KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Player of the year front-runner Frank Mason III poured in 26 points, Kansas turned on the jets in the second half and the top-seeded Jayhawks soared to a 98-66 blowout of No. 4 seed Purdue on Thursday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals.
Devonte Graham also had 26 points and Josh Jackson had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Jayhawks (31-4), who led by 7 at halftime before their up-and-down pace finally wore down the Boilermakers.
Kansas used two big runs, including an 11-0 charge highlighted by Lagerald Vicks’ 360-degree drunk, to coast into a matchup with No. 3 seed Oregon on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.
The Ducks survived a nail-biter against Michigan earlier in the night.
Caleb Swanigan had 18 points and seven boards for the Boilermakers (27-8), but the 6-foot-9, 250-pound All-America candidate had to work for all of it. The Jayhawks kept collapsing on him in the post, forcing Swanigan to begin taking 3-pointers early in the second half.
It wasn’t much longer before the game was out of reach.
The Jayhawks rolled to easy wins over UC Davis and Michigan State to start the NCAA Tournament, and the cold, calculating way they dispatched Purdue should make them the favorite going forward.
If they weren’t the popular pick already.
The game shaped up as a contrast of styles: the slick, speedy athleticism that carried the Jayhawks to the Big 12 title against the bruising, post-dominated play of the Big Ten champions.
The Boilermakers stunned a sold-out Sprint Center early by hoisting up 3-pointers.
Their underrated guards took advantage of constant double-teams of Swanigan and 7-foot-2 Isaac Haas inside, letting loose a barrage of deep shots. By the time Kansas realized the game had started, coach Matt Painter’s team had raced to a 25-18 lead midway through the first half.
The Jayhawks eventually found their footing, and the crowd that showed up a mere 40-minute drive from their campus in Lawrence provided the soundtrack to a strong end of the half.
Kansas closed on a 22-7 run to take a 47-40 lead into the locker room.
Things go so loud inside the downtown arena that Painter, who always maintained Kansas earned the right to the quasi-home game, had resorted to scribbling offensive sets on a dry erase board.
The roars for Kansas only got louder in the second half.
Ryan Cline’s 3-pointer got Purdue within 58-54 with 14:39 to go when the Jayhawks ripped off their game-defining run. Mason started and ended it, but it was Vick’s acrobatic dunk following a steal in the open court that brought a cheer that shook the playing floor.
When Mason knocked down his fourth 3, the lead had grown to 69-54 with 10 minutes left — and it just kept growing. It soon reached 20, then 30, as the Jayhawks began to party.
Purdue got 12 points from P.J. Thompson and 11 from Haas, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Vincent Edwards was held to eight points after big games against Vermont and Iowa State.
Kansas was so far ahead that coach Bill Self was able to empty his bench, a rarity for a regional semifinal. That meant his son, Tyler Self, was able to check in for the final couple of minutes, just as chants of “Rock, Chalk, K-U!” began to ring out through Sprint Center.
The Jayhawks play the Ducks on Saturday for a spot in Glendale, Arizona.