SAN ANTONIO — Kansas advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since its NCAA tournament title run in 2008 with a commanding performance that made the final outcome — Kansas 77, Richmond 57 — a foregone conclusion midway through the first half.
While the 12th-seeded Spiders’ performance in the Southwest Region semifinal game improved in the second half, their effort before the break was too dismal to surmount. Richmond shot 33.8 percent from the field on the night and made 4 of 26 (15.4 percent) three-point attempts.
“Our goal was to take away layups and threes,” Kansas Coach Bill Self said. “And we gave up the one back-cut, or two maybe, but that was late. So we did a good job with that. Our scout team was pretty good. I think that was a big reason why our guys felt comfortable with their action, because it is different. We don’t guard anybody else like that, and now we’ll have to go back, regardless of who we play next, and say, ‘Now forget about that and guard how we were.’ ”
The top-seeded Jayhawks will face 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday afternoon with a Final Four berth on the line.
While Richmond never found an offensive flow, the Jayhawks (35-2) were hot from the start. Kansas guard Brady Morningstar shot 4 for 7 from three-point range and tallied a team-high 18 points. The Jayhawks shot 47.4 percent (9 for 19) from beyond the three-point arc.
“Our shots were falling,” Morningstar said. “That’s key for us if our bigs are in foul trouble. My teammates were getting me the ball, and I was knocking them down.”
Richmond (29-8) demonstrated some spunk in the second half, but by that point its deficit simply was too large to overcome. Less than three minutes after halftime, Spiders forward Kevin Smith stepped on the baseline while in possession of the ball. Believing the contact of his defender, Morningstar, had been excessive, Smith got in Morningstar’s face.
Morningstar responded with a three-pointer moments later and some words for Smith as he backpedaled downcourt, an action that drew a technical foul. Richmond scored the next six points, but the Spiders never were able to trim their deficit closer than 15 points after the break.
“They were kind of able to dictate the game, and unfortunately we weren’t able to slow them down in any way,” Richmond Coach Chris Mooney said. “When they didn’t get transition baskets they were jumping into their offense. We never really were able to get our defense set.”
Richmond trailed Kansas by 24 with less than five minutes remaining in the first half. Disorganized and overwhelmed, Richmond spent most of the opening period trying to keep pace with a Jayhawks squad with a focus to match its immense talent.
Kansas took just more than eight minutes to create a double-digit advantage. Jayhawks forwards Marcus Morris (six) and Thomas Robinson (seven) combined to nearly outebound Richmond (15) before the intermission. Robinson finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds.
The Jayhawks forced seven turnovers and claimed a 12-0 edge in points off turnovers by halftime. The Spiders had not advanced this far in the NCAA tournament since 1988, and the lack of experience showed.
Kansas, meantime, has made five Sweet 16 appearances since Self took over the program eight years ago. The Jayhawks made half their field goal and three-point attempts before the break, and they led by 19 at halftime.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have at the beginning of the game, and that tends to lead to one team gaining confidence and one team, you know, starts to press a little bit,” Mooney said. “Unfortunately, that was us.”