For almost 32 minutes of its opening game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Kansas, the No. 2 seed in the South Region, could not shake off the pesky Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
Over the final eight minutes, however, the Jayhawks went on a 21-13 closing run, many possessions ending on thunderous dunks at the rim, to put away the underdog Ohio Valley Conference champions 80-69 on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
If you were looking just at the box score of this game, it would be appear there would be no way this game was a close as it was for as long as it was. Kansas, led by its freshman All-Big 12 performer Andrew Wiggins, shot 67 percent from the field in the opening and 60 percent for the game, and the Jayhawks dominated the boards, outrebounding Eastern Kentucky by 24.
Fourteen of Kansas’s 43 rebounds in the game came on the offensive end.
The Jayhawks did not make one three-point shot in seven tries. That didn’t really matter, though, as Kansas used its size and athleticism inside to finish at the rim on the majority of its possessions.
Despite shooting lights out in the first half, hitting 14 of 21 shots, the Jayhawks were tied 32-all at the intermission. Were it not for 13 first-half turnovers committed by Kansas, this contest probably would not have been nearly as close as it was.
Wiggins had a game-high 19 points, and redshirt sophomore Jamari Traylor had the game of his life, scoring 19 points and bringing down 14 rebounds. Traylor’s season scoring average coming into the second-round NCAA game was 4.5 points a game.
This is the fifth game Kansas has played without the services of its seven-foot center, freshman Joel Embiid, who is suffering from a back injury.
Eastern Kentucky had three players in double figures in scoring, Glenn Cosey had 17 points, 14 in the first half. Fifteen of his 17 points came on made three-point shots. The Colonels’ big man, Eric Stutz. had 15 and Tarius Johnson added 15, nine on three pointers.
The Colonels were looking for their first NCAA Tournament win. Instead, there season comes to an end with a 24-10 record
Kansas, now 25-9, advances to the third round on Sunday, when it will meet 10-seed Stanford, a 58-53 winner over New Mexico in the second round.