Sweet 16 Recap Southwest Regional - (1) Kansas 77, (12) Richmond 57

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Kansas is putting the “chalk” in “rock, chalk, Jayhawk.” Moreover, it’s now the unquestioned favorite to win the 2011 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Brady Morningstar scored 18 points to lead top-seeded Kansas to a rout of 12th-seeded Richmond at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Friday night.  The Jayhawks, who were upset by Northern Iowa in the second round of the 2010 tournament, ensured no such thing happened on Friday, delivering an early knockout punch to the Spiders and coasting to victory.  Junior forward Marcus Morris added 13 points, and sophomore big Thomas Robinson came off the bench to chip in 12 points and collect 14 rebounds for Kansas, which was never threatened at all. On a night when the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, the Ohio State Buckeyes, lost to Kentucky, Kansas became the only top seed left in the tournament. The Jayhawks will be a clear favorite in every remaining game they play.

They ensured that they’ll play in at least one more game after avoiding the web of a Spider team that came up small (itsy-bitsy, you might say) in the pressure-cooker known as the regional semifinals.

Richmond, which was playing in the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history, was out of sorts from the opening tip and never really challenged Kansas.  The Jayhawks had no problem breaking down the Spiders’ trademark matchup zone defense.  Junior point guard Tyshawn Tyler, who had seven assists, smoothly conducted the Kansas offense, but the entire team moved the ball well to routinely and repeatedly create open looks for teammates.  As a team, the Jayhawks assisted on 20 of their 30 made baskets for an assist rate of 66.6 percent, which is well above their season average of 60.6 percent.

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The Jayhawks’ passing created ample space for zone-busters Morningstar, Josh Selby, and Tyrel Reed to do their thing: make jump shots.  Morningstar was 7-of-11 from the field and 4-of-7 from three-point range while Selby scored nine points, drilling three of the five triples he took.  Reed hit two treys and finished with six points. Kansas was a robust 9-of-19 from long distance.  

Whether it was the pregame shoving match that took place in the tunnel, or the overwhelming desire to do that March survive-and-advance thing, the Jayhawks jumped all over the Spiders from the opening tip.  Richmond seemed thoroughly rattled from the opening tip, appearing tentative on offense and overwhelmed on the defensive end.  Kansas used a 27-4 run to take an early 31-9 lead, and set the stage for a rout.

To Richmond’s credit, the lower seed did gain some semblance of composure, going on a 13-6 spurt that cut the deficit to 37-22.  The Jayhawks reasserted their dominance, scoring the final four points of the half to take a 41-22 halftime lead.  Teams like Kansas just don’t lose halftime leads like that, and sure enough, they didn’t. KU kept Richmond at arm’s length throughout the second half.

Senior guard Kevin Anderson epitomized the Spiders’ struggles on Friday night.  Anderson scored only 13 points and was a ghastly 5-of-17 from the field, which included an 0-of-6 bagel from three-point range.  The Spiders made only four their 26 shots (15.4 percent) from long range.  They shot 33.8 percent (22-of-65) from the field.  Senior forward Justin Harper led the Spiders with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Richmond finished the season 29-8.

Kansas improved to 35-2 with the win.  The Jayhawks will face the 11th seed, Virginia Commonwealth, in the Southwest Regional final on Sunday.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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