Jayhawks manhandle Spiders and advance to Elite Eight

Kansas’ Brady Morningstar glides in for a layup during the Jayhawks’ win over Richmond in the NCAA tournament Friday in San Antonio.

Kansas’ Brady Morningstar glides in for a layup during the Jayhawks’ win over Richmond in the NCAA tournament Friday in San Antonio. Photo by The Associated Press.

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Ramping up for perhaps the biggest game in school history, 12th-seeded Richmond huddled in the tunnel. That’s when Kansas players came trotting past and the trouble started.

Shoves were traded. Words were exchanged and security appeared. It ended quickly without a fight and the Jayhawks went on their way.

The game itself wasn’t much different.

Brady Morningstar scored 18 points and Kansas, playing like the dominant No. 1 seed in a historic NCAA regional full of underdogs, knocked off Richmond 77-57 on Friday night to move one victory from returning the Final Four for the first time since its 2008 championship.

“We were trying to get past, and they were shoving us,” Kansas guard Mario Little said of the pregame encounter. “But we tried to let our play do the talking, and I think we did a good job in the first half.”

There was no doubt about that.

The Spiders passed up open shots, bounced balls into the Kansas bench and found themselves down 31-9 with more than six minutes still left before halftime.

The Spiders looked jittery in the what was only the school’s second round-of-16 appearance. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, were calm and confident in reaching a fourth regional final under coach Bill Self.

Justin Harper led Richmond with 22 points.

“We weren’t able to slow them down in any way,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said.

Thomas Robinson had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Marcus Morris scored 13 for Kansas. The Jayhawks have yet to be tested so far this tournament, winning by an average of nearly 18 points.

The Southwest regional is the first in NCAA history with three double-digit seeded teams. Kansas awaited the winner of 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth and 10th-seeded Florida State.

It’s given the Jayhawks what appears — at least on paper — to be an easy-looking path toward the Final Four. The Jayhawks can make it to Houston next week without having beaten a seed higher than ninth-seeded Illinois.

If that happens, Kansas will join Michigan State in 2001 and North Carolina in 1991 as the only schools to get that far without having to beat a seed higher than nine. And only five teams have reached the Final Four by feasting on teams seeded eighth or lower, according to STATS LLC.

One of those schools? The 2008 Jayhawks.

That run ended in the Alamodome with Self winning his first title at Kansas. Three years later, the Jayhawks looked every bit at home in San Antonio.

Self downplayed the pregame tunnel dustup as “typical stuff, but it wasn’t anything.” Spiders guard Kevin Anderson, who had 14 points, said both teams were just eager to play and chalked it up to usual aggression.

Still, Self waited for Richmond to exit through the tunnel at halftime before letting his players walk down the same tunnel toward the locker room. Kansas was already ahead 41-22.

The Jayhawks shot 48 percent from the floor and made 9 of 19 3-pointers. Morningstar was 7-for-11 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Josh Selby added nine points.

Anderson and Harper were the only Richmond players in double figures.

Anderson, who hit the winning shot to upset Vanderbilt in the tournament opener, averaged 26.2 points in Richmond’s previous five wins over ranked teams. But the senior was 5-of-17 from the floor in his final game and missed all six of his 3-pointers.

“We didn’t really play that well tonight, so finishing like that is tough,” Richmond center Dan Geriot said. “There was a lot left in there for us to have competed a little better.”

The loss stopped Richmond from reaching the first regional final in school history. Mooney sought to inspire his players this week by showing them Richmond’s stunning win at Allen Fieldhouse in 2004, which ended Kansas’ 52-game home unbeaten streak against unranked opponents. It had been the only meeting between the schools before Friday.

This time, the Jayhawks never looked in trouble.

“It’s just a lot of energy, getting ready to play a big game,” Morningstar said. “So that’s how sports are sometimes. And I respect Richmond a lot. They’re a heck of a team, and I’m glad we got a win tonight.”

N. Carolina 81, Marquette 63

NEWARK, N.J. — Catch ’em if you can.

After repeated early, deep deficits this postseason, North Carolina flipped the script Friday night, dismantling Marquette 81-63 in an East Regional semifinal that was over before the half.

North Carolina got off to its customary slow start, then seized control to move within a game of reaching the Final Four for the third time in four years.

“I looked up at the clock and it was 10-8 their favor, and the next time I looked at the clock is when I went off at halftime and it was 40-15,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “I knew we were doing very well to say the least.”

Those 15 first-half points were the second-fewest allowed by North Carolina in a half in 144 NCAA tournament games, and the Marquette’s 20 percent shooting from the field came on 6-of-30 shooting that was the second lowest by an opponent in an NCAA tournament game.

Just a year after missing the NCAA party, the kids from Chapel Hill are ready to steal the show.

Zeller had 27 points and 15 rebounds, while John Henson added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the second-seeded Tar Heels in the rout at the Prudential Center. Harrison Barnes added 20 points and six rebounds.

North Carolina (29-7) will face Kentucky or top-seed Ohio State on Sunday for a spot in Houston.

“It means a great deal to all of us,” Zeller said. “We’ve been working for this all year and finally put ourselves in a situation and we have to go out and play Sunday.”

The Tar Heels looked scary against Marquette.

Everyone knew they could run up and down the court with the best in college basketball. Friday’s dominating defensive performance was an eye-opener.

“I still think we can play better,’ Carolina guard Dexter Strickland said. “We haven’t played to our potential.”

Marquette’s miserable game meant the Big East’s contingent of 11 teams has dipped to one — Connecticut.

“We just couldn’t do anything right in the first half, and that’s just not the way we play,” said Davante Gardner who led the Golden Eagles with 16 points and six rebounds. “It was uncharacteristic of us, and actually, it was pretty embarrassing.”

Marquette had only two bad games down the stretch, and both came in this building. Three weeks ago, they were blown out by a sub .500 Seton Hall team in a game that seemingly put the Golden Eagles out of the NCAA tournament.

Marquette, however, played well enough in the Big East Conference tournament to make the show then knocked off Xavier and fourth-seeded Syracuse.

Going against North Carolina was a mismatch.

“We had zero assists at halftime, and we never do that,” said Jimmy Butler, who had 14 points in his final game. “I had no idea what was going on. We had to be able to adjust and get some baskets, but we let them get away with doing whatever they wanted to do. The toughest team usually wins, and we definitely were not the tougher team.”

The Tar Heels played a physical game against their tough-minded Big East Conference opponent for the opening eight minutes and then took control.

Trailing 10-8 with 12:43 to go, North Carolina went on a 19-0 run, forcing Marquette to miss 14 straight shots. The game was just about over at that point.

Kendall Marshall started the North Carolina run with a shot in the lane, and Zeller gave the Tar Heels the lead for good, grabbing two offensive rebounds on the same possession and putting the second one in.

Marshall, who had seven assists, hit another jumper in the lane and then made a crosscourt pass to Henson for an alley-oop dunk that had the powder blue-clad North Carolina fans jumping out of their seats.

When Dexter Strickland hit a jumper on a fastbreak, Marquette coach Buzz Williams called a time out with his team down 18-10. He would call three in the run, sensing his team was losing their way. It didn’t work.

Henson hit two lay-ups, Barnes hit a 3-pointer and Leslie McDonald scored on a rebound follow to push the lead to 27-10 with 4:41 to go in the half.

Marquette’s futility ended when Butler hit a jumper with 3:54 to go, ending a nearly nine-minute scoring drought for the Golden Eagles, who scored five points in the final 12:42 of the half to fall behind 40-15.

North Carolina added to Marquette’s misery in the opening minutes of the second half, scoring the first six points to open a 46-15 lead.

After the second basket, Williams called another time-out. Strickland then stole the inbound pass and scored on a fastbreak to further embarrass the Golden Eagles.

“I thought in the first half we were pitiful,” Buzz Williams said. “We shot 52 percent in the second half, which is more aligned with what we typically do. They shot 38 percent in the second half, which is ideally what we want to hold teams to.”

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