SALT LAKE CITY — Too much Dedric Lawson. That, in a nutshell, explains how Kansas overpowered Northeastern 87-53 in the NCAA Tournament Thursday at Vivint Arena.
Lawson led the Jayhawks to their 13th consecutive first-round victory with 25 points and 11 rebounds. The junior led an effort that produced a 50-16 points-in-the-paint advantage.
“I don’t think we had any answers for Dedric Lawson,” said Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica. “He seemed like he was doing anything he wanted to do.”
Kansas coach Bill Self acknowledged that the Jayhawks made a conscious effort to get the ball inside to the 6-foot-9 forward, especially considering that undersized Northeastern primarily uses four guards.
“Dedric is a hard match-up for folks,” Self said. “If you play him small like they did, you have a guard guarding him. And if you play big, he can play away from the basket some.”
Lawson’s impact is huge. He’s now had 21 double-doubles for the Jayhawks.
“He is an outstanding player, maybe a top 10 player in the country,” said Northeastern coach Bill Coen. “He’s got a tremendous feel for the game. He’s got great hands.”
Lawson started alongside four freshmen — Ochai Agbaji, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack — as Kansas improved to 26-9 overall. Dotson finished with 18 points, while Agbaji and reserve K.J. Lawson contributed 13 apiece.
The Jayhawks used an 11-0 run in the first half en route to a 37-25 advantage at the break. They blew things open in the second half with an 18-2 burst. Over a span of nearly six minutes later in the half, a 14-0 spurt proved to be more than decisive.
"Our game plan was to come out and play our game,” Agbaji said. “We weren’t following so much what they were doing. We were sticking with what works for us and that really helped us.”
Kansas shot 70.4 percent (19 of 27) in the second half. Northeastern wound up making only 28.1 percent of its attempts from the field by game’s end.
Jordan Roland had 12 points and was the only player the Huskies had that reached double figures.Comment on this story
“We really weren’t getting any open looks. It’s hard because you’re going to make some tough ones. But it’s really hard to make them throughout 40 minutes,” Pusica said. “The better team won definitely today. They are really talented, really athletic. We thought we had our chances coming into the game, but they deserved this one.”
Northeastern, the Colonial Athletic Association champions, finished the season 23-11 overall. Kansas, meanwhile, moves on to face Auburn on Saturday. The Tigers advanced with a 78-77 win over New Mexico State.