Jayhawks shoot past West Virginia, into Big 12 final
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Impressive shooting nights from Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes helped push the No. 17/18 Kansas Jayhawks past the West Virginia Mountaineers, 88-74, Friday night in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship semifinal contest at Sprint Center. The No. 3-seeded Jayhawks advanced to meet the No. 5 seed Iowa State Cyclones in the tournament final on Saturday, March 16 at 5 p.m. (CT).
The victory, which saw KU advance to its 14th Big 12 Tournament final, moved the Jayhawks’ record to 25-8 on the year. West Virginia fell to 14-20 in its 2018-19 campaign.
Lawson and Devon Dotson, who combined for 32 points in KU’s quarterfinal win over Texas Thursday, picked up where they left off the night prior. The two Jayhawks poured in 14 of their team’s first 17 points to help KU race out to an early 17-15 advantage over the Mountaineers in the first seven minutes of action.
The Kansas offense then went stagnant, however. KU missed nine-straight field goals over a four-minute span, and West Virginia took advantage, building a seven-point lead. Chase Harler’s 3-pointer at the 6:07 mark put the Mountaineers up 30-23.
Grimes then caught fire from beyond the arc and the Jayhawks flipped the momentum before the halftime buzzer sounded. The freshman out of The Woodlands, Texas hit four triples over the final 4:15 of the opening frame, which included converting on a rare and-one opportunity from deep. Grimes’ four-point play gave the lead back to Kansas at 38-36, still with 2:28 before the break.
After a pair of Marcus Garrett lay-ups to keep the Jayhawks’ furious finish to the first half going, Grimes rose up from well beyond the arc and swished his fifth 3-pointer of the night just before time expired. The basket capped a 16-4 KU run to close the half and gave Kansas a 48-40 advantage as the two squads headed to the intermission.
The break from action did little to halt the KU momentum. Lawson scored nine points in the six minutes following the restart and aided the Jayhawks to a 16-6 run after coming out of the locker room. The stretch saw KU push its lead to 18 points, going up 64-46 on Garrett’s lay-up at the 14:29 mark. Kansas’ bench then got into the scoring action as Mitch Lightfoot and Charlie Moore combined for six points during a 9-1 Jayhawk spurt that saw the KU lead reach its largest of the night at 23 points, 75-52, with just over eight minutes to play in regulation.
The Mountaineers made one final push to get back in the game as the No. 10 seed went on a 10-0 run over the next two minutes and slashed the Kansas advantage to 13 points. But Dotson had an answer after a Bill Self timeout. The freshman point guard cut to the rim for a lay-up and kicked off an 11-4 stretch that got KU’s lead back to 20 points and handed the final knockout blow to the Mountaineers.
Kansas closed out the 88-74 win and improved to 14-6 in Big 12 semifinals.
Lawson finished the night with his 16th 20-point scoring effort of the season, posting 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Grimes added 18 points which included five 3-pointers, all of which were in the second half. He also pulled down eight rebounds and collected four steals, both of which were season-highs. Dotson contributed 13 points to the KU scoring effort and added six assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes of action.
KU finished the day shooting 52.4 percent from the field (33-63), which included eight 3-pointers. The Jayhawks also outscored the Mountaineers 17-4 in fast break points.
QUOTES – Full Quotes
Head coach Bill Self
“We didn’t get off to a really good start and didn’t guard very well to start. Certainly West Virginia played better than we did the first 15 minutes or so, but then we got hot and Quentin carried us in the first half and we were pretty efficient in the second half. Certainly looking forward to playing a talented and a red hot Iowa State team tomorrow.”
On Quentin Grimes:
“He shot the ball ridiculously well the first half and there was absolutely no hesitation. He was so confident. Second half his looks were good. The last one he didn’t get close because I think he cramped in his shot. But it’s a weapon that we desperately need and certainly something that, you know, we need a guy to catch fire like that, that can carry us for a four or five-minute stretch. If it weren’t for him over a four or five minute stretch, West Virginia controlled the first half and we ended up going 8 just primarily because of Quentin.”
RS-Junior forward Dedric Lawson
On what the focus was in the second half:
“I guess to a certain extent we went out big and got lackadaisical with turnovers and stuff and we could have put them away and we got easy baskets to get our guys more confident. So we just gotta keep our foot on their neck when we got them down.”
NOTABLES – Full Notes
- The win made Kansas 25-8 give KU 25 victories for the 14th-consecutive season, beginning in 2005-06
- The win also made KU 5-0 in neutral-site games this season and 15-1 over the last two seasons.
- The victory made Kansas 14-6 in Big 12 Championship semifinal games, 22-16 in all-time conference tourney semis.
- Kansas is now 41-9 all-time in Sprint Center, including 3-0 this season.
- Kansas used a 13-2 run to erase a 34-30 deficit into a 43-36 lead with 1:02 remaining in the half. West Virginia never regained the lead.
- Over the final three minutes of the first half and the first 5:30 of the second, KU outscored WVU 32-10.
- KU went 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the first half marking the first time Kansas has shot 100% from the line in a half with a minimum of 10 attempts since Kansas went 13-of-13 against Kansas State in the second half on January 29, 2018.
- KU’s 88 points were the most by the Jayhawks at the Sprint Center since Kansas tallied 98 in a victory over Purdue on March 23, 2017. The point total was its most in a Big 12 tournament game since KU defeated Iowa State 88-73 on March 15, 2013.
- Kansas shot 52.4 percent from the field marking the 12th time this season the Jayhawks have shot 50% or better. KU is 12-0 in those contests with a 250-9 record in the Self era.
- RS-Junior forward Dedric Lawson scored a team high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting while grabbing eight rebounds. His double digit effort marked his 31st 10-plus point game this season.
- Freshman guard Devon Dotson has 394 points this season, putting him ninth in the freshman single-season record book as he moved past Darnell Valentine who scored 392 points in 1978.
- In his two games in the Big 12 Championship, Dotson has posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 10:1.
- Freshman Quentin Grimes’ 5-of-5 clip from 3-point range in the first half matched the most by a Jayhawk in a half this season. Charlie Moore hit five in the second half against South Dakota on December 18, 2018.
- Grimes has made 51 threes on the season as he moved past Sherron Collins who made 47 in 2007, Mario Chalmers who made 48 in 2006, Billy Thomas who hit 49 in 1995 and Brandon Rush who made 50 in 2006 for fifth all-time in threes made in a single season by a freshman.
- Since the calendar turned to March, Grimes is 14-of-29 from beyond the arc (48.2 percent).
Kansas will play in its 22nd overall conference tournament championship game, including its 14th in the Big 12 era, when the Jayhawks meet Iowa State in the final. Kansas has won 15 conference postseason tournament titles and has a 15-6 championship game record. In the Big 12, KU is 11-2 in title games with its last championship in 2018. The Big 12 Championship final is slated for Saturday, March 16 at 5 p.m. (Central), and will be broadcast on ESPN.
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