Kansas by Two After Gritty First Half

Stefan Nastic getting it done at both ends

"Stanford's zone is doing a great job of stopping the KU penetration. I've lost count of the number of times Kansas drove a few feet, only to encounter a jumble of tall Trees, and have to pull out and reset, or chuck up a long two. The only problem is that KU is starting to get some offensive rebounds. ... Otherwise, keep going to the rack offensively, and it's hard to draw it up any better."

Kansas does have a history of getting upset in the NCAA Tournament (something the Stanford teams of the Montgomery era can relate to). The top-seeded Jawhawks lost to nine-seed Northern Iowa in 2010's Round of 32, with Ali Farokhmanesh delivering a no-no-no-yes dagger three with seconds remaining. In 2005 and 2006, double-digit seeds Bucknell and Bradley pulled off first-round upsets of the Hawks. Of course, Kansas won the whole thing in 2008 and reached the national championship two years ago, so don't want to oversell matters here.

Winner gets Dayton in Memphis, Tenn., as the Flyers squeaked by Syracuse after upsetting Ohio State in similar fashion. With a win today then, Stanford would be favored to play for a Final Four berth – where they'd be stiff underdogs against UCLA or Florida, but still, that's crazy.

As I posted on the HoopsBoardPlus, I think Perry Ellis is the key for Stanford defensively. He's the primary big for the 'Hawks with Joel Embiid out, and so if the Card can shut him down, a perimeter-oriented game would play to our strengths. Stefan Nastic draws first blood, picking up an offensive foul on Andrew Wiggins. Two early fouls on the Jayhawks, scoreless game a minute in.

Randle and Powell score on knifing drives for layups, but then Kansas responds with two jumpers, the aforementioned Ellis with the first. We trade jumpers, Chasson Randle dribbles into a tie-up, and wow, this one is going to be a grind. Kansas has scored exclusively on jumpers from the free throw line, so while I appreciate wanting to pack it in down low, we might need to extend the D another three feet out or so.

Stanford 6, Kansas 6, under-16 timeout

Huestis frustratingly misses from point-blank range, but on consecutive possessions, Kansas turns it over to Nastic and then travels on a drive, so no harm done. Stanford is having trouble initiating offense against this Kansas defense – Ellis just forced Powell into a contested jumper instead of the layup Powell wanted, and the Cardinal have been whipping the rock around the perimeter late into the clock. This is one solid Jayhawk team. But as I type that, Stanford finally breaks free, and it's no one other than Chasson Randle. He backdoor-cuts and Powell finds him for a layup, and then Randle comes up with a steal in the backcourt that results in a transition opportunity ending in a Powell layup. Kansas wants timeout, down 10-6.

Stanford has 12 shots to Kansas' six, thanks to five Jayhawk turnovers and two Stanford O-boards. Also of note: one foul on Stanford to three on Kansas, so neither team looks to be in foul trouble early. Advantage Card, as Kansas is certainly the deeper squad.

John Gage checks in, gets outmuscled by Ellis on the boards, and has to foul. The Jayhawks then have a putback on another O board, maybe with Powell napping in the 2-3 zone and not finding a man to box out. But Gage keeps pace, driving twice to the rack for layups, making the first and drawing the whistle on the second.

We're hanging in there and then some.

Stanford 14, Kansas 11, under-12 timeout

Four fouls on Kansas now, with sharpshooter John Gage headed to the line for two. Josh Huestis at 0 of 4, many on point-blank looks, otherwise the Jayhawks could be in some real trouble here, as Ellis hits the bench.

Kansas is taking a lot of long twos, this one a heave with three on the clock, and meanwhile Stanford is going to the rack, as Powell picks up foul No. 5 on the 'Hawks and makes both free throws. Stanford switches from a 2-3 to a 1-3-1 and it works, with Powell emphatically blocking presumptive No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins from behind. Bet that one makes Powell's draft highlight reel.

Stanford's zone is doing a great job of stopping the KU penetration. I've lost count of the number of times Kansas drove a few feet, only to encounter a jumble of tall Trees, and have to pull out and reset, or chuck up a long two. The only problem is that KU is starting to get some offensive rebounds (four and counting now, all in the last few minutes), so Stanford is going to have to redouble their efforts to box out. Otherwise, keep going to the rack offensively, and it's hard to draw it up any better.

Stanford 18, Kansas 13, under-eight timeout

The teams trade three turnovers before Kansas works it in to Tarik Black, and all Dwight Powell can do is shove for his first foul. Black, a 58 percent shooter, hits both, and then Stanford coughs it up again in the in-bounds, so in comes Marcus Allen. Wiggins is called for a travel though, so KU miscues are keeping us ahead here.

Stanford's in the one-and-one with 6:26 to go after Randle induces a bump near halfcourt. We'll have to keep attacking the rim. Powell is called for a ticky-tack second on a clean-looking block of Black, but the officials tend to keep the whistles even, so hopefully we get a call and to the line soon. Marcus Allen with an incredible steal after Stanford turns it over, sprinting down to the other end of the court and poking it away from behind. Sure enough, Huestis is ripped down on an offensive board attempt and he'll head to the line for a one-and-one on Selden's second foul. Maybe these can get him going. He splits the pair.

Finally, Kansas makes a three, their first of the tournament, after passing up a dozen open looks. Gage clanks and is now 0-of-3 deep, but I like our odds better if we keep putting up open threes.

Stanford 21, Kansas 19, under-four timeout

The pro-Kansas crowd is back into it after they've closed from down seven to two. Randle and Powell have six apiece and Gage has four for the Card. No Jayhawk with more than five. Stanford does have seven turnovers now to Kansas's eight, though, with Randle at three.

Nastic travelled coming out of the media timeout, but makes up for it by haranguing Kansas into two point-blank misses on one end, then drawing a foul on the other end and hitting a free throw. 22-19, just over a minute to go after Kansas misses an alley-oop and Stanford takes timeout.

Would be great to have a mini-run before the half and quiet the fans. Instead, Kansas taps in a missed three, and Stanford holds for the last possession of the half. But it's a Kansas strip and transition three at the buzzer, and the Jayhawks will have their first lead at the half.

Kansas 24, Stanford 22, Half

Bill Self on offensive struggles: "They're big, and we're not that big. And they're gambling in the zone."

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