It is well documented Kansas had the toughest schedule in 2014-15 and there is more proof in the fact KU has faced 12 teams in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. In all, Kansas has played 18 games against 11 teams in this year's NCAA Tournament field with an 14-5 record: Baylor (3-0), Georgetown (1-0), Iowa State (1-2), Kentucky (0-1), Lafayette (1-0), Michigan State (1-0), New Mexico State (1-0), Oklahoma (1-1), Oklahoma State (1-1), Texas (2-0), Utah (1-0) and West Virginia (1-1).
KUAD Postgame Box Score, recap, notes, quotes, photos, videos
KC Star Photos
3/20/15, 11:59 AM
Let's go jayhawkssssssss
3/20/15, 2:54 PM
S/O to them Jayhawks advancing ..
3/20/15, 1:22 PM
1 down Jayhawks. Keep it goin Rock chalk
There might have been a reason the Kansas men’s basketball team looked so loose during its NCAA opener against New Mexico State: It had gotten its jitters out in the fake layup lines.
Shortly after 9:45 a.m., the Jayhawks had finished their pregame stretches but weren’t allowed to start shootaround because of NCAA rules.
That’s when walk-ons Evan Manning, Tyler Self and Josh Pollard stepped in. The three started up a layup line without basketballs, as teammates faked going through drills in front of entertained KU fans.
“We were all just out there having fun, acting crazy,” KU freshman Devonte’ Graham said.
Pollard caught a between-the-legs alley-oop for a slam, Manning threw down a lob and Self swished a pregame 3.
“We were on fire during that time,” Manning said with a laugh.
The quirky idea seemed to have a positive impact. The Jayhawks, who have been tight in recent NCAA Tournament games, appeared more relaxed during Friday’s 75-56 victory over New Mexico State.
“It’s just basketball at the end of the day,” Self said. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t making it more than it is.”
Forward Jamari Traylor wasn’t ruling out KU going through the same routine Sunday.
“Coach said have fun today,” Traylor said, “and I think that’s a great way to start the day off.”
Hours before his first NCAA Tournament game, Kelly Oubre Jr. wasn’t letting nerves get the better of him.
Kansas had been up since 6:45am in preparation for their 11:15 tip against New Mexico State yet at the team’s breakfast, Oubre could be found telling jokes and making his teammates laugh.
“Kelly was running around like his normal self being a nut,” sophomore Brannen Greene said. “He really got the whole team loose at breakfast.”
The Jayhawks had shown early in the day that they weren’t going to let any pre-tournament jitters get to their heads as they cruised past New Mexico State to a 75-56 victory to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
An hour before tip, Kansas had taken the court for its usual warm-up drills; stretching and calisthenics. Before they headed back into the locker room, they hit the lay-up line. But one thing was missing:
Kansas, led by Oubre took turns driving to the lane and pretending to dunk. These weren’t just normal flushes, sophomore Frank Mason pointed to the sky as if to call for an alley-oop, caught the “lob” from junior Hunter Mickelson and pretended to throw down a 360, through-the-legs jam.
Each player took their turn. When they finished, they dashed off the court racing to the locker room with giggles.
“We had fun out there,” Oubre said. “We all woke up early and were energetic about the game. We knew it could be our last together so we wanted to enjoy it. We were all jacking around before the game.”
“We ran into the real Kansas Jayhawks tonight,” Menzies said.
Five different Jayhawks hit outside shots, which included two each from Mason, Oubre, Greene and Devonte’ Graham.
“We had a scouting report of who the shooters were and who weren’t the shooters,” NMSU reserve Tanveer Bhullar said. “I’m pretty sure more than half the 3s were from non-shooters.”
The outburst came after an extended slump. KU hadn’t hit more than five 3-pointers since Feb. 16 and also had suffered through two games in March where it had failed to make an outside shot.
The Jayhawks’ 69.2 percent 3-point accuracy Friday was their best mark in a game since Nov. 27, 1996.
“To be in the NCAA Tournament and do that,” Greene said, “that’s pretty cool.”
It wasn’t the only reason KU was able to pull away.
The Jayhawks continued a recent trend of elite defense, holding NMSU to 15-for-41 shooting inside (36.5 percent) — the team’s worst 2-point shooting mark of the season.
KU also had success utilizing a strategy it hadn’t gone to much this year: double-teaming the post. The Aggies were forced into quick decisions, with center Tshilidzi Nephawe losing four turnovers, including three in the first half.
“They may have been 6-(foot)-7, 6-8,” Menzies said, “but it seemed like we were getting doubled by two 7-footers.”
Mason’s first shot of the day was a three-pointer that thudded on the back of the rim and fell in the hoop. Two hours later, the Jayhawks had drilled nine of 13 from three-point range, ripping the lid off the basket and setting it ablaze.
“It was nice to see the ball go in the basket,” Mason said.
…“I put a lot on Frank,” Self said.
As KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend walked along a corridor inside the CenturyLink Center, he conceded that, yes, this is the point guard he envisioned when he found Mason playing in a back gym at an AAU event in Las Vegas in 2012. Mason, a native of Petersburg, Va., was a mostly forgotten prospect, headed to Towson before some academic issues forced him to attend prep school for a year. Townsend showed up to watch a guard from Los Angeles who would eventually land at USC. He fell in love with Mason instead.
“Frank kicked his butt,” Townsend said.
Two years later, Mason is the rudder on a Kansas team with designs on a deep March run. For a program that thrives on top recruits, the emergence of Mason has breathed life into a backcourt that handcuffed Kansas at times during the last two years.
“Those kind of kids,” Townsend said, “the kind that aren’t McDonald’s All-Americans and turn into being decent players — it kind of makes you feel better.”
The common thought among the team is the Jayhawks need Mason to play well, because when he doesn’t play well, the whole team suffers. And when Mason’s playing with confidence, it’s contagious.
Junior forward Perry Ellis said Mason is one of the most important players on the team, and even though a lot of different players can help carry the Jayhawks throughout the tournament, Mason is a foundation piece to the Jayhawks' success.
“[Mason] usually makes everyone do real well, and the confidence rubs off on others and getting everyone else excited,” Ellis said. “How he gets into the lane, and finding open people. Just really attacking, and we need him attacking. Especially when the shots aren’t falling, we need him to get into the lane so we aren’t settling for shots.”
Like Self said, Mason gets into the zone, and the Jayhawks are hard to stop because Mason can help in all areas. Mason grabbed nine rebounds against the Aggies, which was a team high. Freshman guard Devonte’ Graham said Mason is the smartest player on the team, and runs the offense effectively because of his basketball IQ.
“He makes the right decision on almost every possession,” Graham said. “He takes care of the ball. He does the little things for our team to help us win, like getting nine rebounds. He just does all the little stuff that people don’t pay attention to.”
The biggest influence Mason has is on the freshmen, especially Graham, who said Mason has acted like a big brother to him during the course of the season, and it helped during the New Mexico State win.
“He boosts confidence in me. Tells me to be aggressive and play your game, shoot the ball,” Graham said. “He’s been here before, gain stuff from him to see what I should and shouldn’t do.”
Mason’s save of a ball that had flown out of bounds didn’t raise any eyebrows among those who have seen him contorting his body so quickly without losing balance, because he does it so smoothly the shock value is totally gone. Mason’s come such a long way in such a short time in his evolution from high school scoring sensation to college point guard.
“Incredible basketball player, incredible ball-handler. Honestly, I think he’s the best ball-handler in college basketball,” said slump-busting shooter Brannen Greene, who had a big day himself. “Never gets the ball taken away from him, just always seems to make the right play. His quickness is superb, the things he can do athletically, nobody else on the team can do. He always picks on us in practice, like, ‘Man, you can’t make that play? I can make that play.’ And he’ll go and do it.”
“You’re like, ‘Man, why can’t I get this shot to fall?’” Greene said. “I’m a pretty confident guy, but my confidence fell, as you saw, just naturally.”
Greene’s teammates kept trying to will him out of the funk. Evan Manning would tell Greene how much the Jayhawks valued him, while Kansas coach Bill Self would remind him that he still had confidence in him — and kept rewarding him with playing time to prove it.
And Wayne Selden, who’s battled his own slumps this season, would pass along advice that kept Greene upbeat.
“You can’t allow mistakes to bother you,” Selden told him. “You can’t allow missed shots to bother you.”
…“Everybody needs confidence,” Self said. “Everybody needs to see it go in, and he hasn’t seen it go in for two or three weeks.”
If there were any doubts that confidence had returned to full strength, Greene’s reaction to his 3-pointers would subdue them.
“I just needed a couple to fall,” Greene said. “I feel like I’m good going forward.”
“They (fans) started laughing and smiling, going crazy,” said Greene, asked if he could sense the KU fans in attendance were pleased with the squad finally getting hot from beyond the arc.
As far as his own shooting ... “coach Howard (Jerrance, assistant) actually told me to let the next one fly no matter where it was, even if it was from the NBA line (after he hit his first three with 7:59 left). His second swished at 7:06, giving KU a 63-43 advantage.
“Coach (Bill Self) told me to shoot it if I was open. I wasn’t necessarily open. The guy was low. His hands were down. I took the shot and made it.”
Greene said pre-game helped his confidence as well.
“My shot felt good ever since warmups,” he said. “I knew even in the first half when I missed two shots, I felt good. I felt I had my old shot back. I knew I was going to keep shooting. Coach has confidence in my shooting and my teammates as well. I’m definitely looking forward to the next couple of games and getting into a groove.”
The intense, pesky KU defense that the Jayhawks flashed in Kansas City during the Big 12 tourney returned in earnest; the Aggies whiffed on 14 of their first 20 shots and 17 of their first 26.
The boxing out returned, too. The Big Dance tends to punish teams that can't get second shots, don't prevent second shots and miss a ton of treys. (See Cyclones, Iowa State.) The Jayhawks outboarded New Mexico State by four at the break (18-14) and collected 14 defensive rebounds over the first 20 minutes to four offensive boards for the 15 seed.
Second-chance points for the Aggies: zero in the first half, nine for the afternoon. KU racked up three and 15, respectively.
Which said a lot about the KU mindset, the one even oddsmakers had a hard time pegging before the contest. TeamRankings.com tagged the Jayhawks with the second-lowest opening point-spread margin (9.5 points) of any 2 seed in the NCAA tourney since 2006.
Fox Sports Keeler
3/20/15, 1:09 PM
Good thing NM State guy is going through his full 3 point celebration while they are getting worked.
And it was not just the Jayhawks (27-8) whom Nephawe chose to work against. All game, when the officials called fouls on Kansas, Nephawe would lean into the ref and explain to him that they had been fouling him all game. Although that physical style is one Nephawe always has embraced, the 6-foot-10, 268-pound forward from South Africa admitted after the game that it got into his head during Friday's loss.
“In the beginning, yeah, I (got) frustrated a little bit,” Nephawe said. “They're big. They've got long arms. They double-teamed me right on the catch and there was just nowhere to go.”
KU sophomore Landen Lucas was the one Jayhawk who mixed it up with Nephawe more than anyone. And whenever the physical pounding and constant contact momentarily subsided, Lucas couldn't help but throw a little trash talk Nephawe's way.
“I just enjoyed it,” Lucas said. “It sounded like he was looking forward (to a physical game) and that's something that I enjoy, so we went at it. We both played hard and I respect him for that.”
As for the extra chatter, Lucas said using words as one of his weapons just happened.
“I enjoy that, too,” said Lucas with a smile. “But as soon as the game was over I went over and shook his hand and told him good job. But that's fun for us. It makes it a more competitive game and gets me more mentally into the game, as well.”
Nephawe didn't mind the jawing.
“We did a little bit,” he said. “But it was friendly. He was not bashing me or anything.”
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
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One of the most entertaining games on Friday ended with some anger on behalf of Indiana coach Tom Crean, according to multiple reports from the floor at Omaha's CenturyLink Center.
Indiana, a No. 10 seed, fell 81-76 to No. 7 Wichita State, and as the game ended, Crean immediately walked over to one of the officials and dropped his opinion on that man.
Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel also reported Crean said "you suck" to Kissinger, an official who primarily works in the Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conference.
Wichita State is a Missouri Valley team.
"When this game was over Crean didn't walk immediately toward the Shockers' sideline. He walked toward one referee and told him, right in front of me, 'You suck,'" Doyel's column states.
According to BBState.com, which tracks officiating statistics, Kissinger ranks 720th out of 817 officials in terms of fouls called this season. The crews Kissinger has worked with have called on average 33.64 fouls per game in 2014-15.
Friday's game between Wichita State and Indiana had 43 total fouls. Indiana was called for 26, Wichita State 17. Kissinger has been officiating since 1997, according to StatSheet.com, which also tracks officiating numbers.
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