TULSA, Okla. — Try stating that the outcome of the first-round game Kansas played Friday in the NCAA Tournament hinged on a first-half technical.
When that whistle came — a mean tweet, in referee lingo — the top-seeded Jayhawks led by just two with fewer than eight minutes left in the first half.
So the theory regarding a momentum shift seemingly has legs. Maybe not as much legs as Josh Jackson has hops, but legs nonetheless. Especially since Kansas outscored UC Davis by 20 points the remainder of the half.
Still, the Jayhawks steamrolled the Aggies 100-62 in BOK Center.
So there you have it. The 38-point rout states that momentum was there for the taking because Kansas was better. Much better.
KU did anything it wanted. UC Davis coach Jim Les, who was slapped with the T, could not say anything he wanted. The connection ends there.
“Certainly the timing was probably a coincidence that we played our best ball after that,’’ KU coach Bill Self said.
Indeed. There was no chance a 16-seed was going to make history against a KU team more rested than rusted and more nimble than nervous.
Especially when the best trick for pumping a team up backfired on Les, who did not think he deserved the T but got it, as much as anything, for striding to midcourt during a TV time out.
“I wish I could take back the technical, but it happened,’’ said Les, who thought the whistle was applied quickly. “And you know, that’s a good basketball team. So they got it going offensively. … We weren’t able to stem the tide, and I thought that run starting there leading to halftime gave them some pretty good separation, unfortunately.’’
A brief flare-up at the halftime buzzer was the only intrigue left … as long as you don’t count whatever acrobatics Jackson was capable of performing or what method Frank Mason chose to attack the Aggies.
KU’s Devonte Graham was fouled in the final seconds of the first half, but no call was made on UC Davis’ Chima Moneke, prompting Self to voice his displeasure at the refs before heading to the locker room.
Les noticed, then barked at the refs, too, wanting a T on Self.
Only thing was, Self stepped on the midcourt decal after time expired. Les did it during a TV stoppage and was tagged.
“I just asked him, ‘Why wasn’t that a foul?’ and he said, ‘Well, he has the same right to go after the ball,’’’ Self related. “And I said, ‘Good gosh, any NFL defensive back coach would’ve been happy with that play.’ But (the official) came and told me the second half that he missed it.’’
There you have it. End of dust-up. The Jayhawks encounter more controversy from a night out in Lawrence.
The only second-half mystery was whether KU would cover and how soon its walk-ons would enter. Those elements conflict sometimes, but not against UC Davis. Self did not call on the end of his bench until 3:11 remained, after each of his starters scored in double figures.
The time remaining enabled Tyler Self to can a 3-pointer to put KU at the century mark.
Me? I was streaming the games involving Wichita State (winner) and Kansas State (loser), while convinced the easy stroll for Kansas meant little in the grand scheme. The Jayhawks will be tested for more than 13 minutes by all of their remaining opponents.
“They got us on a night when we were pretty good,’’ Self said. “When the lead did get up there, I wasn’t thinking about anything other than getting guys out of the game and kind of piecing together the last six or seven minutes just to get ready for Sunday.’’
Anyone who saves the recording may do so only to prove the NCAA Tournament field does not need to be expanded any more. A 16-seed still has not beaten a 1, and UC Davis had no chance, in spite of its competitive start.
Eventually the Aggies were content with being part of the NCAA field, tasting a win from the play-in round at Dayton and getting to enjoy the spirit of high-level competition.
Moneke, their leader with 20 points and nine rebounds, made a point to seek out Self in the tunnel after the game and offer encouragement.
“Go win a title, coach,’’ Moneke said.
A first step, no matter how easy for a 1-seed, is always required.
Contact Kevin Haskin at email@example.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.