This wasn’t your bracket-busting Jayhawks of old. Kansas fans all over the country saw a repeat of last years’ lackluster loss to No. 12 seed VCU play out against the No. 10 seed Boilermakers last night. The Hawks allowed Purdue to build a large lead early and just could not find a flow and spent much of the game trailing.
That was until Elijah Johnson decided he wasn’t going to let it happen.
Johnson poured his heart out on the court to pull out a last-minute win lifting the Hawks to a 63-60 win and a ticket to the Sweet Sixteen.
It was a grind-it-out game for Kansas. Purdue came out running what they wanted and Robbie Hummel could not miss in the first half. Hummel grabbed 22 points in the first half and looked like he was not going to let his last season end early.
Purdue was running crisp plays, hitting key 3-pointers, and doing the little things that a disciplined basketball team does. They hit the ball off Kansas players out of bounds to get the possession. They hit the open man with the last pass. They were doing everything right in the first half.
Pudue was up as much as 11 points and had a 10 point lead at the 16:37 mark in the second half. On a few occasions, Kansas put together a run to get within 3 or 1 points of the lead, but they did not take the lead until Elijah Johnson hit a 3-pointer to put Kansas up by 1 with 3:04 left in the game.
Bill Self threw some triangle defense, zone defense, man defense, mixes of defense and the kitchen sink at the Boilermakers in the second half to disrupt their offensive flow. It worked. Purdue slowed down on the scoring end as the Hawks picked it up on defense. Kansas scored points any way they could. Thomas Robinson was largely held in check. Even though he grabbed yet another double-double, he was held to 11 points. Jeff Withey had 4 points and Tyshawn Taylor came up with just 10 points. The bright spot was further scoring contributions from Johnson (18 points) and Travis Releford (10 points). Releford was key in sparking the offense in the first half by getting some key buckets and free throws on a hard foul.
Eljah Johnson stole the win from Purdue with a steal and the go-ahead bucket with 23 seconds left. Purdue had the chance to win with a last possession play, but they could not get their play going and missed an awkward shot where Johnson found a streaking Tyshawn Taylor for a dunk to go up by 3.
Purdue had 4 seconds left to run a play in which they passed across the court and got off a rushed 3-pointer to have it hit the backboard and bounce off the rim.
Purdue had all rights to win this game. They lead for 37 minutes and looked tough and determined. They were focused, but they didn’t count on Kansas experience at coming back from large deficits from good teams. It wasn’t pretty, like a lot of KU games this year, but somehow, someway they found the way and will to win.
On to the Sweet Sixteen!
Missouri fans in St. Louis will have to put up with an influx of Kansas fans this coming weekend as the Jayhawks travel 4 hours east of Kansas City to take on 11 seed North Carolina State. That game is slated for Friday night at 9:17pm (CDT).
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