Rushed Reactions: #1 Kansas 90, #9 Michigan State 70Posted by Chris Stone on March 19th, 2017
Rush the Court will be covering the NCAA Tournament from start to finish over the next three weeks.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Nick Ward’s foul trouble played an important role. Michigan State found success against Kansas by dumping the ball inside to the freshman big man. Over the second half of the season, Ward had evolved into a go-to post threat for the Spartans and it was no different today as he finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. The problem is that Ward was on the floor for just 20 minutes as he spent much of the game saddled with fouls. In those 20 minutes, Michigan State outscored the Jayhawks by five points. In the 20 minutes with Ward’s replacement, Ryan Goins, on the court, the Spartans were outscored by 25 points. That’s the difference.
- Kansas hit its free throws. The Jayhawks have struggled from the foul line all season long, shooting just 67.1 percent (284th nationally) from the charity stripe — still, there always seemed to be some unshaken faith that the team would make them when they needed to. Well, Kansas today finished 14-of-15 from the free throw line with senior guard Frank Mason going a perfect 8-of-8. Even freshman Josh Jackson, a 55.9 percent free throw shooter, made all three of his attempts, including converting a crucial one-and-one late in the contest.
- The threes eventually fell for the Jayhawks. Michigan State kept this game close in large part because the Spartans held Kansas in check from behind the arc. They did well fighting over screens and getting out to challenge shooters on the perimeter, but eventually, the shots started falling and Kansas pulled away. The Jayhawks finished 8-of-20 from behind the arc as they nailed several threes down the stretch. Guard Devonte’ Graham led the way, scoring 12 of his 18 points from deep. The Jayhawks are at their best when they’re knocking down outside shots. It just took them a bit more time to get that part of their game going against Michigan State.
Star of the Game: Both Jackson (23 points) and Mason (20 points and five assists) delivered huge stat lines in the win, but the Jayhawks’ most valuable player today was junior big man Dwight Coleby. The little-used center played just nine minutes, but he was integral in holding down the interior while Landen Lucas sat with foul trouble. Coleby scored just three points, but he grabbed four rebounds and played stellar defense to keep Kansas in the game early. He finished as a +15 for the game.
Sights and Sounds: Kansas fans traveled well to Tulsa to support their team on Sunday with most of the arena wearing Jayhawks blue. Now, the Jayhawks will likely get an even friendlier crowd when they play their next game at the Sprint Center, home of the Big 12 Tournament and just over an hour from the Kansas campus.
What’s Next: Kansas moves on to the Sweet Sixteen in Kansas City, where the Jayhawks will face Purdue on Thursday night. Michigan State, after an up-and-down season, is headed home.