The Jayhawks had Providence in such a state of disarray that the Friars appeared to be on the verge of capitulation, even on a night when Kansas struggled to shoot straight (22 of 56) or generate fast-break points (six), and got two rebounds from big man David McCormack and five points from All-American Ochai Agbaji.
But by the middle of the second half of their NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal game on Friday night at the United Center, the lone remaining No. 1 seed in the men’s tournament had suddenly and puzzlingly relinquished its hold on the game.
Sensed Another Familiar Vibe
If you sensed another familiar vibe, you weren’t alone, especially if you’re a fan of the Chiefs-Jayhawks:
You might have had a flinching flashback to the AFC Championship Game collapse against the Bengals in January at Arrowhead Stadium when fourth-seeded Providence came back from 13 down to take a 48-47 lead with 5 minutes, 49 seconds left.
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Victory Came Down
Even though the Friars were within two possessions the rest of the way, the Jayhawks’ 66-61 victory came down to Remy Martin’s (23 points), a lot of smothering defence, and just finding a way.
These are all characteristics that have recently emerged as part of the team’s DNA after appearing to be more about offence a few weeks ago.
“We never get rattled,” said sophomore forward Jalen Wilson, who had made a layup 17 seconds after Providence had finally tied it and had given KU a permanent lead with a three-point play 28 seconds after Providence had taken its sole lead.
Nevertheless, as he accepted congratulations on the way to the locker room and grinned when questioned about Wilson’s remark, coach Bill Self sputtered his lips and sighed with relief.
He remarked, “I’m not sure that I totally buy in 100 percent that we never get rattled. But I do believe that has given us some preparation.
We engage in a lot of close games. And there are fights in every game. It remains to be seen if squeaking out victories like the one over Creighton and this one are more symbolic of the ability to tighten up or just being too tight, indicative of bearing fatal flaws or carrying that certain something, or primarily revealing vulnerability or resolve.