It looked like one of the tournament games that usually bites Kansas.
Kansas’ opponent, this time Eastern Washington, had not one but two players on fire on offense. They just happened to be brothers. And they shot from the outside like they never have in any other college game. Of course! Jayhawks fans had seen this before, and it doesn’t end pretty.
But this time, even without one starter, and with another returning the previous day from the covid, and a bench player unavailable because of the covid, Kansas, who has not scored the ball very well this season, managed to score 93 points en route to a nine-point win.
Although Kansas scored 93 points and shot 40% from behind the arc, the Jayhawks didn’t take great shots. Dajuan Harris took four shots behind the arc. He hardly shot the ball at all this season, let alone from behind the arc. He made three. Bryce Thompson took six shots in the game. All of them came from behind the arc. He’s shooting just 26% from there on the season. He made one. Marcus Garrett took five shots behind the arc. He shot 31% from behind the arc on the season. He made three.
The way the game went, Kansas needed players to do things on offense that they had not done well or much during the season. It worked in this game. That luck could disappear at any time.
Bill Self decided not to start David McCormack because he was just returning from the covid. Instead of McCormack and Jalen Wilson, Kansas had Mitch Lightfoot and Bryce Thompson in the starting lineup. And it didn’t go well. Eastern Washington started the game on a 9-0 run.
Kansas struggled to stop Tanner and Jacob Groves. They combined for 58 of Eastern Washington’s 84 points. It’s not that Kansas didn’t try to stop them. They just couldn’t stop them.
And with all kinds of attention going to the Groves brothers, Eastern Washington penetrated the lane with ease. Meanwhile, Kansas was settling for bad outside shots instead of driving to the basket even though they were the bigger team. When Kansas did drive to the basket, they were successful. But they seemed to refuse to continue doing what worked.
Kansas was fortunate for not only Harris and Garrett shooting better than normal from the outside, but an actual quality outside shooter, Christian Braun, who has struggled for quite a while, was 2-for-5 behind the arc and provided the outside threat he is there for.
A lot of Jayhawks stepped up big in this game. They took a lot of bad shots, but they made enough to survive and advance. Kansas could really use Jalen Wilson in their second-round game, but who knows how Wilson will feel.