Kansas will play in the Final Four for the first time since 2018 after the Jayhawks defeated the Miami (FL) Hurricanes, 76-50, in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.
The Jayhawks (32-6), the only remaining No. 1 seed, join Villanova and Duke in the Final Four next week in New Orleans. The Jayhawks will play Villanova in the national semifinals on Saturday.
The game was a study in historical experience in the Elite Eight. Kansas was playing in the Elite Eight for the 26th time in program history and seeking its 16th trip to the Final Four. No. 10 seed Miami was making its first trip to the Elite Eight, though its head coach, Jim Larranaga, took George Mason to the Final Four in 2006.
Kansas head coach Bill Self is now 4-5 in the Elite Eight. He led the Jayhawks to the 2008 national championship.
“We were locked in defensively in the second half,” Self said. “That’s about as well as we’ve played in this tournament so far.”
The Hurricanes had some control of the game at halftime, as they were up 35-29 after a 9-2 run to end the half. Miami rode the tremendous play of Kameron McGusty, a one-time Oklahoma Sooner who had 14 first-half points and finished with 18 points.
Kansas had issues defending him in the first half and issues with its own 3-point shooting but had a clear advantage in the paint, which grew as the game went on.
In the second half, Kansas got more aggressive on offense, something that trailed off in the final 10 minutes of the first half. That put Kansas in control of the game, as it outscored Miami 47-15 in the second half.
The Jayhawks started the half on a 19-5 run to build a double-digit lead. Along the way, Kansas’ experience came to the fore.
Forward David McCormack had the first five points of the run and finished the game with 15 points and four rebounds, his best game of the tournament. He scored eight points in the first four and a half minutes of the game and didn’t play the rest of the way, as he is still dealing with injuries to his knee and foot.
Guard Ochai Agbaji, who was averaging nine points below his season average of 19.7 in the NCAA Tournament entering Sunday, came alive with dribble penetration and mid-range jumpers and finished with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. At one point, his baseline 3-pointer gave Kansas a 54-42 lead.
Christian Braun, who at one point punctuated the run with a transition dunk followed by a 3-point shot that prompted a time out, finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.
All of that made up for the fact that the team’s tournament darling, Remy Martin, finally took a step back after seven straight games in which he improved his scoring total. Martin had 23 points against Providence on Friday. But he had just nine points against Miami, along with six rebounds and two assists.
But that turned out to be all right. The Jayhawks played stifling defense, especially in the second half, limiting the impact of McGusty and Isaiah Wong, the only other player in double figures for Miami with 15 points. But Miami shot 21.4 percent in the second half while Kansas shot 59.3 percent.
Kansas also outscored Miami 42-20 in the paint and forced Miami into 14 turnovers.
Kansas’s defense has been underestimated in this tournament, but it entered Sunday’s game holding opponents to 34.1 percent shooting, the best in the NCAA Tournament. Miami finished shooting 34.5 percent for the game.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.