Martin scores 23, top-seeded Kansas beats Providence 66-61

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By ANDREW SELIGMAN, AP Sports Reporter

CHICAGO (AP) — Jalen Wilson of Kansas noticed the excitement on the other side.

The top-seeded Jayhawks went from a 13-point second-half lead to a point behind Providence as their season was in danger of slipping away.

But the only remaining No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament responded to that brief challenge, held firm and closed out a 66-61 victory Friday night to reach the Elite Eight.

“I saw how excited they were, they started talking a bit,” Wilson said. “I always have confidence in my team. We would never be shaken. We’ve seen every type of game, every type of situation. I’m just always confident in whatever comes our way.

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Remy Martin scored a season-high 23 points, and Kansas held Providence to 17 points in the first half.

The Jayhawks (31-6) went further than fellow No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Arizona, both ousted in the Sweet 16, and Baylor, whose title defense ended in the second round. They will face Miami — a 70-56 winner over Iowa State — in the Midwest Region final on Sunday.

Wilson added 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Jayhawks advanced to a regional final for the first time since 2018, when they reached their 15th Final Four. Coach Bill Self is seeking his fourth trip there since arriving in 2003.

Kansas also edged Kentucky for the most wins in Division I history with 2,354.

“I don’t know if I’m totally 100% buying that we’re never shaken,” Self said. “But I think, as Jalen said, our league (the Big 12) has prepared us for the way you play so many close games. Every game is a fight. I think our guys have enough confidence that when things aren’t going well as a team, they think they can make an individual game.

After fourth-seeded Providence (27-6) took a one-point lead, Kansas responded with a 7-0 run.

Big 12 player of the year Ochai Agbaji scored a season-low five points. But with Martin and Wilson leading, the Jayhawks won their eighth straight.

“Every practice, everything we’ve done so far, we come back to that,” Martin said. “We work very hard in training, we do what needs to be done, we listen to Coach.”

And in situations like this?

“Keep calm, let you know they’re going to get through their runs, but as long as we stick together, like we’ve done all season, we’re going to get through this,” Martin said.

Providence finished with its highest win total since the 1973-74 team went 28-4. It was the Friars’ deepest run at the NCAA tournament since reaching the regional final in 1997 under Pete Gillen.

Al Durham scored 21 points. But the Brothers shot 33.8 percent and made 4 of 23 3-pointers.

“I thought our team all year played with a determination and resilience unmatched in America,” coach Ed Cooley said. “These kids – men – fought through a lot of adversity. … I won’t let our men’s heads drop. It was a hell of a season, and we were beaten by a great team.

Durham, who transferred after four years in Indiana, called the Brothers a “special group.”

“We were well connected, we all loved each other,” he said.

Kansas led 26-17 at halftime and 36-23 early in the second period before Providence went on a 9-2 run, capped by Ed Croswell’s three-point play.

It drew a loud roar from the Friars fans, and they had more to cheer after Noah Horchler had two 3-pointers in about 50 seconds to cut it to 41-40 midway through the half.

Reeves tied it at 44-all when he made two free throws, and Horchler gave Providence its first lead at 48-47 when he scored on a layup with 5:49 left.

Wilson drove for a three-point play to put the Jayhawks back on top. Christian Braun drove for a layup, and David McCormack fended off a wild miss from Wilson following a steal, making it 54-48 with 4:12 remaining.

Agbaji had the Kansas contingent roaring when he threw an alley-oop dunk to make it 57-50. AJ Reeves responded with a 3 for Providence, but Kansas stayed ahead the rest of the way.

Providence: The Brothers took a huge leap forward after finishing 13-13 a year ago. They won their first Big East regular season championship and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018.

Kansas: The Jayhawks delivered another solid defensive effort, especially early on, and made enough shots to keep their championship hopes alive. They led by nine at the break after allowing their lowest points total in a half this season.

Kansas will look to go undefeated since a 74-64 loss at TCU on March 1. The Jayhawks are 3-1 all-time against Miami, but the teams haven’t played since a Kansas win in 1991.

More March Madness AP coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright 2022 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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