KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When the home team shoots 25 percent, that’s a good way put a chill on the crowd.
Now, technically the packed house at the Sprint Center on Sunday wasn’t a home game. Then again, who are we kidding?
It was almost all Kansas blue with only a hint of North Carolina blue.
But the Jayhawks’ 25-percent shooting, 12 turnovers and the Tar Heels’ nine-point lead at the break didn’t leave the horde of KU fans with much to cheer about.
“That’s a shame,” KU senior Kevin Young said, “because we feed off their energy.”
KU found its own energy in the second half, which in turn set off the crowd. The Jayhawks ran off to a 70-58 victory to land a date with Michigan in Friday’s Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“We gave the crowd a chance to be a factor,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t do that in the first half.”
Doubling Perry — Part of North Carolina’s game plan in the first half was to double-team Kansas freshman forward Perry Ellis when he caught the ball in the post, which was supposed to be effective in two ways.
First, it helped to contain Ellis, who has been on a tear lately. Second, it forced the Wichita native to make quick decisions with the ball in his hands, something that hadn’t happened in the Big 12 Tournament or in the Jayhawks’ second-round win over Western Kentucky.
“I recognized it pretty quickly and was just kicking it back out,” Ellis said. “If they were going to double team, I was going to find an open teammate.”
Ellis played eight minutes and finished with three points and two rebounds on 1-of-3 shooting. His only basket came on an offensive rebound in the first half.
Taking stock — Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore’s name has been bandied about all season as a potential No. 1 pick in June’s NBA Draft, and while two lackluster games couldn’t have left scouts impressed, it may not have hurt him as much as might be assumed, and definitely not enough for Jayhawk fans to start entertaining thoughts of him possibly coming back for another season.
This year’s draft is considered particularly weak and it’s highly unlikely that McLemore, who’s 6-foot-5, would drop out of the lottery despite averaging 6.5 points and going 0 for 8 from three-point range in wins over Western Kentucky and North Carolina.
“When I’m not playing good, I’ve just got to refocus,” McLemore said. “I couldn’t hit threes this weekend, and a lot of it stems from that.”
NBAdraft.net had McLemore still ranked as the top prospect as of March 16. CBSsports.com also had McLemore listed as the top prospect on Wednesday, as did ESPN, which issued a warning about his play before the tournament.
“McLemore’s hold on the top spot has been tenuous,” ESPN’s Chad Ford said. “He is an elite shooter and a terrific athlete, but he can disappear for long stretches and doesn’t really create well for himself off the dribble.”
McLemore is 2 for 14 in the tournament and 4 for 21 over the last three games. He’s made only one three-pointer out of 12 attempts in the stretch.
Sunday, he even missed an uncontested shot after taking a lob pass.
“He had some pretty good looks today,” Self said, “but it wasn’t his day. He needs to get right for Arlington. By that, I’m talking about getting his confidence back.
“For us to be good, to have a chance to advance, we need all our players playing much closer to their ceiling.”
He said McLemore needs to go through the repetition of taking shots in practice.
“Ben just needs to see the ball go through the hole,” Self said.
Seeing stars — The Sprint Center had some celebrities in the crowd during Sunday’s games. Kansas City Chiefs running back Dexter McCluster attended Friday and Sunday’s sessions and was taking pictures with fans courtside before Kansas tipped off against North Carolina.
Former Kansas All-American and Tulsa coach Danny Manning, who led the Jayhawks to the 1988 NCAA title at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo., was sitting six rows behind the Kansas bench. Manning’s son, Evan, is a freshman guard. Danny Manning was an assistant coach for five years at Kansas before taking over at Tulsa this season.
Lane violation – Among the many strange things KU did in the game was commit a lane.
With the Jayhawks starting to pull away 56-44 with about 6 ½ minutes left, KU guard Naadir Tharpe made the first of two free throws. But the Jayhawks were whistled for a lane violation before he could attempt his second one.
Elijah Johnson was in the free-throw circle, talking to Tharpe when Tharpe went to the line. The ref blew the whistle, startling both Tharpe and Johnson.
“It wasn’t just Naadir,” Self said. “His partner joined him in that violation. Of course, Naadir had an answer. He said the official passed the ball to him too quickly.
“I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never seen that lane violation before. He just made a bonehead play there. Fortunately for us, it wasn’t a big factor.”
Smashed eye — KU center Jeff Withey had a shiner, swollen right eye and a headache after the game.
Late in the first half, he took an inadvertent elbow from North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo. After checking the monitor, the refs determined the elbow wasn’t thrown intentionally as McAdoo was driving to the basket.