Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 65-50 victory over Detroit on March 16, 2012.
Kansas juniors Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 65-50 victory over Detroit on March 16, 2012.
Detroit coach Ray McCallum and players Ray McCallum, Jr. and Eli Holman talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 65-50 victory over Detroit on March 16, 2012.
Omaha, Neb. The Kansas University basketball players were back in the team hotel when Norfolk State knocked Missouri out of the NCAA Tournament.
They were listening to their coach, Bill Self, give his pregame speech when Lehigh had Duke on the ropes.
Self tried to time his speech right, but with the Purdue-Saint Mary’s game taking a little longer to wrap up than he anticipated, Self had an opportunity to fill time with another reminder.
“The Duke game, there were five seconds left or 20 seconds left when I finished with my pregame talk,” Self said. “I told them, ‘Hey, Duke’s getting ready to get beat.’ So that’s a 15 beating a 2, a 15 beating a 2, a 13 beating a 4, an 11 beating a 6, all today. I didn’t make a point because sometimes when you make a point, it adds pressure because you’re almost saying it’s possible.”
With inspired play from Dunkin’ Doug Anderson, the most spectacular dunker in college basketball, Detroit Mercy was trying to show it was possible, but it didn’t last, and Kansas moved on with a 65-50 victory.
Anderson’s reverse jam put Detroit up 21-19, but from there Kansas went on a 34-7 run that featured terrific defensive pressure on the perimeter.
They make automobiles in Detroit, not bicycle baskets. Not baskets of any kind, evidently.
Anderson is a remarkable dunker, as advertised, and Eli Holman a physical force.
But if you can’t shoot the ball, you can’t score, and if you can’t score, you can’t win. A laser-focused Kansas defense made sure it was not going to let its opponent get easy baskets. It made sure it was not going to become the third No. 2 seed to fall in one day after it hadn’t happened once in the previous 10 tournaments.
Detroit made just two of 22 field goals during the 34-7 run.
Guarded by long, slender LaMarcus Lowe and with physical and long Eli Holman helping, Robinson figured out how to get shots, made seven of 13 and produced game-high totals in points (16) and rebounds (13).
The rest after a semifinal loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament seemed to restore energy to Robinson, who has carried so much of the load this season for a Kansas team shy on depth.
During KU’s run, Robinson showed he’s no slouch as a dunker either. He intercepted a pass near midcourt and dribbled it all the way in for a two-handed flush that sent the pro-KU spectators to a high point and triggered a Detroit timeout.
Robinson said he and teammates didn’t talk much about the upsets — they didn’t really have time to digest Duke’s — but they didn’t ignore them, either.
“It did wake us up, give us a little more energy, make us realize it’s March, anybody’s capable of getting beat right now,” Robinson said.
Kansas played like a team that knew it was facing a team loaded with high-flying athletes and knew the best way to avoid an upset was to make the Jayhawks’ biggest strength (keeping teams from scoring) combine with Detroit’s weakness (scoring). That’s exactly what happened.
“I don’t think we were surprised,” Robinson said. “Coming into this game, we were expecting a tough game. And that dunk, we weren’t surprised at all. We watched the highlight tape, and that guy’s a walking highlight tape.”
Anderson fouled out in just 15 minutes of playing time and still led Detroit with 15 points. He made five of eight field goals, and four of them came on dunks, which to a large extent was the extent of Detroit’s range.
The Titans made just three of 17 three-pointers (.176), and some of that could be attributed to KU not giving them very many clean looks.