By Matt Tait.
One can only wonder what Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self told his team at halftime of Thursday's 91-63 quarterfinal victory over ninth-seeded Texas Tech at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
After a sluggish first 20 minutes, the top-seeded Jayhawks (27-5) rocked the Red Raiders with a 39-19 run that looked more like what you would expect from the Big 12's No. 1 seed.
KU led 34-25 at the break and then scored 35 points in 13 minutes to take control and advance to Friday's semifinals.
Red-shirt freshman Ben McLemore once again filled up the stat sheet, finishing with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-8 from three-point range.
Kansas jumped out to a 15-5 lead and looked sharp in doing it, but turned sloppy once the reserves came in. That allowed Texas Tech to hang around for much longer than many people expected. Just 10 days ago, KU drubbed Texas Tech, 79-42, in Lawrence on Senior Night.
This one wound up being a drubbing, too, but Tech, which knocked off eight-seed West Virginia on Wednesday night, definitely caused a few problems for the Jayhawks in the first half.
By game's end, however, Self enjoyed the luxury of emptying his bench — Rio Adams scored 11 points late — and the Jayhawks easily advanced to the much-anticipated rematch with Iowa State.
Here’s a quick look back at some of Thursday's action:
• The game turned when: The Jayhawks closed the first half with a 7-0 run — buckets by Perry Ellis, Withey, Withey, and Withey free throw — and then opened the second with a 10-2 run. The 17-2 spurt turned a 27-25 KU lead into a much more comfortable 44-27 lead, and the rout was on.
• Offensive highlight: If you don't count the pure beauty of Ben McLemore's jump shot — which could hold down this spot every game — then the red-shirt freshman takes the cake here for two early dunks. The first delivered KU's first points of the game off a nice alley-oop pass from Elijah Johnson. The second, moments later, was off a tip-ahead pass that led to a wide-open path and a vicious tomahawk dunk.
• Defensive highlight: Let's give this one to Ben McLemore, whose steal and push ahead to Travis Releford early in the second half resulted in a four-point play as Releford finished the bucket, was fouled and hit both free throws after a flagrant foul was called. The series pushed KU's lead to 21 — 52-31 — and allowed the Jayhawks to rest a couple of guys late to save some for the weekend.
• Key stat: Points in the paint. It didn't matter if it was Withey, Ellis, Kevin Young or even Jamari Traylor, the Jayhawks got just about everything they wanted at the rim and outscored the Red Raiders 34-22 down low. KU also shot 19-of-22 from the free throw line.
• Up next: The victory moved the Jayhawks into the semifinals, where they will face Iowa State at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
KU will play Iowa State at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
KU has turned up the offensive efficiency in the second half.