Jayhawks overcome slow start
Kansas erases halftime deficit, advances to championship game
NEW ORLEANS – Kansas had been in this spot before. Nearly two weeks ago against Purdue in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Nothing was working. The Boilermakers outplayed the Jayhawks for nearly 39 minutes -- until Kansas finally took the lead with under a minute remaining.
It happened again. Against another Big Ten opponent. And this time, in a slightly bigger spot -- against Ohio State in the national semifinals in a 64-62 win to setup a classic national championship game against Kentucky on Monday.
The Jayhawks are making a habit out of late game runs to put teams away, after closing their game against North Carolina in the Elite Eight on a 12-0 spurt.
“That’s been our whole thing all year, coming back from being down,” Kansas forward Thomas Robinson said. “I don’t like doing it, but for some reason my team is pretty good when we’re down.”
Robinson wasn’t going to let the Jayhawks fall short. The junior poured in 19 points and eight rebounds, including being the spark behind a 13-4 run to start the second half which erased a nine-point halftime deficit.
Like most nights for Kansas, there were other contributors too. Center Jeff Withey continued to show why he was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, as he blocked seven Ohio state shots. That presence alone was one of the big reasons the Jayhawks were able to shut down Ohio State star Jared Sullinger. The forward was held to just 5 of 19 from the field and 13 points.
Possibly chalk it up to some halftime adjustments after shooting just 37 percent in the first half, but Kansas not only went 14 of 26 in the second half, it held the Buckeyes to just 24-percent shooting.
“We were awful in the first half,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We had no energy and were tight. In the second half, we came out and played so much better and had so much more energy. We had a couple of possessions where we actually didn’t score, but had great possessions on layups and stuff. The bottom line is with this team, if we defend and rebound, good things will happen.”
And thanks to that, New Orleans will bleed blue on Monday night in the national championship game. The two teams with the most victories in NCAA history will take the Superdome court. Combined they total more than 4,000 wins.
But none of that matters. Monday only counts as one. It just means a whole lot more.