Jayhawks shoot past West Virginia, into Big 12 final

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Impressive shooting nights from Dedric Lawson and Quentin Grimes helped push the No. 17/18 Kansas Jayhawks past the West Virginia Mountaineers, 88-74, Friday night in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship semifinal contest at Sprint Center. The No. 3-seeded Jayhawks advanced to meet the No. 5 seed Iowa State Cyclones in the tournament final on Saturday, March 16 at 5 p.m. (CT).

The victory, which saw KU advance to its 14th Big 12 Tournament final, moved the Jayhawks’ record to 25-8 on the year. West Virginia fell to 14-20 in its 2018-19 campaign.

Lawson and Devon Dotson, who combined for 32 points in KU’s quarterfinal win over Texas Thursday, picked up where they left off the night prior. The two Jayhawks poured in 14 of their team’s first 17 points to help KU race out to an early 17-15 advantage over the Mountaineers in the first seven minutes of action.

The Kansas offense then went stagnant, however. KU missed nine-straight field goals over a four-minute span, and West Virginia took advantage, building a seven-point lead. Chase Harler’s 3-pointer at the 6:07 mark put the Mountaineers up 30-23.

Grimes then caught fire from beyond the arc and the Jayhawks flipped the momentum before the halftime buzzer sounded. The freshman out of The Woodlands, Texas hit four triples over the final 4:15 of the opening frame, which included converting on a rare and-one opportunity from deep. Grimes’ four-point play gave the lead back to Kansas at 38-36, still with 2:28 before the break.

After a pair of Marcus Garrett lay-ups to keep the Jayhawks’ furious finish to the first half going, Grimes rose up from well beyond the arc and swished his fifth 3-pointer of the night just before time expired. The basket capped a 16-4 KU run to close the half and gave Kansas a 48-40 advantage as the two squads headed to the intermission.

The break from action did little to halt the KU momentum. Lawson scored nine points in the six minutes following the restart and aided the Jayhawks to a 16-6 run after coming out of the locker room. The stretch saw KU push its lead to 18 points, going up 64-46 on Garrett’s lay-up at the 14:29 mark. Kansas’ bench then got into the scoring action as Mitch Lightfoot and Charlie Moore combined for six points during a 9-1 Jayhawk spurt that saw the KU lead reach its largest of the night at 23 points, 75-52, with just over eight minutes to play in regulation.

The Mountaineers made one final push to get back in the game as the No. 10 seed went on a 10-0 run over the next two minutes and slashed the Kansas advantage to 13 points. But Dotson had an answer after a Bill Self timeout. The freshman point guard cut to the rim for a lay-up and kicked off an 11-4 stretch that got KU’s lead back to 20 points and handed the final knockout blow to the Mountaineers.

Kansas closed out the 88-74 win and improved to 14-6 in Big 12 semifinals.

Lawson finished the night with his 16th 20-point scoring effort of the season, posting 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Grimes added 18 points which included five 3-pointers, all of which were in the second half. He also pulled down eight rebounds and collected four steals, both of which were season-highs. Dotson contributed 13 points to the KU scoring effort and added six assists and five rebounds in 30 minutes of action.

KU finished the day shooting 52.4 percent from the field (33-63), which included eight 3-pointers. The Jayhawks also outscored the Mountaineers 17-4 in fast break points.