Suddenly, the college basketball world was riveted to the Detroit-Kansas game Friday night.
Not because of any surge in interest in the teams, but the situation. The Jayhawks are a No. 2 seed, the Titans a No. 15, and hours earlier the NCAA Tournament, was turned upside down with a pair of titanic upsets in meetings between those seeds.
Would Kansas follow Missouri and Duke into the dust pan?
The losing streak of second seeds ended with the Jayhawks, who pounded Detroit 65-50.
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“I didn’t need to say anything about Missouri, I didn’t need to,” KU coach Bill Self said. “But I didn’t make a point of it because when you do it can add pressure.
“The one thing we wanted to do was to make sure Detroit didn’t play well. In upsets, they happen when you let teams get comfortable, and then anything can happen.”
Kansas will take on 10th-seeded Purdue at about 7:40 p.m. Sunday, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 in St. Louis.
The only mystery of the second half was the status of point guard Tyshawn Taylor, who left the game for the locker room early in the second half and didn’t return to the sideline. The truTV broadcast crew reported Taylor had suffered leg cramps.
The outcome was decided in the final 4 ½ minutes of the first half.
Kansas (28-6) ended the half on a 10-3 run, a surge highlighted by a couple of court length drives.
Thomas Robinson provided the first on a steal and hammer finish.
Taylor delivered the second, going end-to-end on a missed free throw in the half’s final seven seconds.
KU had a 10-point, and that it took only a few minutes of the second half to add 10 more to the margin, speaks to how demoralized the Titans were.
The first 15 minutes contained the game’s drama. The Titans (22-14), from the Horizon Conference, forced KU into early mistakes, and Detroit scored on successive possessions to take a 21-19 lead and a jolt of energy.
But the game lulled for the next three minutes. Nobody scored. Finally, KU started it half-ending flurry and the Titans didn’t find any offensive rhythm until the margin was too great to overcome.
Kansas put a clamp on Detroit scoring leader Ray McCallum most of the night. McCallum, the sophomore who took a recruiting visit to Kansas and strongly considered programs like Florida and Arizona before signing to play for his father, entered the game leading the Titans with a 15.6 scoring average.
His dad, Ray McCallum, was no stranger to the Jayhawks. He served as an Oklahoma assistant from 2004-06.
But with a crew of Jayhawks, led by Taylor, handling the assignment, the usually dynamic McCallum was held in check and finished with eight points.
Kansas played most of the second half with Elijah Johnson at the point.
Robinson powered his way to 16 points and 13 rebounds, his 24th double-double of the season.
Johnson made his first five field goals, including three from beyond the arc, to finish with 15, and Taylor had 10.
The Jayhawks’ defense was solid throughout the game, holding Detroit to 32-percent shooting (20 of 63). The Titans were 3 of 17 from beyond the arc.