FORT WORTH, TEXAS — The Kansas Jayhawks made light work of the Texas Southern Tigers in the first round of the NCAA tournament, with the top seed in the Midwest region building on a record-setting first half to win 83-56.
KU led by 28 points at halftime, 47-19, which is the largest halftime lead the Jayhawks have ever had in an NCAA tournament game. What’s more, they also held the Tigers to the fewest points they had scored in a half all season.
“I thought we did a lot of really good things the first half,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I thought we shared it, we defended, and we rebounded the ball pretty well. And after we got off to kind of calm our nerves down a little bit, we were very efficient the first half. The second half, we didn’t play near as well, but it was a good team win.”
It was a group effort for Kansas when it got out to the big early lead, and throughout the game it wasn’t necessarily the usual suspects who took charge for the Jayhawks. Five players got into double figures, led by 15 points from senior guard Remy Martin, who was an efficient 6-of-8 from the floor while also tying for the team high in assists with four, all of which came in the first half.
“Scoring is not what I came here for. I just came here to change pace and help my teammates,” Martin said. “And, you know, if I have a open look, then I’m there to take it. If not, I’ll find these guys. I just try to simplify the game. And just being able to find myself. And anybody could go every given night. It just happened to be mine.”
Martin’s shooting clip was the Jayhawks’ second-best mark on the evening among players with multiple field goal attempts, and as a team KU shot 50% from the floor for the game. That was bogged down by a less productive second half, as before halftime Kansas shot 58.8% from the field.
The Arizona State transfer even picked up arguably the two most impressive highlights of the night, a steal and dunk, along with a bounce pass underneath the basket that was turned into a dunk by senior forward David McCormack.
“I kind of, you know, played the passing lane and just saw it, saw the rim, and just went up there and dunked it,” Martin said about his dunk. “It was just, like, a defensive instinct play.”
Self said he didn’t know until Thursday that Martin was even able to dunk.
Junior guard Christian Braun scored 14 points in the victory, while sophomore guard Dajuan Harris added 12. Senior guard Ochai Agbaji and sophomore forward Jalen Wilson tacked on 11 points apiece, too.
Defensively, Kansas held Texas Southern to just 32.8% shooting for the game, and merely 21.4% from three-point range. And the Jayhawks turned that strong defense into offense, too, converting 16 Tigers turnovers into 23 fast break points.
For as good of a night as it was for the Jayhawks overall, the game didn’t get off to the most aesthetically pleasing start. KU committed three turnovers in the first four minutes of the game and led just 4-2 at the game’s first media timeout. Part of that slow start could have been attributed to the game’s late start time; KU and Texas Southern were supposed to tip at 8:57 p.m., but due to a long, overtime game between Creighton and San Diego State the nightcap at Dickie’s Arena was bumped back to about 9:40 p.m.
“I hate to admit this, the last time that I remember playing a late game like this was Bucknell in Oklahoma City [in 2005],” Self said, going on to add: “I think these guys would tell you, playing at 10:00 at night after you’ve been amped up all day, I think it’s a disadvantage for the two teams that play that late because you can only carry that adrenaline and excitement and be sharp for so long. And I do think that that kind of impacted us early.”
With the win, the Jayhawks have now won their first NCAA tournament game for the 15th tournament in a row, and they also extended the all-time record for No. 1 seeds to 146-1 against No. 16 seeds.
Next up for Kansas is a date with Creighton on Saturday, a matchup of the No. 1 and No. 9 seeds in the Midwest region. That game will tip at 1:40 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth.
Click below to hear what Bill Self and the Jayhawks had to say about their 83-56 win over Texas Southern.