KU’s season ends with exclusion of top players, absence of coach – KGET 17

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Kansas’ two best players were sidelined for long stretches, its point guard playing on a sprained ankle in the second half and the Jayhawks were without their Hall of Fame coach again.

It was too much to overcome, even for the top seed desperately trying to keep alive its bid for a second straight national championship.

The Jayhawks’ 72-71 loss to No. 8 seed Arkansas on Saturday marked the third time in four NCAA tournaments that they failed to make it past the opening weekend.

Defending their title in 2022 was always going to be extremely challenging. Only point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. and All-America forward Jalen Wilson were starters on the title team, and only four returners from last year played significant minutes.

The season began with Self serving a four-game suspension stemming from an NCAA investigation into the program in 2017 and ended with him sitting out the final five games recovering from a March 8 procedure to clear blocked arteries in your heart.

“One thing about the whole year, nobody’s going to feel bad about anything Kansas goes through,” Wilson said. “We came together with each other and realized that it really was us against everyone else.”

Freshman Gradey Dick, a possible June NBA draft pick who had his first career double-double against Howard in the first round, was held to seven points and made just three 3-point attempts against a stifling Arkansas defense.

“We’ve dealt with that all year, but they have some long athletes that made it difficult for him to get a shot,” acting coach Norm Roberts said. “I don’t think we portrayed him as well as we wanted to. Maybe we could have run a few more things for him, but they undid him a little bit.”

Wilson scored two baskets in the first four minutes of the second half and did not make another field goal. He still finished with 20 points, but had trouble getting the ball into good scoring position and scored nine of his points at the free throw line.

Harris sprained his right ankle when he lost the ball late in the first half. He returned in the second half and scored eight of his 12 points, but had just one assist after the break.

The Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular season title and lost by 20 to Texas in the championship game of the conference tournament.

Next year’s roster is uncertain with Wilson and Dick likely headed to the NBA and others considering their options in the offseason.

Self continues to recover from the placement of two stents in his heart to help treat blocked arteries. He went to the emergency room the night of March 8, not long after watching the Jayhawks hold their final shootaround before the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas went 3-2 in Self’s absence.

“Our guys have been great all year,” Roberts said. “They fought until the very end, made big plays. It was difficult without a coach, but we are not looking for excuses. We have to line up and get it done, and today we were a little short.”


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