Field Level Media
Mar 27, 2022
CHICAGO -- Ochai Agbaji and most of his Kansas teammates affixed parts of the newly snipped-off net to the backs of their NCAA Tournament Midwest regional championship caps.
As the top-seeded Jayhawks see it, there are more statements -- fashion and otherwise -- yet to come.
Agbaji scored 18 points, David McCormack added 15 and Jalen Wilson grabbed 11 rebounds as Kansas used a second-half surge to defeat 10th-seeded Miami 76-50 in the Midwest regional final on Sunday.
Kansas (32-6) advances to the Final Four in New Orleans, where the Jayhawks will meet South regional champion Villanova in a national semifinal on Saturday.
"It's great for the program and the university," Agbaji said, "but we're not done yet. And I'm not satisfied yet with this. I know my teammates aren't, either."
Making the first Elite Eight appearance in program history, Miami (26-11) was unable to maintain early momentum, faltering to 21.4 percent shooting after the break and committing 14 overall turnovers.
Kansas swiftly erased a six-point halftime deficit, scoring 19 of the first 24 points after intermission en route to a 47-15 advantage in the second half.
"We started to play the score, not the game, like we'd been," the Hurricanes' Sam Waardenburg said. "We've been playing the game, not worrying about the score, even when we were up for the first few games of the tournament.
"But that's where we really went this game. Started looking at that score and started rushing things and whatnot, not really playing to our game. But full credit to Kansas, as well. That's a great team there. I wish them luck in their games coming up."
Kansas moved on to the fourth Final Four in coach Bill Self's 19 seasons.
What rousing words might have spurred the Jayhawks at halftime? For his part, Self acknowledged, "I'm not good at those types of things; I told them we need to play better."
The eruption included 10 straight points in a 1:40 span, punctuated by McCormack's three-point play off a fast break that put the Jayhawks ahead 48-40 with 14:21 remaining.
Christian Braun's 3-pointer 1:06 earlier gave Kansas the lead for good and marked the Jayhawks' first made trey of the afternoon after starting the game with seven successive misses from long range.
Braun added 12 points for Kansas, which shot 59.3 percent in the second half.
Kameron McGusty scored 18 points for Miami, while Isaiah Wong followed with 15.
"Just being able to accomplish what we accomplished this year, now teams coming in or new teams, two, three years down the line, that Elite Eight is going to be the goal," McGusty said. "That's what we were able to do this year, and I'm so happy for us. I love these guys. I loved playing with them."
The Jayhawks outrebounded the Hurricanes 41-28.
Moments before tipoff, a public-address announcement from an NCAA sideline reporter recognized Kansas for recently becoming the winningest program in college basketball. Friday's 66-61 regional semifinal victory against fourth-seeded Providence marked all-time win No. 2,354 for the Jayhawks, whose fans howled at the chance to re-celebrate the news.
Meantime, Miami backers remained in their seats, ready to spring whenever the school with 980 men's basketball victories entering the afternoon executed a big play. There was much to cheer early.
Miami closed the first half on a 9-2 run to take a 35-29 lead into the break. Kansas stayed afloat despite missing each of its five attempts from 3-point range and shooting 3-for-9 from the free-throw line in the first 20 minutes.
The Hurricanes especially excelled at getting Jayhawks defenders to move on up-fakes, using their quickness to either get to the basket or create better looks.
Kansas improved to 16-10 all-time in Elite Eight games, including 4-5 under Self, who took the helm before the 2003-04 season.
"Going into the second half, it was, the lid's going to come off at some point,'" Agbaji said of the basket. "Keep guarding and focusing on guarding better and the offense is going to come."
The Jayhawks now will aim for the program's first national championship since 2008 -- along with the nets and caps that come with the territory.
--Kevin Druley, Field Level Media