Salt Lake City — Kansas avoided being on the wrong end of a Cinderella Story in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
KU, the fourth seed in the Midwest Region, took care of business with a 87-53 win over 13th-seeded Northeastern Thursday afternoon at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Jayhawks trailed for only 1:27, leading by double digits for much of the second half, to notch their 13th consecutive first-round victory.
Dedric Lawson led Kansas with 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting, including a 3-for-5 effort from downtown, to go along with 11 rebounds in 27 minutes. In his tourney debut, freshman Devon Dotson scored 18 points. K.J. Lawson also poured in 13 points off the bench.
KU led by as many as 33 points at one point before ultimately putting in the reserves. Junior Jordan Roland was the only player to score in double figures for the Huskies, finishing with 12 points in the loss.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Many people were hyping this game up to be closer than the seeding difference indicated.
In fact, the spread for the game dropped to 6.5 by tipoff on most betting sites. After a sluggish start, Kansas created some cushion from a possible upset down the stretch in the first half. Northeastern, a team that boasted the fifth-best effective field goal percentage entering Thursday, did not hit a shot over the final 3:52 of the first half.
The Huskies missed nine of their last 10 shots to close out the first period. As a team, NU shot 8-of-31 from the floor in the first half. Kansas took a 37-25 advantage at the intermission and kept the opposition from striking distance for the remainder of the game.
• Offensive highlight: The Huskies did trim the deficit to seven points early in the second half, which forced Kansas coach Bill Self to call a timeout at the 17:05 mark.
The Jayhawks answered with eight unanswered points, including back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead back to double-digits. Freshman Quentin Grimes knocked down the first one, draining a triple from the right wing on an assist by K.J. Lawson.
Dedric Lawson then answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. One possession later, Dedric Lawson scored a bucket in the paint.
• Defensive highlight: The best defensive play of the game, of course, came from Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett.
After hitting a layup at the 13:58 mark, Garrett quickly picked up Northeastern senior Vasa Pusica before he crossed half court. Garrett poked the ball away from Pusica and then proceeded to beat him to the ball.
Garrett completed the sequence with his second layup in 13 seconds, giving Kansas a 13-9 advantage at the time. It was an example of Garrett’s strong defensive showing against Pusica, as he kept Northeastern’s leading scorer from netting a bucket in the first 12 minutes of the game.
• Key stat: Entering the game, Northeast was hyped up as a possible threat to Kansas due to its ability to shoot from deep.
The Huskies came into the game shooting 38.8 percent from long range, which was the 13th-best clip in the nation. They also got 38.5 percent of their points from beyond the arc prior to the opening round.
Against Kansas, though, NU struggled to it shots. The Huskies finished the game 6-of-28 from 3-point range in the loss.
•Up next: Kansas will face Auburn Saturday in the Round of 32.