SAN ANTONIO - If you talk the game, you had better be prepared to play the game. Kansas again proved that it can back up its noise with on-court intensity and execution.
The top-seeded Jayhawks showed that their bite is as potent as their bark. Kansas made sure that 12th-seeded Richmond never whiffed the chance to pull an upset. KU used a dominant 21-2 first-half blitz en route to a 77-57 victory Friday night in the Alamodome.
Kansas (35-2) will face No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth in Sunday's regional final (1:20 p.m., CBS). The winner advances to the Final Four in Houston. The Rams (27-11) defeated No. 10 seed Florida State, a 72-71 in overtime, in the other regional semifinal.
The verbal jousting started Friday with KU’s Marcus Morris saying “You boys better be ready” when seeing some of the Richmond players in the hallway at the Alamodome.
Before the game outside the locker rooms, Richmond was huddling and the Kansas players tried to “play through.” There was some pushing and shoving that led to security stepping in.
“Just college kids having fun,” KU’s Tyrel Reed explained.
Kansas coach Bill Self said that Friday’s “confrontations” – characterized as the Jayhawks playing mind games with the Spiders – was blown out of proportion. And the pre-game tussle was “typical stuff, it wasn’t anything.”
At halftime, ushers made sure the Spiders left the floor first, with the Jayhawks waiting on the court for about 10 seconds.
“They tried to run through our huddle and they ran into some walls,” Richmond’s Kevin Smith said. “It’s a man thing. Would you let someone walk through you? They thought they were playing some boys. We don’t regret anything after the horn sounds. It’s time to
“We came here to play and they came here to talk. If they want to do that, good luck to ‘em in the tournament.”
In the second half, Kansas’ Brady Morningstar and Smith had to be separated by the refs after Morningstar forced a turnover. On the ensuing possession, Morningstar hit a 3-pointer and then woofed; he was called for a technical foul.
“I’m not a good enough player to run my mouth after I hit a shot,” said Morningstar, who had a team-high 18 points. “I apologize, coach.”
Self: “Too late.”
For the Spiders (29-8), it was too late after the Jayhawks went on a 21-2 run that started at 13:59 with a Morningstar 3-pointer and ended at 6:35 with a Thomas Robinson dunk. Kansas got just two points from the Morris twins – two free throws by Marcus – during the game-deciding spurt.
Richmond’s 13 possessions during that span produced nine missed shots including six misses from 3-point range.
“We didn’t play as well as we’re capable and Kansas had a lot to do with that,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “They were able to pressure us in a way we didn’t expect them to and we didn’t make enough shots.”
The Spiders finished 4-of-26 from 3-point range. That 15.4 percent accuracy was a season-worst and the four makes tied the fewest they had made this season.
"They caused us to start our offense from a little bit farther back, and kind of taking us out of our comfort zone a little bit," said Richmond's Justin Harper, who finished with a team-high 22 points on 18 shots. "We weren't able to really establish the tempo of the game tonight, and that's one of our strengths."
Particularly in the first half, the Jayhawks’ defense swarmed like an overturned bee hive.
“We wanted to take away layups and threes and we did a good job with that,” Self said. “Richmond is best when they either get threes off their dribble hand offs or cuts off of ball screens. Our scout team is pretty good and that’s a big reason our preparation for this game was good.”
Richmond’s match up zone defense was no match for the Kansas offense. The Jayhawks splashed four of their first eight 3-point attempts. Freshman Josh Selby, who had not made two 3-pointers in a game since Feb. 1, converted from long range on consecutive
"We just told our guys, don't think of it as zone, think of it as switching man," Self said. "We were able to get the ball in the paint off the bounce and we created some mismatches inside."
With Markieff Morris playing just five minutes in the first half because of two fouls, sophomore Thomas Robinson provided a boost.
“Once Markieff got in foul trouble, I wanted to come in and use my energy,” he said. “A lot of balls went my way tonight.”
In 16 minutes Robinson had 12 points and 14 rebounds. The Jayhawks’ bench provided a 31-8 scoring edge.
"It was a really good win," Self said. "It's one that I'm gland that it's behind us so we can look forward to the next one."