Sophomore guard Malik Newman scored a team-high 17 points Friday as Kansas edged Clemson 80-76 in a Midwest Regional semifinal game of the NCAA Tournament at Omaha, Neb.
The performance by Newman marked the fifth time in six postseason games he has led the Jayhawks in scoring after doing so in all three games of the Big 12 tournament. Kansas will face Duke on Sunday.
The Jayhawks (30-7) cruised to a 13-point halftime lead and then canned four 3-pointers to begin the second half, including two by Newman.
Kansas expanded its lead to 62-42, but Clemson (25-10) roared back down the stretch behind junior guard Shelton Mitchell, who converted a three-point play and recorded a dunk off a steal to make it 74-68 with 2:26 left. The Tigers got as close as four, but the Jayhawks made enough free throws to seal their third straight 30-win season.
“We finished the game about as poorly as a team can,’’ Kansas coach Bill Self said.
The Elite Eight appearance is also the third straight for Kansas after earning the No. 1 seed in the Midwest each of those years. The Jayhawks are the only team at the regional not from the ACC.
Sophomore center Udoka Azubuike added a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 2:30 remaining. Azubuike logged his most minutes (25) since suffering a sprained MCL in a practice leading into the conference tournament. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham added 16 points while dealing with foul trouble.
After scoring 22 points in each of Clemson’s tournament wins, against New Mexico State and Auburn, Gabe DeVoe netted a game-high 31 in defeat while also leading the Tigers with nine rebounds. The 25-win season matched a Clemson record.
Kansas used a 10-0 tear to gain a 35-22 advantage, then closed the first half with five points after a flagrant foul was assessed on Clemson forward Elijah Thomas. The 40-27 halftime bulge matched the Jayhawks’ largest lead of the half.
Azubuike slipped open underneath for four first-half dunks among his team-high 10 points. He also grabbed six rebounds. Graham, the Jayhawks’ All-American, missed his first five shots, but had four first-half rebounds and four assists.
—Field Level Media