Mar 23, 2021
Harry Lyles Jr.ESPN Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS — USC defeated No. 3 seed Kansas 85-51 on Monday night to reach the Sweet 16 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament — and in doing so handed the Jayhawks the third-worst loss in program history.
Prior to Monday’s game, Kansas had suffered only eight 30-point losses in program history, the most recent being a 72-40 loss to Kentucky in 2014.
“That’s about as poor as we could play,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “And I’m sure [USC coach] Andy [Enfield] would say that’s certainly one of their better games. It was a bad combination all the way around for us.”
One of college basketball’s tradition-rich programs, the Jayhawks had played nearly 3,200 games without ever setting foot on the floor of Hinkle Fieldhouse — the iconic hoops cathedral made famous by the Hollywood film “Hoosiers.” The way they played Monday night, they won’t be eager to return.
Kansas missed its first eight shots, most of them wide-open looks, and never led during the game. The Jayhawks’ greatest unanswered scoring run was just five points.
“I think their length obviously bothered us, but our shot selection was poor,” Self said. “You know we haven’t been a great shot-selection team all year long, and tonight, it seemed like to me when we got a little sped up and we didn’t execute, we took some very marginal shots.”
Kansas couldn’t get anything going on offense no matter what USC showed defensively. Kansas was particularly bad against the zone, shooting 7-of-30 from the field for 21 points.
The Jayhawks’ 51 points were their fewest in an NCAA tournament game since putting up 49 against Ohio in the 1985 round of 64 (a game Kansas won 49-38).
Offensively, USC could do no wrong. The sixth-seeded Trojans made 11 of 18 3-pointers and 13 of 24 overall outside the paint Monday.
Kansas was 6-of-34 outside the paint. On contested shots, USC was 22-of-39, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range for a total of 50 points.
Kansas senior guard Marcus Garrett summarized things pretty succinctly: “I just feel like we fell short today. We kind of picked the wrong day to not make any shots, and the other team was making everything that they shot.”
Self said he felt there was “less margin for error on this team probably than any team we’ve had since I’ve coached here.”
“I think our guys maximized their ability pretty well, but our margin of error was small,” he continued. “When we play in a way where the ball stuck or we became one-on-one players or whatnot, didn’t really play together, help each other, we became very average or even poor, like we were tonight.
“I think we’ve learned that there is a certain way to play. If you play that way, we can be pretty successful. But if we don’t, we get average or below-average real fast. This felt like today this was a team in January. When we got behind and got frustrated, we just didn’t have enough juice to put anything together to make it a game.”
Kansas’ previous worst NCAA tournament loss was an 18-point defeat to Indiana in the 1940 national championship, when Phog Allen was the Jayhawks’ coach.
USC next faces third-seeded Oregon in the Sweet 16 on Sunday. It will be the first meeting between Pac-12 teams in NCAA tournament history
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.