KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ken Bone spun on his heels, flung his hands in the air and offered an “aw, shucks” kind of smirk, a show of emotion befitting a game much closer than the one Washington State played at the Sprint Center last night.
WSU’s best player, Brock Motum, had just picked up his third foul with 1:12 remaining in the first half after extending his off-arm to clear space on a drive to the basket.
At which point No. 12 Kansas already led by 24 points en route to its 78-41 clubbing of the Cougars in the CBE Classic’s semifinal round.
The Cougars (2-2) simply never had a chance in this game. Kansas dominated absolutely everything. And to boot, WSU sophomore guard DaVonte Lacy left the game with a left knee injury and didn’t return. He’s “very questionable,” Bone said, for WSU’s consolation game against Texas A&M at 4 p.m. today.
The Jayhawks executed against WSU’s 2-3 zone as if they had been confronted with it upon exiting the womb. Kansas guard Ben McLemore made a pair of 3-pointers in the game’s first two minutes, allowing the Jayhawks to open a 10-2 lead that defined the rest of the night.
“So far this year, they hadn’t really shot well, so we were hoping they weren’t real confident shooting the three,” Bone said. “But they came out, they hit threes, they hit free throws. They lit us up.”
When there weren’t open 3-pointers – the Jayhawks made 5 of 10 in the first half – Kansas was able to cut to the rim or score in transition. KU guard Travis Releford made 6 of 7 from the field and led all scorers with 17 points. McLemore joined him in double-figures with 11, and Perry Ellis scored 12 off the bench.
“Everything looks better when you make shots,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “That’s probably the best we’ve executed the whole year.”
Kansas made 20 of 22 free throw attempts. It outrebounded WSU 40-29. It held WSU to 29.8 percent shooting from the field and forced 14 turnovers.
“You couldn’t tell what the plan was?” Bone joked. “The plan was to try to keep them out of the paint as best we could and to get a hand up on 3-point shooters.”
Kansas did that to the Cougars just fine. Motum led WSU with 14 points, and won a couple of 1-on-1 battles against 7-foot center Jeff Withey. But the Cougars again struggled to take care of the ball and committed 10 turnovers in the decisive first half.
They couldn’t shoot, either. Motum’s bucket with 6:47 remaining in the first half was WSU’s last score before halftime, at which time Kansas led 50-21.
It turned out the Jayhawks (3-1) had all the points they needed. By the time the Cougars scored again – Motum made an open 3-pointer – there was 16:40 left in the game, and WSU had gone 10:07 without a basket.
“Our goal in the first half was to get it down to 10 at halftime,” Motum said. “We tried to win the second half and each media timeout we tried to get up by five. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed in that, obviously.”
Kansas wasn’t slowed in the second half, either, not even with reserves on the floor. Andrew White III, who prior to Monday had appeared in two of Kansas’ three games and played an average of 2.5 minutes, made a 3-pointer to put the Jayhawks ahead 70-31 with 9:22 remaining. And a pair of free throws to push Kansas’ lead to 75-31 with 5:56 remaining.
Will DiIorio scored six of his career-high eight points for WSU in the final 2:23.
Saint Louis beat Texas A&M, 70-49, in the other semifinal.