No. 16-seed Penn did everything they possibly could to hang with No. 1 Kansas.
Well, not quite everything.
They shot 3-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half. And they finished Thursday afternoon having shot just 7-for-18 from the free throw line.
But that shouldn’t diminish the effort put forth by the Quakers, who led Kansas 21-11 with eight minutes left in the first half and trailed by just five points midway through the second half in a 76-60 loss in a first round game in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament.
At the end of the day, Kansas — despite playing short-handed with a banged up Udoka Azubuike playing just three scoreless minutes off the bench — was just too much. Devonte’ Graham did not shoot the ball all that well but he still finished with 29 points to go along with six boards and six assists, and Penn just didn’t have an answer for him. Mitch Lightfoot was also terrific in Azubuike’s absence, going for nine points, 11 boards and three blocks.
If we’re being honest, Penn deserved better than running into a program like the Jayhawks in the first round of the tournament. What they did this season and the track record that the Ivy League has in the NCAA tournament in recent seasons probably should have earned them a shot at a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. In the last eight season, the Ivy League has won five NCAA tournament games as a No. 12 seed or lower, including a trip to the 2010 Sweet 16. Three of their four first round losses in that stretch were by two points, and the fourth was by nine.
Put another way, the Ivy League should get more respect that having their regular season co-champ and tournament champ send to the slaughterhouse that is the No. 16 seed line.
But that’s not the way it played out.
And the Quakers are going home.
Kansas will advance to play the winner of this afternoon’s No. 8 Seton Hall-No. 9 N.C. State matchup.