Omaha Despite a slow start that saw No. 2 seed Kansas play with the lead for the first 15 minutes of the first half, the seventh-seeded Wichita State Shockers got hot when it counted and ran over the Jayhawks, 78-65 on Sunday at CenturyLink Center.
WSU junior Evan Wessel, who gave up inches and pounds to his former high school teammate Perry Ellis, knocked in 4 of 6 three-point shots and grabbed 8 rebounds to, at worst, make a wash out of the battle that many believed was KU's biggest advantage heading into the game.
Wessel finished with 12 points to Ellis' 17, but nearly every one of his three-pointers came at a huge time. The unexpected offensive output from their undersized four man sparked a ton of confidence in the rest of the WSU lineup, which drained 10 of 20 three-pointers overall and jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the second half and never looked back.
Images from the Jayhawks third-round NCAA Tournament game against Wichita State Sunday, March 22, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE.
Minutes after Kansas University's basketball season ended Sunday in Omaha, Jayhawks coach Bill Self, as well as players Perry Ellis and Devonté Graham, answer questions from the media about how Wichita State knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament.
Ron Baker (12 points) and Fred VanVleet (17) were both good but not great, and Wichita State's supporting cast went toe-to-toe with a deeper and bigger KU squad to pull out the victory. Tekele Cotton led the Shockers with 19 points.
Devonté Graham helped lead KU (27-9) with 17 points and Frank Mason III added 16 points and 6 rebounds before fouling out with just under three minutes to play.
Wichita State (30-4) moves on to play No. 3 seed Notre Dame in the Sweet 16 next week in Cleveland.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Wichita State dug deep defensively when Kansas had a chance to go up by 10 late in the first half. A Landen Lucas hook in the post hit the back iron and Wessel hit a three-pointer on the other end. Instead of KU going up 26-16, Wichita State cut the lead to 24-19. That sparked a 13-2 WSU run that closed the half and gave the Shockers a three-point lead — and a huge emotional edge — at halftime.
• Offensive highlight: Outside of a couple of jumpers and nice put-backs, there really weren't any offensive highlights for Kansas, which struggled offensively most of the afternoon.
• Defensive highlight: Lucas continued to be an effective defender in the paint, both in terms of body position and altering shots. On one drive by VanVleet in the first half, Lucas used his body control to avoid the foul and still had enough sense to reach out and block the short shot off the backboard and into his own hands.
• Key stat: Three-point shooting. The Shockers made 10 of 20 from downtown and looked comfortable and in rhythm with just about every one of them. KU, meanwhile, made just 6 of 21 from behind the arc and looked nothing like the hot-shooting team that rolled over New Mexico State in the first round on Friday.
• Up next: For the second year in a row, the Jayhawks bow out of the tournament without advancing past the first weekend. KU finishes the season 27-9 and, as is the case just about every year no matter when the season ends, will head into the offseason wondering who will leave, who will be back and how Bill Self will reload.