CHICAGO — Ochai Agbaji was all over the court. David McCormack dominated inside, and Christian Braun connected from deep.
With one dazzling finish, Kansas roared into the Final Four.
Agbaji, McCormack and Braun led the top-seeded Jayhawks to a brilliant second half in a 76-50 victory over Miami on Sunday, sending one of college basketball’s top programs to the national semifinals for the 16th time.
“That was about as well as we can play, the second half,” coach Bill Self said. “These guys earned it.”
They sure did.
After trailing by six at halftime, Kansas outscored Miami 47-15. The Jayhawks shot 59.3 percent (16-for-27) after the break, compared to 21.4 percent (6-for-28) for the Hurricanes. They also outrebounded Miami 25-11 in the final 20 minutes.
Once the Jayhawks started flashing their superior speed and athleticism, the Hurricanes couldn’t keep up.
“We started to play the score, not the game,” Miami forward Sam Waardenburg said.
Agbaji scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half. McCormack opened the half with his own 5-0 run and finished with 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Braun made Kansas’ first 3-pointer with 15:27 left to snap a 40-40 tie.
“We just needed some energy,” said Braun, who finished with 12 points. “I thought we were flat in the first half.”
Kansas (32-6), the only No. 1 seed left in the NCAA Tournament, won the Midwest Region for the 13th time with its ninth consecutive victory overall. Next up is a Final Four matchup with Villanova on Saturday in New Orleans.
Remy Martin, the region’s most outstanding player, had nine points and six rebounds for the Jayhawks. Jalen Wilson grabbed 11 boards, making up for a tough shooting day.
It’s the fourth Final Four for Self in his 19 seasons at Kansas. He also had one of the best teams in the country when the tourney was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time the Jayhawks made it to the semis, they lost 95-79 to coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats in 2018.
“I’ve thought all along that this was a possibility,” Self said. “But I’ve also thought all along that the margin for error wasn’t such where we could get loose and have it be a probability.”
Kameron McGusty scored 18 points and Isaiah Wong had 15 for No. 10 seed Miami in the program’s first appearance in the Elite Eight. The Hurricanes (26-11) were bidding to get coach Jim Larrañaga back to the Final Four for the first time since he led 11th-seeded George Mason on a memorable run in 2006.
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“Just being able to accomplish what we accomplished this year, now teams coming in or new teams, two, three years down the line, that Elite Eight is going to be the goal,” McGusty said. “That’s what we were able to do this year, and I’m so happy for us. I love these guys.”
McGusty spent two seasons at Oklahoma, averaging 13.5 points in four games against Kansas before he transferred to Miami. And he looked comfortable playing against the Jayhawks again.
The redshirt senior guard scored 14 points to help the Hurricanes to a 35-29 halftime lead. But everything changed after the break.
With McCormack asserting himself inside and Braun and Ogbai picking up their play on the perimeter, Kansas outscored Miami 25-7 over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“Kansas came out in the second half and really hit us with like a knockout punch,” Larrañaga said.
Wilson made two foul shots and Agbaji connected from 3 to lift the Jayhawks to a 54-42 lead with 10:14 left. And they just kept rolling.
A dunk by Agbaji capped a 10-0 run and made it 67-46 with 4:35 left, delighting the pro-Kansas crowd at the United Center. A 3 by Agbaji extended the lead to 23 points with 1:58 remaining.
“At halftime it was basically a matter of kind of a challenge against us,” Agbaji said. “We didn’t come this far to lay down or give up at this point. So just going out there and playing our style of basketball.”
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP–Top25