It wasn’t pretty.
But Kansas advanced to the Elite Eight on Friday with a 66-61 win over No. 4 seed Providence. With the win, the Jayhawks are the only men’s No. 1 seed to advance to an NCAA tournament regional final. Baylor, Gonzaga and Arizona were eliminated below the Elite Eight.
Providence did a good job of limiting a Kansas offense that led the Big 12 with 78.7 points per game. He just couldn’t muster much offense of his own in a historically stunted first-half effort that produced 17 points, their lowest scoring first half since 1966.
Despite the stagnant offense, Providence pressed after halftime, erasing a 36-23 second-half deficit to take a 48-47 lead with 5:52 remaining. But Kansas responded with a 7-0 run to reassert control. He would never relinquish his leadership.
A long lob from Christian Braun to fellow All Big-12 Ochai Agbaji in the final minutes of the game helped seal the victory for the Jayhawks.
Providence repeatedly fouled late to extend the game, but the Jayhawks made enough free throws down the stretch to clinch the win. Kansas advances to the Midwest regional final to face the winner between Miami and Iowa State. It also earned the program’s 2,354th win to overtake Kentucky as the all-time winningest team in NCAA basketball history.
Remy Martin is great again from the bench
Remy Martin starred again for the Jayhawks. The Arizona State transfer who averaged 8.1 points this season led Kansas’ effort with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists off the bench. It was his second straight 20-point effort after putting up 20 points and seven rebounds in a second-round win over Creighton.
Kan KU keep this defense?
A Kansas rotation that only played seven deep got a big defensive effort from backup teammate Mitch Lightfoot, who made five of the Jayhawks’ 11 blocked shots on the night. Agbaji secured four blocks from the Kansas backcourt to offset a poor night of offense that saw him put up five points and miss all five of his 3-point attempts. Blocked shots were a signature for Kansas on Friday as the Friars repeatedly encountered resistance near the basket.
Kansas won despite shooting just 39.3% from the field while going 2-for-15 (13.3%) from 3-point attempts. He also overcame a first half in which he failed to make it to the free throw line. He did it by limiting Providence to 33.8% shooting from the field and securing a 44-38 rebounding margin.
The Jaywhawks weren’t a bad defensive team during the regular season. They entered Friday ranked 28th in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating. They just built their identity on the other side of the ball as KenPom’s No. 6 team on offense.
If he can keep up the defensive effort he showed Friday, especially in the first half, there’s a good chance Kansas will win three more games to clinch a national championship.