CHICAGO – The Kansas Jayhawks advanced to their 25th Elite Eight appearance in program history Friday night with a 66-61 win over the Providence Flyers at the United Center. Kansas now has 2,354 wins all-time in program history, surpassing Kentucky for the most in NCAA history.
Super-senior guard Remy Martin led the way with a season-high and game-high 23 points, to go with seven rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Wilson collected his sixth double-double of the season and second-straight with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region, improved to 31-6 on the season, while fourth-seeded Providence finished its season with a 27-6 mark. The Jayhawks will now face the winner of 10th-seeded Miami (Fla.) and 11th-seeded Iowa State on Sunday for the right to advance to the Final Four. That game will tip-off at 1:20 p.m., CT on CBS.
The Jayhawks were outscored by four (44-40) in the second half after a dominant defensive performance in the first half, but held on for the victory, thanks to a late run.
“We didn’t make plays in the second half, but we made enough,” Coach Bill Self said. “We didn’t play well, but in large part because (Providence) played so well. The lid came off the basket for them in the second half, and we just kind of had to hang in there and grind it out.”
After holding Providence to just 17 points in the first half and leading by nine at the break, Providence fought back and took its first and only lead of the game with 5:49 to play, when the Friars went up 48-47. But Kansas responded immediately with an and-one from Wilson to put Kansas up 50-48.
Christian Braun and David McCormack then scored back-to-back buckets to complete a 7-0 run and go up 54-48 with 4:12 to play.
From there, Kansas never trailed by fewer than four points with Martin hitting seven free throws down the stretch to help ice the game.
“I feel great, and my teammates have been phenomenal keeping my confidence up throughout the whole year,” Martin said. “It’s been a difficult year for me, injury-wise, but they stuck with me, and that’s what family is all about. For that, I just tried to go out and give it my all, because they deserve that.”
In the first half, Kansas was flat-out dominant on the defensive end, allowing just 17 points, marking a new low for points allowed in a half this season and also the fewest points allowed in a half by a Kansas team in an NCAA Tournament game since 1985. Providence was just 7-for-35 from the floor in the game’s first 20 minutes and was 1-for-13 from 3-point range.
Kansas never trailed in the half. Both teams got off to a slow start offensively and were knotted at 4-4 five minutes in. Martin then checked in and the Jayhawks took charge with the super-senior at the helm.
He went on a personal 7-0 run to give Kansas an 11-4 lead. First, he scored on a driving layup, before hitting a 3-pointer off a pass from Braun. He completed his run with a baseline jumper. Leading 13-8, Martin struck again, making a jumper to put Kansas up 15-8 and giving him nine quick points. He scored again on the next possession to put him into double digits and putting Kansas up nine at 17-8.
The lead got into double digits two minutes later when Wilson pulled down an offensive rebound and followed it up with a layup to go up 19-8. He made it a 12-point lead with 2:42 to play, which was the largest lead of the half for the Jayhawks.
Late in the half, Martin hit his final jumper of the half to give him 13 first-half points and put Kansas up 11, but two free throws from Aljami Durham cut the deficit to single digits, 26-17, at half. The 17 points are the fewest Kansas allowed in a half of an NCAA Tournament game since surrendering 15 to Ohio in the opening round of the 1985 tournament.
Braun finished with six points and 10 rebounds in the win, while McCormack added eight points. The Jayhawks won the rebounding battle 43-38 and outscored Providence 17-5 on second-chance points. Ochai Agbaji finished with a career-high four blocks in the win. Kansas improved to 23-0 this season when holding its opponent to less than 70 points.