Marching on: Jayhawks handle MSU, advance to Sweet 16

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) extends to the bucket past Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

? Kansas City, here they come. The Midwest’s No. 1 seed, the Kansas Jayhawks, took care of business Sunday at BOK Center, running away from Michigan State late in a 90-70 victory, that sends KU to Sprint Center for a Sweet 16 matchup with Purdue.

Kansas (30-4) destroyed the Spartans in the second half, out-scoring MSU 50-35 and shooting 56.3-percent from the floor.

Freshman sensation Josh Jackson, going against his home state’s marquee program, scored 14 of his game-high 23 points after halftime.

Senior point guard Frank Mason III, though he shot just 6 for 16, scored 20 points and dished five assists.

Junior Devonte’ Graham, behind the power of four 3-pointers, added 18.

Senior center Landen Lucas produced his second consecutive double-double, with 10 points and 11 boards.

It marked the eighth time a Bill Self-coached KU team reached 30 victories in a season and assured Kansas of the program’s 30th trip to the Sweet 16.

Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:

• The game turned when: The Jayhawks’ superior talent finally won out.

MSU cut KU’s lead to one with more than 12 minutes to play, but the veteran Jayhawks took their production to another level versus the younger Spartans once they felt challenged.

Led by Jackson drives and jumpers and some unexpected sparks from backup big Dwight Coleby, Kansas quickly built its lead back to double digits and the No. 1 seed’s stellar backcourt of Mason, Jackson and Graham proved too much for Michigan State to handle.

• Offensive highlight: Typically sky-walking slams dominate this category, and although KU did come through on that front (more on that shortly), we’ll keep it old school for this battle between Big 12 and Big 10 powers.

Shortly after his old friend from Michigan, Miles Bridges (22 points, eight rebounds), returned to the floor following an injury scare, Jackson went right at his fellow freshman.

The 6-8 Jackson caught the ball on the right baseline with his back to the basket, and the 6-7 Bridges behind him. What followed was a play reminiscent of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, if not directly inspired by them. Jackson took two hard dribbles toward the paint before spinning back toward the baseline for a fade-away jumper off the glass — as pretty a bucket as you will see this weekend, with apologies to Lagerald Vick and his monster, two-handed finish of a Graham alley-oop pass.

• Defensive highlight: Don’t the best defensive plays usually lead to offense?

Mason’s steal late in the first half could’ve stood alone on its own merit. Cassius Winston tried to drive it straight at Mason from the top of the key, but Mason cut him off in the paint and stripped the ball away.

The thing that made the swipe extraordinary was Mason’s wherewithal in the situation, as the takeaway turned into an outlet pass in one smooth motion. The senior Naismith Trophy finalist heaved the freshly-stolen ball ahead, leaving air under it so Graham could catch up with the outlet.

The head’s up play fueled a two-on-one fast break for Kansas, and Graham lobbed a pass for Svi Mykhailiuk (nine points, three assists) for a two-handed slam, giving the Jayhawks their biggest lead of the first half, at 40-29.

Points off turnovers can swing tight games in March and the sequence ignited a pro-Kansas crowd in Tulsa.

• Key stat: Seven turnovers. Kansas mistakes didn’t kill the favored team on a potentially stressful stage. MSU mostly struggled this season, and the Spartans didn’t get many chances to feel good about themselves with easy looks off turnovers.

• Up next: The Jayhawks will return to their home away from home, Sprint Center, in Kansas City, Mo., for a Sweet 16 showdown with another Big Ten foe, Purdue, on Thursday.

— See what people were saying about the game during’s live coverage.

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