On the way to an improbable national championship in 1983, the late Jim Valvano coined the March Madness phrase "survive and advance." For teams trying to win the six games necessary to cut down the nets, the three words can be mantra.
Faced with its top players struggling and trying to stop an opposing player on a divine mission, No. 2 seed Kansas struggled to survive Sunday night in Omaha. Despite holding the lead for less than one of the 40 minutes, the Jayhawks managed to advance.
Kansas (29-6) came up with two defensive stops that led to baskets that produced a 63-60 victory over No. 10 seed Purdue. The Jayhawks now advance to the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis. Kansas will face No. 11 seed North Carolina State (the team that Valvano coached in 1983) at 9:17 p.m. Friday.
Purdue senior Robbie Hummel, who missed the last two seasons after twice tearing the ACL in his right knee, scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half as the Boilermakers jumped to a 19-8 lead in the first 10 minutes. Purdue (22-13) gang guarded Thomas Robinson (11 points, 2-of-12 shooting) inside and the Jayhawks missed 15 of their first 17 shots.
"They were better than us for the majority of the game and Robbie Hummel was great," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We hung in there. It wasn't the best played, but it was a grind-it-out, typical Big Ten game."
Self coached at Illinois before taking the Kansas job so he's familiar with how Big Ten teams play. With his team trailing 36-30 at halftime, the message was "toughness."
Kansas took its first lead when Johnson hit a deep 3-pointer with just over 3 minutes left to make it 57-56. The Boilermakers answered with back-to-back baskets to take a 60-57 lead with 2:02. Taylor cut the lead to one when he took a gutsy alley-oop pass from Johnson for a dunk with 1:03 remaining that pulled KU within a point.
"In my opinion Tyshawn and myself are the most athletic guards on the same team so if I was down there I knew Ty would have thrown it to me," Johnson said of the high risk, high reward play. "Once again there was no second guessing. I trusted him."
Purdue's next possession fizzled when point guard Lewis Jackson lost the ball as the shot clock was winding down. Johnson came up with the steal and drove for a layup and a 61-60 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
"I think that one thing that stuck in my head the whole time, Coach preached to us it's going to come down to one possession," said Johnson, who had a team-high 18 points. "No matter the score I felt like it would come down to one possession."
Hummel missed a 3-pointer that would have given Purdue the lead and Taylor broke free for a dunk with 2.5 seconds remaining. Taylor could have dribbled out the clock instead of scoring. The Boilermakers called timeout to set up a final shot but Ryne Smith's long 3-pointer bounced off the glass and the rim.
Kansas now advances to a four-team tournament that has a No. 13 seed (Ohio), a No. 11 (North Carolina State) and a No. 1 (North Carolina) that might be without its point guard. Maybe that's a sign of good fortune, maybe it isn't.
"I've been around long enough that usually teams that have great success in the tournament, they figure out how to win a game when they don't play their best," Self said. "We shot 34 percent. We didn't make free‑throws. We were 6 of 24 from three. Hopefully this was that game."
* Kansas shot 29.4 percent in the first half, the second-lowest field goal percentage in a half and lowest in a first-half for Kansas in NCAA Tournament play. The 1974 Jayhawks shot 28.6 percent in the second half of a 78-61 loss to UCLA.
* Kansas had a season-high 21 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded Purdue 44-36. The Jayhawks are 20-4 when having the edge on the boards.
* In the first two NCAA Tournament games, junior Elijah Johnson has scored 33 points and 25 of those have come in the second half.
* Thomas Robinson recorded his nation's-best 25th double-double. That ties the Kansas single-season record set by Drew Gooden in 2002.