KU downs West Virginia, moves on to Big 12 Tourney semifinal
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Playing without ailing coach Bill Self on the sideline, third-ranked Kansas turned to big offensive performances from Jalen Wilson and Dajuan Harris Jr. along with some stingy defense to pull away from West Virginia 75-61 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
Wilson had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Harris had 13 points with eight assists, as the top-seeded Jayhawks (26-6) began the defense of their tournament crown by knocking off the Mountaineers for the third time this season.
They will play fifth-seeded Iowa State, which beat Baylor earlier in the day, in Friday night’s semifinals.
Erik Stevenson had 13 points to lead the No. 8 seed Mountaineers (19-14), who likely secured an NCAA bid with an opening win over Texas Tech. Tre Mitchell and Joe Toussaint added 11 points apiece and Emmitt Matthews Jr. had 10.
Gradey Dick had 18 points for the Jayhawks. KJ Adams finished with 13.
Kansas officials announced about five hours before tipoff that Self was being treated at the University of Kansas Health System for an undisclosed illness. The 60-year-old Hall of Fame coach was present for Wednesday’s practice at T-Mobile Center and appeared to be in normal condition when speaking with reporters.
The school declined to provide details of the illness but said “Self is doing well and receiving great care.”
His longtime assistant, Norm Roberts, led the team against the Mountaineers. Roberts filled a similar role early in the season, while Self was serving a school-imposed four-game suspension, and the Jayhawks won each of the games.
They trailed midway through the half Thursday, but the Mountaineers got sloppy on offense, turning it over 11 times over the first 20 minutes. That allowed the Jayhawks to reel off an 18-2 run and take a 31-23 lead into the locker room.
West Virginia got within 35-30 early in the second half, but it struggled to make stops. The Jayhawks scored on seven consecutive trips down floor at one point. And after a tough bucket by Adams made it 60-48 with 8 minutes to go, the springy forward slammed down Harris’ ally-oop pass from just inside the midcourt line to punctuate the run.
Harris hit big man Ernest Udeh Jr. for another alley-oop jam a few minutes later as the Jayhawks cruised to the win.
West Virginia was hanging precariously on the NCAA Tournament bubble in late February before a strong finish, beginning with a win over Oklahoma State and featuring wins over Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech. In fact, the only two losses by the Mountaineers since Feb. 18 came against the Jayhawks.
Kansas bounced back nicely from a regular season-ending 75-59 loss at No. 7 Texas, which could have zapped much of the momentum the reigning national champs had built with a seven-game win streak.
The Jayhawks will play the Cyclones on Friday night for a spot in the championship game.
The Mountaineers heads home to await their NCAA Tournament seed.
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