Shockers top Jayhawks in NCAA Tournament showdown
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — No wonder Kansas never wants anything to do with Wichita State.
Behind another steady performance from Fred VanVleet and the hot shooting of Evan Wessel, the No. 7 seed Shockers rolled past the second-seeded Jayhawks 78-65 on Sunday, earning a trip to the Sweet 16 at the expense of the school that has caused them so much chagrin.
Tekele Cotton led the way with 19 points for the Shockers (30-4). VanVleet finished with 17 and Wessel hit four 3-pointers and scored 12, sending the Missouri Valley champions to Cleveland for the Midwest Regional semifinal against third-seeded Notre Dame.
Devonte’ Graham and Perry Ellis had 17 points each, and Frank Mason added 16 for the Jayhawks (27-9), who blew an early eight-point lead and never really threatened in the second half.
As the final seconds ticked away, VanVleet started riling up an already boisterous section of Shockers fans. And when the game ended, coach Gregg Marshall strode across the floor with a wry smile on his face, reaching out to shake hands with several of them.
Wichita State has tried for years to schedule a game against the Jayhawks, but the Sunflower State’s dominant program has always refused. It took the will of the NCAA Tournament selection committee to finally bring them together for the first time since 1993.
The buzz began building for the showdown on Selection Sunday, when the game fans have been pining for was still merely a possibility. But by the time the Jayhawks beat New Mexico State and the Shockers had survived Indiana, that buzz had grown to a deafening roar.
With such pent-up emotion, the start was predictably sloppy.
The Shockers, who had seven turnovers total against the Hoosiers, had that many in the first half. Kansas fouled so often that Wichita State spent more time in the bonus than getting there.
It wasn’t even halftime yet when blood was first spilled.
VanVleet was driving to the rim when his elbow caught Ellis’s nose, sending the Wichita native sprawling to the floor. Red droplets started sliding down his chin, and Ellis retreated to the locker room. When he returned, he had wads of cotton stuffed up his nostrils.
The Jayhawks were leading 24-16 at that point, but the Shockers pounced on their opportunity with Ellis off the floor. They never allowed Kansas another field goal the final 6 minutes, going on a 13-2 closing kick that gave them a 29-26 lead at the break.
Ultimately, the Shockers never trailed again.
Led by the calm, cool play of VanVleet at the point, and with Wessel knocking down just about every 3-pointer he tried, the Shockers had an answer for every salvo from the Big 12 champs.
After they had extended their lead to 54-40, and the Jayhawks scored five quick points to energize their fans, unheralded reserve Zach Brown got loose for an easy dunk.
When the Jayhawks scored four quick points to trim their deficit to 63-55 with 6 minutes to go, Wichita State broke their full-court press and Darius Carter breezed in for layup.
Kansas coach Bill Self had burned through all of his timeouts by then, trying in vain to turn the momentum. And as the final few minutes ticked off the clock, all those Shockers fans that had felt slighted by their Kansas counterparts for most of 8,110 days began to cheer.
Wichita State: Ron Baker had 12 points. Carter finished with 10. … The Shockers snapped a five-game skid against Kansas. … Wichita State has won at least 30 games three straight years.
Kansas: Wayne Selden Jr. was scoreless, going 0 for 5 from the floor. … Mason had five turnovers. … Kansas lost for the first time in six NCAA Tournament games in Omaha.
Wichita State heads to Cleveland to play No. 3 seed Notre Dame.
Kansas begins thinking about next season.