By Matt Tait
Lahaina, Hawaii — Kansas University coach Bill Self is finally a Maui Invitational champion.
Self and the No. 5 Jayhawks brought home the coach's first Maui title in four tries — he previously was 0-for-2 at KU — with a 70-63 victory over No. 19 Vanderbilt on Wednesday night at Lahaina Civic Center.
KU junior Wayne Selden Jr. carried most of the load for the Jayhawks (4-1), scoring 25 points — matching his carer high — on 8-for-11 shooting and leading the Jayhawks through some of their toughest times against a team that some college basketball analysts are calling a Final Four contender.
Vandy (5-1) jumped out to a 16-6 lead early in the game and used its size to frustrate the Jayhawks. But once Kansas got running and Selden started hitting, the title game looked an awful lot like the two games that came before it in Maui.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Kansas stormed out of the locker room after halftime and turned a four-point deficit into a nine-point lead with a 27-14 run during the second half's first 10 minutes. As was the case in the opening half with KU's run to get back into it, Selden led the way on the offensive end during this run, as well, scoring eight of his team-high 25 points during the stretch.
• Offensive highlight: With just under a minute left to play in the first half, Landen Lucas followed up a Jamari Traylor miss in the post with a monster slam that pulled Kansas within four at the break. Lucas had an up-and-down first half, but that bucket was big both for him and for KU's ability to show the Commodores that they have some beef inside, as well. As for the best of KU's many three-pointers, that one came from Selden, whose wide-open knock-down in front of the KU bench pushed the lead to 51-42 and featured Selden quickly celebrating with his teammates on the bench after the shot fell through.
• Defensive highlight: As predicted, Vanderbilt tried to pound the ball inside early and often and on one of their best looks in the early going, KU's Selden recovered in time to reject what looked to be a sure layup from Luke Kornet.
• Key stat: Despite giving up some serious size inside to Vandy's big front line, KU out-rebounded the Commodores 39-32 to help secure the victory. Vanderbilt had out-rebounded every opponent it had played thus far this season until Wednesday night.
• Up next: After spending Thanksgiving on the islands, the Jayhawks return home for a Tuesday game against Loyola (Maryland) at 7 p.m. The game will mark the first KU game in the career of freshman forward Cheick Diallo, who was cleared to play in that game by the NCAA on Wednesday.