FINAL: MSU knocked out of Big Dance by No. 1 Kansas, 90-70
TULSA, Okla. — With a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line, the No. 1-seeded Kansas University Jayhawks used a series of runs late in the game to work past No. 9 MSU at the BOK Center Sunday. The runs aided the Jayhawks in advancing another round in the NCAA Tournament after defeating the Spartans, 90-70.
Kansas improves to 30-4 overall on the season, while MSU's season will come to an end at 20-15 overall. Ex-MSU recruit Josh Jackson led the way for the Jayhawks with 23 points, Bridges scored a team-high 22 for MSU.
"They're one of the best teams in the country," head coach Tom Izzo said. "That's why they've been ranked No. 1. They got one of the best coaches in the country and they've got a Player of the Year candidate for our country. So that's enough, a little bit of youth, a lot of experience, good coach, 16,000 fans or however many were here. Tha's a recipe for some success, and I think they have a good chance to have some success."
The Spartans held the edge in the early stages of regulation after Bridges hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to put MSU on the scoreboard first. Kansas took a 6-5 lead after Landen Lucas hit a jumper, but back-to-back scores from freshmen guard Cassius Winston and forward Nick Ward made it a 9-6 game.
Kansas tied the game with a free throw from Frank Mason III and took the lead with a three from Lagerald Vick to make it 12-9.
The Jayhawks extended their lead to five points, but back-to-back scores from sophomores forward Kyle Ahrens and shooting guard Matt McQuaid erased the deficit. Bridges momentarily exited the game with 14:55 before halftime with an apparent injury, but returned and hit a go-ahead 3-point shot to make it 20-19.
"I caught an elbow in the hip," Bridges said. "I was kind of slow when I was on defense. I couldn't make sharp movements. I couldn't get up like I wanted to. But I had to fight through for my team. That wouldn't have kept me out for the world. I had to play this game."
Scores from Winston and freshman shooting guard Joshua Langford kept the Spartans at a marginal two-point lead over Kansas until a 13-2 run from the Jayhawks gave — and extended — their lead to 36-27 with 3:51 remaining before the half. A layup from Devonte' Graham made the run 10-2 and forced Izzo to take a timeout.
MSU's only score in that span was a layup from Ward and after that, the Spartans went scoreless for over two minutes.
Back-to-back scores from Jackson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk extended the Jayhawk lead to 11. A 3-point shot from Langford cut the bleeding and reduced it to a 40-32 game. With four seconds left before halftime, Vick fouled Bridges from 3-point range. Bridges hit all three free throws, cutting MSU's deficit to a 40-35 game at halftime.
Mason, Jackson and Mykhailiuk each scored nine points in the first half as Kansas shot 50 percent from the floor. Landen boarded nine rebounds by the half and helped the Jayhawks outscore MSU in the paint for the half, 16-14.
Despite his momentary exit, Bridges netted 13 points by halftime and was one of three Spartans to share a stake in rebounds with three. Winston tallied five assists.
Kansas also outscored the Spartans off turnovers for the half, 4-1, and marginally on second-chance attempts, 7-5, while outrebounding MSU, 18-14. MSU, however, outscored Kansas in points off the bench, 13-3, and narrowly on the fast break, 6-4.
A quick layup by Lucas to start the half pushed the Kansas lead back to seven, but MSU continued to chip away. A free throw made by Ward after a layup brought the Spartans within four, 50-46, with 15:44 to play. Another layup from Ward on the next possession made it 50-48.
The Spartans continued to push and cut the deficit to just a point with 12:14 left to play. A wide-open three hit by McQuaid in the left corner, and a layup from senior shooting guard Alvin Ellis III on the fast break made it a 54-53 game. Kansas head coach Bill Self took a full timeout after the play so the Jayhawks could regroup.
"The final margin didn't dictate what a hard game it was," Self said. "I thought both teams tried real hard. I thought we tried too hard at times. Shot selection wasn't great. But when they cut it to one, that's when we played our best ball. And that was fun to see and certainly, it was good to see our guys get in a nice rhythm."
Kansas re-extended its lead to seven after back-to-back and-one plays by Jackson. With 8:38 left to play, Ward was called for his fourth foul and put the Jayhawks into the bonus. Forward Dwight Coleby — who was fouled — hit his first free throw. On their next possession, Vick laid one up to extend the lead to 10, 67-57.
After a technical was issued to Vick, Winston made two free throws, and on the next possession, a three by McQuaid and a free throw from Bridges on a one-and-one made it 71-65. Another 9-0 run by Kansas would open up a 15-point lead. Izzo called timeout with 5:28 to play, and Graham responded with a 3-pointer out of the timeout for the Jayhawks.
Late scores from Mason and Jackson pushed the lead out to 17 points, and a three from Graham with less than a minute to play extended the lead to 20, 90-70. Missed shots, turnovers and a missed presence on rebounds were to credit.
MSU ended the game on a 2:36 scoring drought.
"I thought they played an exceptional last eight, ten minutes," Izzo said. "They were really good, and I thought that was the difference. You know, with 12 minutes left it's a one-point game. With seven minutes left, it's a five-point game."
Jackson and Mason combined for 43 points for Kansas, Bridges scored 22 for MSU. For the game, Kansas shot 53.1 percent from the field and MSU finished 43.9 percent from the floor.
With the loss, MSU's season will come to an end. The Jayhawks will advance to play No. 4 Purdue next weekend.