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5 stats that popped for Kansas in a Sweet 16 victory over Clemson

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Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pulls up for a three over Clemson forward Aamir Simms (25) during the second half, Friday, March 23, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) pulls up for a three over Clemson forward Aamir Simms (25) during the second half, Friday, March 23, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. by Nick Krug

Omaha, Neb. — The Midwest’s No. 1 seed, Kansas didn’t dominate many categories or blow by No. 5 Clemson Friday night at CenturyLink Center.

Still, the Jayhawks did enough to emerge with the Sweet 16 victory, 80-76.

Here are five statistics that helped KU reach the Elite Eight for the third postseason in a row.

3-point boost

For the first time during this NCAA Tournament the Jayhawks achieved something they so often made look easy during the regular season, draining double-digit 3-pointers.

KU’s four starting guards combined to account for all 10 of the 3-point makes, as well as each of the 22 attempts, as the Jayhawks scored at least 30 from downtown for the 17th time in 37 games.

In draining 4 of 7 form downtown, Malik Newman improved his tournament 3-point accuracy to 8 for 17 (47%) headed into Sunday’s Elite Eight showdown with Duke, which will play a 2-3 zone KU’s shooters will need to exploit.

Lagerald Vick connected on 3 of 6 from deep versus Clemson, marking his his third straight tournament game with 2 or more 3-point makes.

Svi Mykhailiuk only made 1 of 4 in the Sweet 16 win, while Devonte’ Graham hit 2 of 5.

Clemson converted on 6 of 20 3-pointers in its season-ending loss.

No deficits

In another tourney first for these Jayhawks, KU never trailed Clemson in the Sweet 16 battle between the Big 12 and the ACC.

Kansas led for 38:30 of its third March Madness win, after falling behind in opening-weekend victories over Penn and Seton Hall. The Jayhawks trailed for 12:35 against the Quakers and for 2:53 versus the Pirates.

Against Clemson, though, Udoka Azubuike provided the game’s first basket, and after the Tigers’ David Skara answered on the other end to tie the game, Newman scored a layup to give Kansas the lead for good.

De Sousa productive

No one expected Azubuike to play 30-plus minutes in his first start since injuring his left knee. When Bill Self yanked backup Mitch Lightfoot from the floor after the sophomore played less than two minutes in the first half it was up to Silvio De Sousa to relieve Azubuike the next time the starting center needed to sub out.

De Sousa gave Kansas a lift in 13 minutes off the bench, with 9 points, 6 rebounds and a block. The freshman big man made 3 of 4 shots from the floor, as well as 3 of 4 at the foul line.

Still not a player to run post offense through necessarily, De Sousa produced his baskets with hustle, beating the defense down the floor for an alley-oop in the first half and scoring off of offensive rebounds on two other occasions.

Lightfoot played just 2 minutes, but thanks to another young backup big, De Sousa, KU’s bench outscored Clemson’s 11-9.

1st-half defense

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) defend as Clemson guard Shelton Mitchell (4) drives during the first half, Friday, March 23, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) defend as Clemson guard Shelton Mitchell (4) drives during the first half, Friday, March 23, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. by Nick Krug

Though the Tigers did an excellent job of recovering in the second half, they didn’t look ready for the Sweet 16 stage for earlier stretches. That had a lot to do with KU’s defensive efforts before halftime.

The Jayhawks limited Clemson to 10-for-28 shooting (36%) in the first 20 minutes, only allowed the Tigers to make 2 of 7 3-pointers (29%) and kept them from getting easy looks in the paint (12, compared to KU’s 26). Clemson also turned it over 8 times.

While Kansas didn’t maintain its lead or defensive effectiveness in the second half, having a 13-point lead at intermission played a significant part in the win.

Svi in set-up role

Clemson succeeded in limiting Graham’s effectiveness both as a scorer (4-for-12 shooting) and a passer (4 assists, his lowest total since KU’s win at Texas Tech).

The Tigers also kept Mykhailiuk from getting in a rhythm (9 points, 4 of 11 overall, 1 of 4 on 3-pointers). But the senior guard from Ukraine helped pick up some of the distribution Graham usually provides. Mykhailiuk tied for the team-lead in assists, with 4 — his most since producing the same number in KU’s win at Tech.

Mykhailiuk assisted on the game’s first basket, helping Azubuike get headed in the right direction. Near the midway point of the first half, the senior fed the big man again out of a timeout, with a precise entry pass over the top of Clemson’s defense that set up a lay-in.

In the second half, Mykhailiuk found Vick for a 3-pointer shortly after halftime. Minutes later, he sent a pass to Newman for another 3.

In what proved to be a hectic game, the Jayhawks needed Mykhailiuk’s passing. The senior played 36 minutes, committed 2 turnovers and finished with the best +/- on the team: +10.

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