The Day After: Trippin' up the Terps in the Sweet 16
Maryland was bigger, they said. Kansas out-rebounded them. By a lot.
Maryland may have more overall talent, they said. Kansas had the three best players in the game.
Maryland would be a real test, unlike anything KU saw in Des Moines, they said. And yet Kansas still won by 16 points, 79-63 on Thursday night at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
There may have been more than a few signs pointing to the Sweet 16 match-up with Maryland being a serious challenge for the top-seeded Kansas basketball team, but the Jayhawks did not let any of those change anything about the way they do business.
This team is so focused and on such a mission that, at this point, it seems like it’s going to take a truly special performance by an opponent to derail the train the Jayhawks are rolling on right now.
I could not help but keep thinking after this one how it was pretty much the polar opposite of the UConn game. Instead of overwhelming the Terrapins in the first half, the way they did the Huskies last week in Round 2, KU survived a rough first half — with a two-point lead, no less — and then unleashed a second-half barrage that produced seven more points for the Jayhawks and five fewer points for the Terps than what each team had recorded in the opening half. In short, when it mattered most, KU rose to the occasion. And if you hope to keep advancing at this time of year, that’s exactly what you have to do. KU did that, in yet another impressive manner, and the Jayhawks are back in the Elite Eight for the first time in four seasons.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Perry Ellis was good. We all know that by now. But the thing that impressed me most about Ellis’ big night was how well and how willing the Jayhawks were to ride him. For a stretch there in the second half, KU went through Ellis on every single possession and just dared Maryland to stop him. They couldn’t, of course, and that’s just good coaching, good chemistry and the latest crystal-clear sign that this group of guys (a) really plays well together (b) really likes each other and (c) will do anything it takes to win. Thursday night, that was feeding Ellis the rock and they did that over and over.
2 – Give Kansas credit for not panicking early on when things weren’t going well. In year’s past — perhaps even earlier this year — KU might have just forced up a bunch of three-pointers on a night when an opponent frustrated their offensive flow. Not Thursday. Not only did KU stay tough and continue fighting to find something that worked, they only took nine three-pointers all night, another sign of how well they understood how dominant Ellis was.
3 – It sure is fun to watch Wayne Selden play locked-in, intense basketball. And, boy, what a clutch player he has become. You can tell this run means something to Selden. It shows up in just about everything he does out there. And his numbers and production are matching his mindset. Selden was great again Thursday night (19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and there’s no reason to believe he’ll be anything but that on Saturday as well.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – There were quite a few silly fouls by Kansas in this game, a couple coming from Jamari Traylor and at least one more coming from Frank Mason. Fouls that come from effort and energy and intensity you can live with. But fouls that come from momentarily losing your focus or laziness with your feet aren’t good. And they really won’t be good if they show up Saturday night against a Villanova team with a veteran backcourt and a roster that made 18 of 19 free throws in its Sweet 16 win on Thursday night.
2 – It didn’t end up hurting them, but it could down the road. There were a handful of empty possessions in the second half that ended with careless, unforced Kansas turnovers, most of them coming with KU up five and in position to go up seven or eight or up nine and in position to make the lead double digits. On at least a few occasions, that kept the door cracked for Maryland, who never seriously threatened after the first few minutes of the second half. Still, the fact that those moments were the result of self-inflicted wounds is something to sigh about.
3 – Devonte’ Graham gets a pass because he was playing through injury and illness, but losing Brannen Greene to injury altogether is not the kind of news you want this time of year. Greene sat out the game because of back spasms and does not appear to be likely to play on Saturday. Although it’s been 10 games since he played more than 11 minutes — and in those 10 games he has made just three shots total — Greene’s still a little bit of a veteran and, even if he’s not hitting or even taking deep threes, he’s a threat to do so. Plus, he’s a terrific free throw shooter. KU can overcome his absence. But it’s definitely not something Jayhawk fans wanted to hear about.
One for the road
Here’s how KU’s Sweet 16 victory over Maryland in Louisville impacted the program...
• WINNING STREAK: Kansas extends its winning streak to 17 games... It is KU's longest of the season and the longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I... KU features 14 winning streaks of 10 games or better during the Bill Self era.
• AWAY FROM HOME: KU is now 18-4 away from Allen Fieldhouse this season... The Jayhawks have won eight-straight neutral-site games, not including the Dec. 12 win over Oregon State at Sprint Center in Kansas City, which was deemed a home game by the NCAA.
• W-L RECORDS: Bill Self improves to 385-82 (.824) while at Kansas, 592-187 (.760) all-time, and 40-16 (.714) in the NCAA Championship (30-11 while at KU)... Kansas is now 2,186-835 all-time.
The Jayhawks advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012, when they defeated North Carolina to reach the Final Four. Top-seeded Kansas will play No. 2 seed Villanova at 7:50 p.m. on Saturday at KFC Yum! Center.
— See what people were saying about the Sweet 16 matchup between KU and Maryland during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Sweet 16 victory over Maryland
- One step closer: Ellis’ career night leads KU into Elite Eight
- Keegan: Lucas uses brain and brawn inside
- Turgeon: We lost to nation’s best team
- Miles misses playing days
- Notebook: Haase possible candidate for Stanford vacancy
- Sweet victory: Jayhawks beat Maryland to stay alive
- Keegan Ratings: Ellis continues hot streak in NCAA Tournament