KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ochai Agbaji led sixth-ranked Kansas with 18 points, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins picked up two technical fouls and was ejected 10 minutes into the game, and the Jayhawks cruised past the Mountaineers 87-63 on Thursday in the Big 12 Tournament.
The top-seeded Jayhawks (26-6), who also beat the Mountaineers twice in the regular season, will play fifth-seeded TCU on Friday night for a spot in the title game. The Horned Frogs rallied from 20 down to beat No. 22 Texas earlier in the day.
Christian Braun added 11 points and 15 rebounds for Kansas, which jumped out to a 41-19 lead by halftime and was never seriously threatened down the stretch. Jalen Wilson had 15 points and Mitch Lightfoot finished with 10.
Malik Curry led West Virginia ( 16-17) with 19 points. Taz Sherman had 10 points but was just 3 of 14 from the field.
Most of the excitement in the Big 12 Tournament’s second quarterfinal came in the first 10 minutes.
The Jayhawks roared to a 19-4 lead thanks to Agbaji and Lightfoot, whose alley-oop bucket sent a T-Mobile Center full of red- and blue-clad fans into a frenzy.
At the other end, Sherman missed a bucket – the 16th miss in the Mountaineers’ first 17 shots – and complained to referee Doug Sirmons about the no-call. Sirmons immediately gave him a technical foul, and when Huggins roared off the bench in defense of his player, the Mountaineers’ Hall of Fame finalist got two technicals of his own.
Huggins’ longtime associate head coach, Larry Harrison, took over when he headed to the locker room.
Wilson took the free throws for the Jayhawks, making five of the six from the three technical fouls, and that gave the Big 12 regular-season co-champs a 24-4 lead.
The lead swelled to 41-19 as the Mountaineers went 5 for 31 from the field in the first half.
And unlike the opening quarterfinal Thursday, when the Horned Frogs dug out from an 18-point halftime hole to beat the fifth-seeded Longhorns, the Jayhawks provided an answer every time West Virginia tried to mount a run.
West Virginia again got a big performance from Curry, who came off the bench to score 17 in a first-round win over Kansas State. But the rest of the Mountaineers’ backcourt continued to struggle, a problem compounded by their lack of a reliable presence in the post. They were outrebounded 48-27 and outscored 48-22 in the paint.
Kansas shot better than 50% from the field in each half, often getting to the bucket for easy baskets down low. But it figures to have a much tougher time against Eddie Lampkin and the Horned Frogs.
The Jayhawks meet the Horned Frogs, who have never played for a Big 12 title, in Friday night’s semifinals.