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Western Kentucky guard Brandon Harris (12) tries to steal the ball from Kansas guard Travis Releford on Friday in Kansas City, Mo.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas coach Bill Self predicted this week that a No. 1 seed would someday lose to a No. 16.
He didn't know his Jayhawks would be trying to fend off being the first.
The South Region's top seed needed 17 points from Jeff Withey, and a series of foul shots from Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe down the stretch, to hold off scrappy Western Kentucky 64-57 Friday night and avoid another upset on a day full of them in the NCAA tournament.
"We're pleased we won, and didn't play our best by any stretch," Self said. "They controlled the game for the most part. We're happy to advance, but certainly not pleased with how we played."
The Jayhawks (30-5), flummoxed by the Hilltoppers' full-court pressure, trailed 31-30 at halftime. Kansas eventually built an 11-point lead in the second half, but couldn't put Western Kentucky away until McLemore's two foul shots with 11 seconds left.
McLemore and Travis Releford scored 11 each for the Jayhawks, who wearily advanced to play No. 8 seed North Carolina and former coach Roy Williams in the South Regional today.
"A North Carolina-Kansas game, everybody comes to play," the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson said. "Roy is coming back, there's going to be a lot of fans pumped up, and we'll be pumped."
The marquee matchup between a pair of college basketball blue blood almost didn't happen.
North Carolina squandered a big lead before holding on to beat Villanova 78-71, and then the Jayhawks watched Western Kentucky do everything it could to spring one more upset.
Jamal Crook scored 13 points and T.J. Price had 12 for the Hilltoppers (20-16), who would have made history by becoming the first No. 16 seed to upend a No. 1 seed.
"We knew what we had to do," Crook said, "regardless of what seed we were."
Alas, the undersized team in red couldn't hang tough with the bigger guys in blue down the stretch, allowing Kansas to reach 30 wins for the fourth straight season - the first time that's happened in Division I men's basketball, after Mekanmphis was forced to vacate the 2008 season.
"They kind of surprised us with how good they were, to be honest," Withey said. "We definitely took them lightly, being a No. 1 seed. They came out and fought us really hard."
Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 16 seeds are winless against No. 1 seeds in 116 games, including Southern's heartbreaking 64-58 loss to Gonzaga on Thursday.
"I think the entire country got a glimpse of what they're made of, a lot of character, a lot of heart," Western Kentucky coach Ray Harper said. "A lot of people doubted us this season. We went through a lot of adversity, and adversity will tell you a lot about people."
San Diego St. 70, Oklahoma 55
PHILADELPHIA - Jamaal Franklin scored 21 points, James Rahon had 17 and San Diego State earned its third NCAA tournament victory.
The Aztecs (23-10) did nothing spectacular, but everything well and used a modest 8-0 run late in the second half to take control.
Romero Osby scored 22 points for the 10th-seeded Sooners (20-12).
Minnesota 83, UCLA 63
AUSTIN, Texas - Andre Hollins scored 28 points and Minnesota rolled past punchless UCLA in what could be Bruins freshman Shabazz Muhammad's last in college and coach Ben Howland's final one leading the program.
Austin Hollins scored 16 for the 11th-seeded Gophers (21-12). The Gophers eased some pressure on coach Tubby Smith by giving him his first NCAA tournament win in six seasons.
Another early-round exit by the sixth-seeded Bruins (25-10) won't help Howland, who is facing public speculation back home about his future despite winning the Pac-12 regular-season title this year.
Muhammad, expected to leave for the NBA, led the Bruins with 20 points.
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