Jayhawks best Titans, 65-50

OMAHA, Neb. – A two seed in the Big Dance was a dangerous thing to be Friday, as both Duke and Missouri discovered, but the Kansas Jayhawks remembered how to take care of business. Head Coach Bill Self's squad powered past the Detroit Titans during their first action of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson led the charge.

First of all, Kansas fans, Tyshawn Taylor is fine.


With 13:32 left in the second half and the Jayhawks maintaining a 22-point advantage over the Detroit Titans, the dynamic senior point guard exited the game and quietly made his way to the locker room in the company of the team's training staff.

As the minutes wore on and Taylor failed to reappear on the bench, the Twitterverse practically exploded with speculation and requests for information from the Crimson and Blue masses of Jayhawk Nation. So much so that the game taking place on the court - though it was clearly in hand - became something of an afterthought.

Was it a knee? One report suggested a hamstring, which can be notoriously slow to heal. Many fingernails were decimated as the wait for solid information stretched on interminably.

Ultimately, the cause of Taylor's disappearance proved to be far less dire, when Head Coach Bill Self revealed it was cramping brought on by dehydration.

"I didn't know what was going on but he told me in the first half he was starting to cramp, and that's a bad sign when you're cramping in the first half," Self explained. "All they did was went back and put IVs in him and he didn't respond very well. He's been sick, under the weather, and then I guess dehydrated which led to cramps, but the doctor said he should be fine by Sunday without any problem."

On the court, the No. 2-seed Jayhawks defeated the No. 15-seed Titans comfortably, 65-50. Though no victory is to be taken for granted during the Big Dance, certainly, normally a highly-seeded team taking care of business wouldn't create much of a ripple in the news cycle.

But Friday wasn't a normal day in the NCAA Tournament, as the crazy unpredictability that gives March Madness its name took center stage. Two seeds fell as if they had bounties on their heads and their lowly-ranked opponents were Boba Fett.

The first stunner came when the two-seed of the West Region - Missouri - fell to Norfolk State, and before the college basketball world had even processed such a rare occurrence another blast hit when Duke was toppled by Lehigh.

The Kansas Jayhawks have an unfortunate familiarity with the backside of big upsets this time of year, so if they weren't already dialed in and focused on Detroit, those losses took a whetstone to their thoughts.

"I've been in the locker room with Tyshawn and Thomas (Robinson) two times, when we were crying our eyes out because we lost to a team we never in the world thought could beat us," junior guard Elijah Johnson said.

"We didn't talk about it at all or make it a big deal, but it did wake us up a l title more and gave us energy for the game," Robinson added. "Realizing that this is March and anybody is capable of beating anybody right now."

Maybe a little too much energy, in fact, as the Jayhawks came out of the gates amped up and turnover prone, trading buckets with an athletic and aggressive Detroit squad. A massive dunk by Titans guard Doug Anderson gave Detroit a 21-19 lead, and caused Self to signal angrily for a 30-second timeout with nine minutes left in the first half.

Whatever he said, it worked - because Kansas finally began to put the clamps on defensively and assert its will on the game. A dunk out of the timeout by Robinson tied the game up, and during the next eight minutes the Jayhawks built a lead that grew to 10 points by halftime.

The second half began with more of the same, as Kansas simply overwhelmed Detroit from the get-go, pushing the lead to as many as 25 points and allowing reserves Naadir Tharpe and Kevin Young to play big minutes and gain valuable tournament experience.

"I think our bench is getting better," Self said. "Naadir played well. The nine minutes in the first half were terrific, the four minutes he gave us in the second half were one reason we saw a walking highlight tape, because he turned it over to them, but he's capable of giving us good minutes."

For the game, Tharpe logged 13 minutes and though he failed to score, initiated the offense and managed the game well for much of his time on the court. Young contributed nine points, three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes, and primary reserve Conner Teahan added three points and three boards in 29 minutes.

Robinson was his usual, excellent self, scoring 16 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in just 27 minutes. Johnson was nearly as good, however, and not just with his 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc. When Taylor went down, he slid over to the point for a much longer stretch than is usual, and he handled it with aplomb.

"With Ty gone, that was my mindset right away," he said, simply. "I'm and the point guard and I acted like it."

Now, the Jayhawks will have a day to rest and regroup before taking on the Boilermakers of Purdue, who defeated St. Mary's on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 7:40 p.m.

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