Kansas demolishes Northeastern in NCAAs

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Kansas demolishes Northeastern in NCAAs

Junior guard Bolden Brace walks off the court in a Feb. 9 game against Elon.

Junior guard Bolden Brace walks off the court in a Feb. 9 game against Elon.

File photo by Muhammad Elarbi

Junior guard Bolden Brace walks off the court in a Feb. 9 game against Elon.

File photo by Muhammad Elarbi

File photo by Muhammad Elarbi

Junior guard Bolden Brace walks off the court in a Feb. 9 game against Elon.

Mike Puzzanghera, sports editor

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The Huskies were blown out in their opening-round NCAA Tournament game Thursday, as the Kansas Jayhawks tore the game open in the second half and ran away with the 87-53 win.

The story of the game for Northeastern was the ineffectiveness of star point guard Vasa Pusica. In his final collegiate game, the senior was held to seven points on just 2-13 shooting with one assist, one rebound, two steals and a turnover.

“If you are dialing up the blueprint for an upset, it would include, you know, a great shooting night,” said head coach Bill Coen. “Unfortunately, we didn’t have that.”

Countered by brilliant performances by Kansas’ Devon Dotson and Dedric Lawson with 18 and 25 points respectively, the Huskies were no match. Lawson was 9-16 from the floor and grabbed 11 boards. Coen said NU “didn’t really have a match-up for [Lawson].”

The opening few minutes reflected the teams’ relative strengths. The Jayhawks got eight of their opening 13 points from the paint, while the Huskies hit three 3-pointers to account for their first nine points. Two of those came from junior guard Jordan Roland, who set the single-season program record for made 3-pointers in a season with his 98th of the season to open the scoring for Northeastern.

Roland accounted for eight of the Huskies first 11 points, but picked up two early fouls and was forced to ride the bench for a bit. The Jayhawks responded by going on an 11-2 run to take a 18-11 lead.

An NU comeback was thwarted by an 11-0 Jayhawk run to set KU out to a 28-19 lead. After starting hot, the Huskies only hit one of 10 shots before a Bolden Brace three stopped the drought.

Another Kansas run late in the half saw the Jayhawks go into the locker room up 12. Northeastern’s inability to shut down Lawson inside was a theme in the period, as the forward scored 16 points to lead all scorers at the half. Dotson added nine more for Kansas, while Roland had eight to lead the Huskies.

Kansas came out of the gates hot in the second half, going on a 16-2 run to pull away and take a 21-point lead before NU head coach Bill Coen took a timeout. But Kansas’ momentum did not fade and they continued to push, stretching the lead to 30 on a free throw by Dotson.

Northeastern had no answer to Kansas’ offensive onslaught, as they shot just 28.1 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from deep, much lower than their season averages of 48.2 percent and 38.8 percent respectively. Kansas piled on Northeastern, shooting 55.7 percent from the field and getting key contributions in the paint from Lawson all game long.

The Huskies’ season ended in a brutal defeat on the biggest stage. After battling through injuries to key players all season long, Northeastern won the CAA title that eluded them last year but were simply overmatched into their NCAA Tournament game.

“It doesn’t take away of what they accomplished this year,” Coen said. “And just getting to this point and playing in this tournament and competing against some of the very best teams in this tournament. Certainly Kansas is one of the best programs of all time. It was an experience I think we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.”