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The Early Lead
Posted at 11:51 PM ET, 03/18/2012

March Madness: Elijah Johnson leads Kansas past Purdue to Sweet 16

Purdue’s Robbie Hummel delivered one of the best halves in recent NCAA tournament history.

But Kansas junior guard Elijah Johnson countered with a strong second half that included several clutch plays down the stretch to propel the second-seeded Jayhawks into the Sweet 16 with a 63-60 victory over the 10th-seeded Boilermakers in a Midwest Region round-of-32 game in Omaha.

Hummel, the fifth-year senior who battled back from a pair of reconstructive knee surgeries, scored 22 of his 26 points in the first half, helping the Boilermakers seize control of the game. They led by 11 points in the first half and 10 in the second half.

While Johnson was not as prolific, finishing with 18 points, his biggest plays came at critical moments, none bigger than his steal and coast-to-coast layup with 23 seconds left that gave Kansas just its second lead of the game, 61-60.

Johnson also made a long three-pointer that gave the Jayhawks their only previous lead, 57-56, and later threw an alley-oop pass in transition that Tyshawn Taylor dunked to get Kansas within 60-59 with 59 seconds left.

Despite trailing nearly the entire game, Kansas (29-6) advanced to play North Carolina State on Friday in St. Louis.

“It was one of the moments that we’ve been through a couple times this year,” Johnson said during a postgame interview on CBS. “Sometimes we broke down. Against Duke we broke down. Against some other teams we broke down. But I guess it was for March. It prepared us for this game.”

After Kansas took its 61-60 lead, Hummel was short on a contested three-pointer and Taylor dunked for a 63-60 lead with two seconds left.

Purdue had one last chance, but Ryne Smith’s three-point shot from the right wing banked off the backboard and hit the rim before caroming away.

Washington native Thomas Robinson added 11 points and 13 rebounds for Kansas.

Box score: Kansas 63, Purdue 60

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By  |  11:51 PM ET, 03/18/2012

 
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