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Writer: Joe Lemire
Game: Kansas vs. Portland State
Post time: 1:38 p.m.
OMAHA -- Portland State had its fun.
The Vikings' small, but fervent contingent couldn't have been more enthused at game's start, despite the 11:30 a.m. local tipoff, no more visible than in the pair of red-headed Portland State saxophonists, who were playing with such gusto that their faces matched their hair.
Predictably, the Jayhawks raced out to 13-3 and 19-7 leads early on, but then the Vikings, led by their star point guard Jeremiah Dominguez, who won both the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year and Player of the Year awards. Notably, he's listed in the media guide at 5-foot-6, making him shorter than most of the cheerleaders lining the court and, I'd guess, even smaller than the birth size of Kansas center Cole Aldrich.
But Dominguez kept the Vikings from getting rattled. He drew out the Kansas defense for a perfectly executed pick-and-roll with Scott Morrison. Dominguez added another assist on a three-pointer by Tyrell Mara and hit a three of his own en route to a 6-2 PSU "run," which, to be honest, is about as good as it gets in most of these No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups. But the score was 24-18 with 8:59 to play in the half.
Of course, the refrain is familiar from here: prohibitive favorite extinguishes small rally and puts game away by halftime. Keyed by Brandon Rush's 15-point, five-rebound first half on 6-of-11 shooting, Kansas scored the game's next 12 points for a 36-18 advatnage, which became 49-26 at the half. The Jayhawks are 8-of-13 from beyond the arc, much to the delight of the heavily pro-Kansas crowd, who were kicking back mimosas and Bud Light in the Hilton lobby before 10 a.m.
Even the two schools' cheerleaders got into the competitive spirit at halftime, with a friendly competition to see which male cheerleader could hoist a female teammate the longest. Three pairs were picked from each school for a midcourt duel. And, predictably, Kansas won that too. So it goes for Portland State today.
Time to load March Madness On Demand for the second half and watch the early slot's more competitive games ...