OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma-Last year President Barack Obama picked North Carolina to win the national championship and they did. This year he picked Kansas. The road to the championship begins tonight against the Patriot League champion, Lehigh.
“I like Obama,” Markieff Morris said, “and I liked him more when he picked us to win.”
Here are the vitals: Kansas has a 32-2 record on the season and represents the Big 12. Lehigh has a 22-10 record and represents the Patriot League.
The last time Kansas played the Patriot League champion was right here in the Ford Center when Bucknell beat Kansas in the first round.
This is basically a home game as Lawrence, Kansas is just 316 miles away from Oklahoma City. The crowd is decidedly for the Jayhawks as the stands are bathed in blue and red.
9:00 The game begins and Kansas controls the tip. But its Lehigh getting on the board first with a long 2.
9:03 Lehigh is controlling the game early with turnovers, steals and blocked shots. They haven’t been able to capitalize with any points.
9:07 To borrow some observations on apparel from Karla Bruning, Lehigh is clad in brown and gold. Wow.
9:09 Five minutes into the game Lehigh is up 8-4. Side note: A 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed. Do I sense history being made tonight? Not really, its early.
9:13 Timeout. Lehigh is up 12-4. Kansas seems totally out of their game.
C.J. McCollum is a really good offensive player averaging over 18 points a game for Lehigh. Kansas head coach Bill Self recognizes his talent, “(He) can get 30 any night.”
Self was asked before the game if Lehigh stayed within 20 points if they would count that as a moral victory. “I wouldn’t think that at all.” They are not going for a moral victory at all right now with 12 minutes remaining and the score 12-9 in the Mountain Hawk’s favor.
9:19 Kansas’ Cole Aldrich hits a layup and gets fouled to pull the Jayhawks within one. Timeout.
9:24 Kansas finally wakes up and begins to take over the game. 10:21 remaining Kansas up 16-12.
9:31 During a timeout the Kansas cheerleaders do a routine. They look 12 years old. I officially feel old.
9:37 Offensive foul on Aldrich. That’s his second and he takes a seat. Kansas is clearly in control but Lehigh won’t go away as Zahir Carrington hits a layup. KU up 25-21.
9:40 Carrington hits another jumper to get within 2.
9:45 McCollum shoots and scores a 2 pointer. One point game with 2:46 left!
9:47 I am sitting right by the Lehigh band. They like to start funny little chants. It is kind of funny and a lot not.
9:49 Lehigh just won’t die. McCollum answers Sherron Collins with a 2.
9:50 McCollum gets fouled while making a layup. He misses the free throw.
9:51 Collins answers with a layup of his own.
9:52 Halftime. KU up 35-29. A lot closer than anyone would have thought. Let’s hope the second half is as exciting. The first game was supposed to have all of the defense, but this game has been a bit lower scoring.
This score is no surprise to the Lehigh basketball team. “There’s no 1/16,” Carrington said before the game. “We step on the court…everybody is the same.” So far that has been relatively true. “We’re coming to win,” he added.
10:12 Time to start the second half. Lehigh has an opportunity but Kansas should blow this wide open.
10:18 Kansas keeps letting them hang around as Collins travels. Kansas leads 43-34.
10:20 Dunk time! The Oklahoma City native, Xavier Henry, sends the crowd into a frenzy as he steals the ball and lays down a nice dunk to extend Kansas’ lead to 50-39.
10:27 Marquis Hall knocks down a 3 to put LU within 8.
10:29 Aldrich scores on a dunk after blocking his fourth shot on the other end. I have got to say, Aldrich is legit. This is the first time I have seen him in person and he is good. I had kind of doubted him going into the NBA but I think he would be a nice addition to a team. Not an all star but a good solid player.
10:32 Make that 5 blocks now. 9 points and 7 rebounds. That’s a solid line and there are still 12 minutes to play.
10:39 Sherron Collins scores a 3 pointer to extend the KU lead 68-53. The LU band chants “Its not over.” I think it might be.
10:47 Tyrel Reed hits his third 3 pointer of the night. Kansas is up by 20 now. 6:34 left in the game. LU might be going for that moral victory now.
10:53 Hall scores to bring the lead down to 17 but Kansas is too strong. We are just waiting for the clock to hit zero at this point.
10:58 Aldrich scores on a botched alley oop from Collins. Everything is going in now for the Jayhawks.
11:03 The starters are being pulled and the crowd is starting the “Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk.” chant. Which is creepy. Game is pretty much over.
11:05 Game over. Kansas wins 90 to 74. I have a lot of respect for Lehigh. They hung in there and did not quit. This game was not as close as the score indicates until late in the game.
“We’ll take the win.” Kansas forward Marcus Morris said after the game.
Coach Self will also take it, but he was not pleased with his team’s performance, “I’m not leaving her totally fired up.” Kansas got off to a slow start but the coach gives a lot of credit to their opponent, “(Lehigh) wanted to play.”
Kansas takes on Northern Iowa at 4:40 on Saturday. Be sure to check back here as I will be at the game live.
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