DES MOINES, Iowa – Wayne Selden Jr. and Perry Ellis carried Kansas on a sweet romp to the round of 16, combining for 43 points in a 73-61 victory over Connecticut in the second round on Saturday to hand Kevin Ollie his first NCAA Tournament loss as head coach of the Huskies.
Selden had 22 points and seven rebounds, Ellis scored 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds and the No. 1 overall seed Jayhawks (32-4) advanced to the South Region semifinals on Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, to play the winner of the Hawaii-Maryland game on Sunday.
Selden and Ellis combined to shoot 17 of 27 from the floor, shooing away the disappointment of second-round defeats in each of the last two years.
Sterling Gibbs had 20 points for the No. 9 seed Huskies (25-11), who fell into an irreparable deficit that reached 24 points in the first half.
After winning the 2014 national championship in Ollie’s second season as a No. 7 seed, the Huskies returned two years later with the hope of repeating that run. They simply couldn’t stop Kansas though. The Jayhawks did everything better, well enough to endure an ugly second-half stretch of their own.
With 1:38 left, the time for tricks arrived. Devonte’ Graham dribbled furiously into the UConn end and lobbed a pass over Jalen Adams. Selden caught it with one hand and slammed the ball through the net in the same motion for a 67-52 lead, sending the Jayhawks into a frenzy.
Selden has been a beast in his junior-year NCAA Tournament, after averaging 2.5 points on 4-for-21 shooting over his first four games on the big stage. He had 14 points in 19 minutes against Austin Peay in the first round.
Ellis, the smooth senior power forward still aiming for an appearance beyond the round of 16 since being eliminated there by Michigan his freshman year when the Jayhawks were a No. 1 seed, hit 20-plus points for the sixth time in seven games. The Jayhawks were a No. 2 seed for their second-round losses the last two years.
The first NCAA Tournament meeting between these traditional powers with 89 appearances and seven titles between them was a one-sided show.
Thousands of Jayhawks fans made the easy drive up Interstate 35 from Kansas, packing Wells Fargo Arena with their blue jerseys, T-shirts and jackets for the chance to cheer in person the team chasing its first national championship since 2008. One of the few, true favorites entering this wide-open field, the Jayhawks have more experience and depth than their last two squads that suffered early eliminations.
The Huskies fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half of their first-round victory over Colorado, but the Jayhawks are just a different caliber team than the No. 8 seed Buffaloes. Kansas had scoring surges of 16-0 early and 19-0 late to cruise into the intermission in full control.
The third-best 3-point shooting team in the country entering the game at 42.5 percent, Kansas made six of its first nine tries from behind the arc. When the jumpers didn’t fall, the long arms of Landen Lucas, Ellis and Selden were there to snag most of the rebounds for a 25-11 advantage in the first half.
Ellis spent a few minutes on the bench early in the game for treatment on his left knee, but the joint didn’t appear to bother him at all after that. Jamari Traylor had a couple of commanding blocks in the paint to fire up the Kansas bench and crowd during the 19-0 spurt. The Huskies missed 12 straight shots during that stretch which lasted 7:08 and pushed the lead to 40-16.
The Huskies were all out of sorts in their half-court offense. Daniel Hamilton was hounded anytime he was inside the arc, forcing multiple off-kilter shots and finishing 4 of 14 for 11 points with eight rebounds and six assists. Rodney Purvis had 17 points but went just 2 of 7 from 3-point range.
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