SAN ANTONIO — Ramping up for perhaps the biggest game in school history, 12th-seeded Richmond huddled in the tunnel. That’s when Kansas players came trotting past and the trouble started.
Shoves were traded. Words were exchanged and security appeared. It ended quickly without a fight and the Jayhawks went on their way.
|• Printable Bracket|
|• Did You Know?|
The game itself wasn’t much different.
Brady Morningstar scored 18 points and Kansas, playing like the dominant No. 1 seed in a historic NCAA regional full of underdogs, knocked off Richmond 77-57 on Friday night to move one victory from returning the Final Four for the first time since its 2008 championship.
“We were trying to get past, and they were shoving us,” Kansas guard Mario Little said of the pregame encounter. “But we tried to let our play do the talking, and I think we did a good job in the first half.”
There was no doubt about that.
The Spiders passed up open shots, bounced balls into the Kansas bench and found themselves down 31-9 with more than six minutes still left before halftime.
The Spiders looked jittery in the what was only the school’s second round-of-16 appearance. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, were calm and confident in reaching a fourth regional final under coach Bill Self.
Justin Harper led Richmond with 22 points.
“We weren’t able to slow them down in any way,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said.
Thomas Robinson had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Marcus Morris scored 13 for Kansas. The Jayhawks have yet to be tested so far this tournament, winning by an average of nearly 18 points.
The Southwest regional is the first in NCAA history with three double-digit seeded teams. Kansas awaited the winner of 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth and 10th-seeded Florida State.
It’s given the Jayhawks what appears — at least on paper — to be an easy-looking path toward the Final Four. The Jayhawks can make it to Houston next week without having beaten a seed higher than ninth-seeded Illinois.
If that happens, Kansas will join Michigan State in 2001 and North Carolina in 1991 as the only schools to get that far without having to beat a seed higher than nine. And only five teams have reached the Final Four by feasting on teams seeded eighth or lower, according to STATS LLC.
One of those schools? The 2008 Jayhawks.
That run ended in the Alamodome with Self winning his first title at Kansas. Three years later, the Jayhawks looked every bit at home in San Antonio.
Self downplayed the pregame tunnel dustup as “typical stuff, but it wasn’t anything.” Spiders guard Kevin Anderson, who had 14 points, said both teams were just eager to play and chalked it up to usual aggression.
Still, Self waited for Richmond to exit through the tunnel at halftime before letting his players walk down the same tunnel toward the locker room. Kansas was already ahead 41-22.
The Jayhawks shot 48 percent from the floor and made 9 of 19 3-pointers. Morningstar was 7 for 11 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Josh Selby added nine points.
Anderson and Harper were the only Richmond players in double figures.
Anderson, who hit the winning shot to upset Vanderbilt in the tournament opener, averaged 26.2 points in Richmond’s previous five wins against ranked teams. But he was 5 of 17 from the floor in his final game and missed all six of his 3-pointers.
“We didn’t really play that well tonight, so finishing like that is tough,” Richmond center Dan Geriot said. “There was a lot left in there for us to have competed a little better.”
The loss stopped Richmond from reaching the first regional final in school history. Mooney sought to inspire his players this week by showing them Richmond’s stunning win at Allen Fieldhouse in 2004, which ended Kansas’ 52-game home unbeaten streak against unranked opponents. It had been the only meeting between the schools before Friday.
This time, the Jayhawks never looked in trouble.
“It’s just a lot of energy, getting ready to play a big game,” Morningstar said. “So that’s how sports are sometimes. And I respect Richmond a lot. They’re a heck of a team, and I’m glad we got a win tonight.”