INDIANAPOLIS – Third seed Kansas overcame a 10-point second-half deficit behind five players in double figures to defeat 14th-seed Eastern Washington, 93-84, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament inside Indiana Farmers Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
Kansas improves to 21-8 (12-6 Big 12) this season, giving the Jayhawks 21 or more victories for the 32ndconsecutive season, which begun back in 1989-90. The Jayhawks also improved to 35-2 in its last 37 NCAA tournament round-of-64-games, beginning in 1981.
Kansas will face off against the winner of (6) USC and (11) Drake on Monday, March 22. Eastern Washington finishes the season 16-8 (12-3 Big Sky).
The Jayhawks were led by a team-high 22 points from junior David McCormack, who led five Kansas players in double figures. Joining McCormack were Ochai Agbaji (21), Marcus Garrett (20), Dajuan Harris (13) and Christian Braun (12).
The Jayhawks started slow, with Eastern Washington jumping out to an early 9-0 lead. The Eagles’ Tanner Groves scored all nine of those points, before Kansas called a timeout to regroup. The Jayhawks would bounce back and take their first lead of the game at 14:08 of the first half at 16-15.
The Eagles relied upon brothers Tanner Groves and Jacob Groves, who accounted for 32 of Eastern Washington’s 38 points in the first half. Kansas trailed, 46-38 at the break.
Eastern Washington continued to go to the Grove brothers, as EWU lead by as many as 10 at the 17:58 mark of the second half.
Despite falling behind, Kansas continued to battle back. Trailing 61-55, Kansas went on a 14-3 run to take the lead at 73-66 with 7:58 to go.
The Jayhawks relied heavily upon McCormack, who scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half. In addition, Garrett stepped up by registering his third 20+ point game of the season and fifth of his career.
Down the stretch, Kansas was able to pull away from Eastern Washington to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks will take on the winner of (6) USC and (11) Drake on Monday.
MOMENT OF THE GAME
Needing a push late, Kansas turned to McCormack in the final 10 minutes of the game. Tied at 66 with 9:11 to go, McCormack scored four straight points to put the Jayhawks up, 70-66. The Jayhawks used a total team effort down the stretch to beat the Eagles, 93-84.
- Five Jayhawks scored in double-figures, including David McCormack, Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, Dajuan Harris and Christian Braun, marking the seventh time this season Kansas had five or more players in double-figures. The Jayhawks improve to 5-2 in those games.
- Junior Ochai Agbaji started his 76th consecutive game, which is the 12th longest on the KU career charts.
- Senior Mitch Lightfoot started his first game since his sophomore season, which was against Seton Hall in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Saturday’s start marked the eighth of his career.
- Senior Marcus Garrett secured his fourth-straight double-digit scoring effort, scoring 20 points on 8-of-12 from the field. Garrett has scored in double figures 14 times this season and 38 times in his career, while it was his third game this season and fifth of his career with 20 or more points.
- McCormack scored 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds, marking his 19th game scoring in double figures and 18th game with five or more rebounds this season. Five of McCormack’s nine rebounds came on the offensive end.
- Redshirt-freshman Dajuan Harris scored a career-high 13 points. His previous high of seven points came against TCU (twice).
- Harris connected on 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, his first career game with multiple 3-pointers.
The Jayhawks will play the winner of the (6) USC vs. (11) Drake matchup on Monday, March 22 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. USC and Drake play on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., CT.