When Kansas needed him most, Josh Jackson could have been overwhelmed. They also earned a ticket to the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, Missouri, their first since 2014.
It’s back to the Sweet 16 for the Kansas Jayhawks, who powered through in the second half to defeat the Michigan State Spartans 90-70 Sunday afternoon in Tulsa. He did everything he could, and yet Jackson had just given KU some 64-57 space with nine minutes left. Miles Bridges scored 18 points and led Michigan State with nine rebounds.
Senior Frank Mason had 20 points and Devonte Graham added 18 for KU, which saw Michigan State cut a double-digit lead to five by halftime.
After Jackson had scored 14 of his game-high 23 points in the final 12 minutes, I asked Self how nice it was to have a player of Jackson’s ability be so assertive at such an important time of year.
Michigan State seems to play the role of underdog well, at least under Tom Izzo, and there’s never a loss for hope as long as he’s at the helm. And each time, Kansas emerged from the momentary break with complete control. “And they (Jayhawks) were shooting too fast and the pace was too fast and everything, but we’re better when we have pace”. This is a conclusion drawn not only by having two functioning eyes and coming across a Jayhawks game at most points of this season, but also by seeing what transpired at the BOK Center this weekend. He scored 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double.
Total team effort. Total team emphasis. In fact, Jackson claimed there was little trash tossed around.
As the Sweet 16 takes shape, we’ve got grades for all of Sunday’s winners. He’ll continue to hear about them as his team progresses through the tournament. No one on this roster plays for himself, and everyone plays for the common cause of hanging another banner inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Coleby, who averaged five minutes and 1.7 points entering the game, played effectively after starter Landen Lucas got in foul trouble. A free throw made by Ward after a layup brought the Spartans within four, 50-46, with 15:44 to play.
“It was real fun”, he said. “I thought he’s improved his jump shot a lot”.
“It was a hard game to coach in large part because nobody listened to me”, Self joked.
The entire team took on that persona and played its best basketball of the season in the final 12 minutes, to bury Michigan State, 90-70, with a 36-17 flurry, including a 21-6 advantage in the final 6:54.
The ACC’s struggles represent a stunning turn of events for a team that had done very well in March lately. “But a really good 10”. “We’re not going to back down just because you bump us or something like that”.
“What excites me is getting good enough to compete in these kinds of games”, Izzo said. The Spartans were a slight underdog going in and trailed 10-0 to start the game.
“I think depth could be an issue”, Izzo said.
– The Jayhawks shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the second half Saturday, picking up 14 second-chance points and 38 points in the paint.
Only the Jayhawks weren’t paying much attention to the lore of Michigan State mojo.