Wichita — Even on a night when Kansas didn’t get its typical production out of star Devonte’ Graham, the senior’s teammates more than made up for it against Seton Hall at Intrust Bank Arena.
KU’s other three backcourt starters all produced double-digit points and gigantic sixth man Udoka Azubuike looked revived and ready inside as the Jayhawks advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 83-79 win over Seton Hall Saturday in the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
Sophomore guard Malik Newman led Kansas with 28 points on 8-for-14 shooting. Junior Lagerald Vick added 13 and senior Svi Mykhailiuk provided 16, as Graham gave his team eight points and nine assists versus the Pirates (22-12).
The top-seeded Jayhawks struggled offensively in the first half, hitting just 13 of 31 shots overall (41.9 percent) and 3 of 12 from 3-point range. Throw in seven turnovers on 35 possessions and KU only took a 31-26 lead into halftime, despite limiting Seton Hall to 10-for-31 shooting.
An uncharacteristic half of basketball from senior Graham (1 of 5 from the floor, four turnovers, two assists in 19 minutes) helped the upset-minded Pirates stick around.
So did dominating senior Seton Hall center Angel Delgado, who harmed KU with 24 points and 23 rebounds.
Without Azubuike’s 10 points and seven rebounds, Kansas might be headed home for the season. Instead, the Jayhawks reached the a regional semifinal for the third straight March.
View a gallery of images from Saturday's second-round game between the Jayhawks and the Pirates in Wichita.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: The Jayhawks unleashed a relatively-healthy-looking Azubuike to open the second half.
The 7-footer came off the bench again, as he continues to ease his way into playing with a recently-strained medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Playing 11 first-half minutes, Azubuike looked more ready for the demands of playing the post than he did two days earlier versus Penn, giving the Jayhawks (29-7) three points, four rebounds and a block.
But the sophomore center transformed into something close to his regular-season self after halftime.
Less than three minutes into the second half, Azubuike had an offensive rebound, and two massive jams, pushing Kansas to a double-digit lead.
After an ineffective first half of offense, KU began to roll with its massive center leading the way.
Azubuike finished 4 of 5 from the floor, and although some foul trouble meant he spent stretches of the second half on the bench, KU advanced thanks to his presence.
The Jayhawks were able to get out in front of Seton Hall and survive a frantic finish during which Khadeen Carrington scored 13 of his 28 points in the final 1:06.
• Offensive highlight: Azubuike officially introduced himself to the SetonHall frontcourt less than two minutes into the second half with the type of finish we’ve seen from him countless times this season.
Graham saw an opportunity to throw a lob for the 7-foot sophomore on the back side of Seton Hall’s defense and the senior point guard didn’t think twice about passing an alley-oop as high as he would to a healthy Azubuike.
The center, who started the second half in place of Mitch Lightfoot, exploded off the floor to hammer in a two-handed jam.
• Defensive highlight: The Pirates struggled to take care of the ball in the game’s opening minutes.
On one Seton Hall possession, Mykhailiuk saw an ill-timed Myles Cale entry pass to the paint coming from a mile away.
The senior KU guard jumped the pass, and pushed the ball ahead for Kansas.
Seconds later, the ball was back in Mykhailiuk’s hands on the perimeter, and he went straight into attack-mode, driving the ball downhill toward the paint.
As Seton Hall’s defense rotated toward the slashing senior from Ukraine, he rose up, presumably to take a contested floater on the right side of the floor.
Instead, Mykhailiuk floated a pass over the top of the rim and into the waiting hands of Azubuike, who scored his first basket of the NCAA Tournament on a powerful alley-oop, giving KU an 11-6 lead.
• Key stat: Points off turnovers. The Jayhawks needed all the help they could get versus a hard-fighting bunch of Pirates. When Seton Hall turned it over, KU got exactly the types of boosts it needed.
Kansas finished with 20 points off Seton Hall’s 15 giveaways in the second-round win. Conversely, the Pirates only scored five points off KU’s 11 miscues.
• Up next: The Jayhawks head on to Omaha, Neb., where they will face the victor of a second-round matchup between Auburn and Clemson.