TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Josh Jackson scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half to help Kansas pull away late and reach the Sweet 16 for a second straight year with a 90-70 victory over Michigan State on Sunday.
Frank Mason III added 20 points for the top-seeded Jayhawks (30-4), who have advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in nine of coach Bill Self’s 14 seasons.
Devonte’ Graham added 18 points and Landen Lucas had 10 for the Jayhawks, who shot 53.1 percent (34 of 64) in the win.
Miles Bridges scored 22 points to lead Michigan State (20-15) despite leaving briefly in the first half with an injury. Nick Ward also finished in double figures with 13 points and Joshua Langford had 10 for the Spartans.
Michigan State entered Sunday following a dominating win over Miami in the opening round, a victory that improved the school to 14-10 as a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament under Izzo — the most wins by a lower-seeded school in tournament history.
The Spartans certainly played like anything but an underdog well into the second half against the regular-season Big 12 Conference champions, closing Kansas’ lead to 54-53 following a basket by Alvin Ellis.
Jackson took over from there, scoring eight of the next 10 points for the Jayhawks as they pushed their lead back to 64-57. He put the exclamation point on his strong second half with a drive down the middle of the lane and powerful one-handed dunk with 2:05 remaining.
The Spartans played this NCAA Tournament with only three players who saw action in last year’s opening-round loss to Middle Tennessee State. Despite that lack of experience, their strong showing in Thursday’s win over Miami and for much of the game against the favored Jayhawks helped ease the frustration of what had been a largely up-and-down season before the tournament.
The Jayhawks put any lingering concerns about their Big 12 Conference Tournament loss to TCU to rest with two convincing wins to open the tournament. In particular, Jackson answered questions about any possible distractions following a one-game suspension in the conference tournament with two of his most efficient games of the season.
The Jayhawks advance to next week’s Sweet 16 to face fourth-seeded Purdue in Kansas City.
With the Spartan loss, three Big Ten teams are headed to the regional semifinals, matching last year’s total.
Eighth-seeded Wisconsin took out No. 1 overall seed and defending national champion Villanova in a second-round game Saturday, and No. 7 Michigan ousted No. 2 Louisville on Sunday. In between, No. 4 Purdue defeated No. 5 Iowa State. None of the Big Ten’s seven tournament teams were seeded higher than a No. 4.