It did not come easily, but then, that’s fitting. Nothing much has for the Kansas Jayhawks throughout Big 12 play. But in front of a partisan blue-clad crowd at the Sprint Center, the Jayhawks found just enough offensive spark from their freshmen to see them through to the Big 12 tournament semifinals in a 65-57 win over Texas.
The first-year trio of Devon Dotson, David McCormack and Quentin Grimes combined for 42 of KU’s points, with Dotson’s 17 leading the way for the Jayhawks. McCormack chipped in 13 and nine rebounds and Grimes scored nine including the game-sealing free throws late. Dedric Lawson joined that group in double figures with 16 points on the night.
Despite making just one field goal in the final nine minutes, Kansas held strong to their lead, going 9-for-10 from the free throw line in that stretch. They held the Longhorns to 33 percent shooting in the half.
“It was kind of a typical March game,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “Not many easy baskets. To come away with a win when the ball didn’t go in the basket – certainly, I’m happy with that.”
In a sluggish first half, the Jayhawks struggled to get much going offensively. They shot just 43% from the field and were 1-for-5 from the three-point arc. After bolting to an 11-4 lead, Texas struck back with a 7-0 run to tie the game, and after KU took a 13-11 lead neither team scored for nearly three minutes. Texas would seize a late 29-25 lead on a Jace Febres three-pointer, but Kansas got two free throws from Devon Dotson and a lay-up by Marcus Garrett to tie the game heading into the locker room. The Jayhawks held Texas to just 10-for-26 shooting in the game’s first 20 minutes.
Thanks to some hot shooting, Kansas started to stretch their legs in the second half. A Quentin Grimes three gave KU a 49-40 lead with 12:44 to play in the game and punctuated an 8-for-13 start from the field. The Jayhawks took their first double-digit lead at 54-43 on a Grimes lay-up just past the halfway point of the half. Texas got within six at 58-52 after Kansas went over six minutes without a field goal, but a driving layup by Devon Dotson broke that stretch and moved the lead back to 60-52 with just under three and a half minutes to go. It would be the last KU field goal of the game, and Texas got as close as 61-57 with multiple chances to get within two or one, but the Longhorns went frigid from behind the arc and the Jayhawks made free throws to ice it.
Kansas advanced to play tenth-seeded West Virginia in Friday night’s semifinal. The Mountaineers shocked two-seed Texas Tech for their second win in Kansas City in as many days.
“When Kansas and West Virginia play, you usually get your money’s worth,” Self said. “I’m sure it will be that way tomorrow night.”
POSTGAME AUDIO: Bill Self, David McCormack, and Marcus Garrett