No. 2 Kansas tops Wake Forest
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Winning ugly is nothing that Kansas coach Bill Self will complain about.
Like Thursday, for instance, when Andrew Wiggins was slowed by the flu, when the second-ranked Jayhawks used reserves more than starters in the second half and when the hottest scorer on the court happened to be wearing a Wake Forest uniform. No problem — Self was all smiles afterward, because above all else, a win always beats the alternative.
Wiggins scored 12 of his 17 points in the final 5:53, and Kansas held off previously unbeaten Wake Forest 87-78 in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. A pair of reserves, Frank Mason and Joel Embiid, combined for 23 more points for the Jayhawks (5-0), who will face Villanova in the semifinals on Friday night.
“I’ve always taken great pride in winning ugly,” Self said. “I think it’s good to win ugly. I’d rather win pretty, but there’s nothing wrong with winning ugly. The thing about it that’s frustrating to me, and I think these guys will probably agree, we’ve always been a team that won ugly by not allowing the other team to score.”
That wasn’t the case Thursday, at least not in the final 20 minutes. Well, the last 20:01, really.
Kansas was up by 16 when Codi Miller-McIntyre got a layup to fall for Wake Forest just before the first half ended.
Before that shot, Miller-McIntyre had only four points. He finished with a career-best 26, and has scored at least 20 in five of Wake Forest’s six games this season.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time and he’s one of the best I’ve ever been around,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “Great, great person. You’re seeing the fruits of his labor. ... I’ve never seen a young man put the amount of time into his game as he has, both on the court, in the weight room and cerebral. He watches as much film as us as coaches.”
Miller-McIntyre was seated to Bzdelik’s right as he raved about his effort.
As his coach spoke, Miller-McIntyre’s facial expression barely changed. The Demon Deacons let a chance slip away, and Miller-McIntyre wasn’t thrilled about that realization.
“I hate the term ‘moral victory,’” he said.
The Demon Deacons (5-1) held Kansas to a season-low 47 percent from the field, but lost forward Devin Thomas after he was ejected for two technical fouls with 7:28 remaining.
Bzdelik said he was not given an explanation. And when told that Kansas was getting four free throws, even Self scoffed.
“I hated what happened with Thomas,” Self said.
Tyler Cavanaugh scored 11 points, while Madison Jones and Coron Williams each had 10 for Wake Forest.
When Thomas got ejected, Kansas’ Conner Frankamp made three of the four free throws to put the Jayhawks up 64-52. And when Wiggins, who was largely silent offensively for the first 35 minutes, made a 3-pointer for a 68-57 lead, the overwhelmingly pro-KU crowd might have sensed that Wake’s upset bid had run dry.
The Demon Deacons had other ideas.
Miller-McIntyre kept attacking, and his 3-pointer with just under 2 minutes left got Wake Forest to 77-72. Desperately needing a stop, Wake Forest wound up losing Arnaud Adala Moto to his fifth foul when he got in Wiggins’ way on a drive with 38 seconds left.
Wiggins made the first free throw and missed the second, but the ball bounced out of bounds to Kansas. Naadir Tharpe hit a pair of foul shots to make it a three-possession game, and Kansas escaped.
“We’re happy we won,” Self said. “I thought Wake Forest really outplayed us in the second half.”
A three-games-in-three-days tournament is a chance for teams to show off their depth.
Kansas wasted no time in doing just that.
The Jayhawks had eight players score in the first 10 minutes, running out to a quick 24-13 lead. A 17-2 run put Kansas in early control, with the Demon Deacons getting only one field goal in a stretch that lasted nearly 8 minutes.
Kansas had seven players score in that burst, no one getting more than four points and Wiggins not even registering a field goal.
Wake Forest weathered that storm, and the score was 27-20 with 5:25 left until the break. That’s when the Jayhawks hit the gas again, scoring 13 of the next 17 points before winding up with a 40-26 edge at halftime.
Miller-McIntyre got a layup to fall just before the halftime buzzer, and then the Demon Deacons opened the second half on a 16-6 run. But the Jayhawks never lost the lead in the second half, even with reserves in there for long stretches.
“Our bench was really good,” Self said.