:00 mark.
Osetkowski swished two more buckets over the next two minutes to try and slow the Jayhawks, but KU had answers for both, including a Quentin Grimes 3-pointer, to go up 49-40 with just over 13 minutes to play.
UT managed to claw its way back into the game several times over the final 10 minutes of action, but KU got some much needed free throws to keep the Longhorns at arm’s length. The Jayhawks went 9-of-10 from the charity stripe over the last 10:14 of the contest. The points from the free throw line were a welcome sight for Kansas, which hit only three of its final 14 tries from the field in the last 12:20 of the game.
Two of those three field goals down the stretch came off the hands of KU’s freshmen guards, Dotson and Grimes. With 9:53 to play Grimes converted on a fastbreak lay-up to give his team an 11-point lead at 54-43. The Jayhawks then went without a field goal until the 3:34 mark, when Dotson cut through the lane to connect on the final two points of his team-high 17. That bucket gave Kansas a 60-52 advantage.
UT’s Kerwin Roach II tallied his team’s last five points of the game, including a 3-pointer to cut the Jayhawk lead to 61-57 with 2:43 to play. But four free throws from Grimes and defensive stops on each of the Longhorn’s final five possessions of the contest helped the Jayhawks close out the 65-57 victory.
Dotson led the Jayhawks in scoring for the fourth time on the year, going 6-of-11 from the field to post 17 points. Lawson was close behind with 16 points, tallying his 21st double-digit effort of the season. McCormack scored in double-figures for the third-straight game after posting 13 points, nine of which came in the first half. Grimes rounded out the leading KU scorers, adding 12 points, which included a 7-of-8 clip from the free throw line.
QUOTES – Full Quotes
Kansas head coach Bill Self
“I thought it was, you know, kind of a typical March game when you played somebody for the third time. Not many easy baskets. I thought both teams guarded the first half. The second half, I didn’t think we guarded great and we got lucky that they missed some good looks. We made 4 shots outside of 3 feet for the night. So to come away with a win when the ball didn’t go in the basket, certainly I’m happy with that and happy that we get to spend another night here and play a much improved and tough West Virginia team.”
On KU’s effectiveness throwing the ball down low to David McCormack:
“If you followed us at all for the last 20 years, we love throwing the ball inside early in the game. That’s how we’ve always played. He’s the beneficiary of that usually. But we did want to give their bigs something to guard. That was something we wanted to do. David has scored the ball better of late and he’s getting more and more confident and obviously playing at a much higher level now that he’s had more opportunities in the last month, month and a half.”
Kansas sophomore guard Marcus Garrett:
On KU’s defense:
“I feel like we guarded great tonight knowing that when we played at Texas our ball screen defense wasn’t great at all. I feel like they got anywhere they wanted to go on the court. We played great defensively.”
NOTABLES – Full Notes
- The win gave KU 24 victories for the 14th-consecutive season, beginning in 2005-06.
- The victory also made KU 4-0 in neutral-site games this season and 14-1 over the last two seasons.
- Kansas is now 21-3 in Big 12 Championship first games (1-0 in first round, 20-3 in quarterfinals).
- KU advanced to the conference tourney semifinals for the 20th time in Big 12 history and 38th time overall.
- David McCormack (9) Dedric Lawson (9) and Devon Dotson (8) combined for 26 of KU’s 29 first half points.
- KU’s 65 points marked the fewest the Jayhawks had scored in a Big 12 tournament game since TCU held Kansas to 64 on March 12, 2015.
- Kansas outscored Texas 17-0 in fast break points. In its three meetings with Texas this season, the Jayhawks held a 38-5 advantage in this category.
- With 57 points, Texas became the fifth KU opponent held under 60 this season. Kansas has a 5-0 edge in those match-ups and a 167-1 mark in the Self era.
- Freshman forward David McCormack scored in double-figures for the third-straight game as he finished the night with 13 points going 6-for-7 from the field.
- Freshman guard Devon Dotson scored a team-high 17 points with a 6-for-11 clip from the field. Dotson added four rebounds and four assists while committing no turnovers.
- In his three meetings against Texas this season, Dotson had just one turnover in 102 minutes played.
- Dotson moved into 10th all-time in point totals by a freshman in a single season, passing J.R. Giddens who scored 374 points in 2004 and Mario Chalmers who tallied 379 in 2006. Dotson has 381 points this season.
The Jayhawks will play in the Big 12 Championship semifinals on Friday, March 15, at approximately 8:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2. KU will face the No. 10 seed West Virginia, meeting the Mountaineers in the Big 12 Tournament for the third time in the last four years. Kansas is 21-16 all-time in conference tournament semifinals, including 13-6 in the Big 12 Championship.
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