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Kansas Jayhawks Season Ends In Blowout Second-Round Loss To Auburn Tigers

SALT LAKE CITY — The disaster scenario for the Kansas Jayhawks came to life on Saturday, as they were eliminated by the Auburn Tigers and their seemingly unstoppable offensive attack in the second round of the NCAA tournament 89-75.

KU finishes the season at 26-10, the most losses in a single season for the program since the 2013-14 season, when it also was eliminated in the second round.

Auburn was able to take advantage of its greatest strengths, while the Jayhawks couldn’t take advantage of the Tigers’ greatest flaws. Specifically, KU couldn’t stop the three defensively, wasn’t able to make stops in transition and executed poorly when given a rare look on offense.

“Well, obviously we’re disappointed in how we played,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But also how we played shouldn’t take away from how great Auburn played. They were fantastic. We hadn’t seen an onslaught like that all year, in the first ten minutes of the game. And they rattled us and we didn’t respond very well.”

The Tigers came out blazing hot from deep, going 6-of-8 from beyond the arc to start the game. They’d go 9-of-17 from three in the opening 20 minutes. Bryce Brown led the early attack for Auburn with 17 first-half points and a 5-of-6 effort from three.

Kansas wasn’t able to muster any sort of offensive consistency against a hyper-athletic Auburn defense. KU shot under 30 percent from the floor in the first half and went just 1-of-10 from three. Turnovers were a problem as well, like they have been all season. The Jayhawks gave the ball away eight times in the first half.

With all of those factors in play, Auburn led by 26 at the half. KU had 25 points.

“I feel like we didn’t do a good job of getting to the shooters in the first half,” sophomore guard Marcus Garrett said. “But some of those lobs when they were losing the ball, just throwing them up, everything seemed like it was going in for them.”

The second half started out a relatively brighter note for Kansas, as it made its first seven shots of the half. On the downside, Auburn made its first five shots so KU only made up one point in that stretch.

The Jayhawks actually outscored the Tigers in the second half, but never made a big enough run to realistically have a chance to compete late.

“When you’re playing an athletic team like that, and they’re far more athletic and quicker, the things you have to do is, your first step has to be full speed,” Self said. “You can’t run an even race with them. You have to be ahead, because if you run an even race, it will be hard to catch up. And they had us so stretched out.”

In what could have been his final game in a Kansas uniform, junior forward Dedric Lawson recorded his 22nd double-double of the season, leading KU in points and rebounds with 25 and 10, respectively. He was forced to work hard for those 25 points, going just 8-of-17 from the floor, though hitting all seven of his free throw attempts.

Lawson broke down in tears in the locker room after the game. He shouldered the blame for the loss, saying that he was proud of the way his teammates played but how he felt at blame because he’s a team leader.

Self acknowledged that Lawson’s future is up in the air when it comes to playing at KU, but also lauded him for what he meant in a short time with the Jayhawks.

“He has got to make some decisions,” Self said. “He’s had as good a year as we could ever have hoped for. I don’t know that we’ve ever ridden a guy, maybe Thomas Robinson, but he’d be the only guy we would have ridden as hard as Dedric … But he’s a terrific kid. I mean, we’ve got great kids, don’t get me wrong, but he is one of the special kids we’ve had in our program in recent years.”

Freshman guard Devon Dotson finished with 13 points and tied for the team high in assists before fouling out late. After sitting on the bench, Dotson buried his head in his hands, then was again visibly emotional in the locker room.

“I’m proud of our kids, we hung in there second half and didn’t get a lot of stops,” Self said. “We did play better second half. We just didn’t have enough ammunition to fight off what they threw at us early.”

Auburn ended the game 13-of-30 from three-point range (including missing its last four attempts) and shot 52.5 percent overall. Bryce Brown led the way for the Tigers with 25 point on 9-of-13 shooting, including a 7-of-11 performance from three. Four players hit at least two threes in the game for Auburn.

“It was an honor to compete against them,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “The reality is our Auburn basketball team is a better team than the Kansas team. I think Bill will say that. I think we just had a little bit … we’ve got some firepower. We’d like to think we’ve got, we’re tough to play against because we have ten guys that play and they all contribute. So in some ways, it really wasn’t an upset; I thought the better team won tonight.”

With the offseason now here for KU, the focus will turn on next year’s roster construction. Along with Lawson, the futures of injured junior center and suspended sophomore forward Silvio de Sousa are in question. Before looking ahead though, Self took a moment to say there were positives he took from his team this season.

“The thing about it is, it’s been a challenging year,” Self said. I thought the kids hung in there and did a great job, for the most part. Their attitudes and everything was terrific. And we didn’t muster up enough momentum like some past teams have to probably go on a run like other teams have.”

Click below to hear what Self and the Jayhawks said after losing to Auburn on Saturday night.

Bill Self

Dedric Lawson and Marcus Garrett

Marcus Garrett part 2

Mitch Lightfoot

Ochai Agbaji

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