Sports

NCAA champions Jayhawks tip off Battle 4 Atlantis with a win

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men’s Basketball Champions University of Kansas Jayhawks held off a pesky North Carolina State University Wolfpack team, 80-74, in their opening game of the 11th edition of the Battle 4 Atlantis Men’s Tournament yesterday. The win places the Jayhawks in the semifinals, set for today at 11 a.m. They will take on the Wisconsin Badgers.

The win push Bill Self’s squad to a perfect 5-0 record on the season. Self’s return to the bench came after being suspended for the first four games of the season. This is the second time the Jayhawks are playing in the tournament, having done so in 2013. The Wolfpack was in the tournament in 2017.

Playing inside the Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, the Jayhawks’ Gradey Dick was masterful, scoring a career-high 25 points in 35 minutes on the floor. The freshman was the catalyst for the Jayhawks in the first half, going 6-for-9 from the field – all from downtown to finish with 18 points. He flirted with a school record for most made three-pointers in a half which is seven. Dick was perfect from the free throw line going 5-for-5.

Dick, who was happy to have Self on the bench, said that the win showed that they can close out teams.

“I think it really just showed what our team is about and in crunch time, we can come out with tough plays when we really need it,” Dick said.

Both teams shot the ball poorly with the Jayhawks edging out the Wolfpack 41 percent to 39 percent.

Jalen Wilson had a double-double with 19 points and 11 boards while Dajuan Harris came away with 14 points and six assists to go along with three steals for the Jayhawks. Also finishing with a double-double was Kevin McCullar who had 10 points and 11 boards.

Casey Morsell scored 21 points to lead the Wolfpack (4-1), and Terquavion Smith added 19 points.

At the end of the first half, the Jayhawks led 39-31. The game had five lead changes and five ties in the first half. The Wolfpack came out of the intermission on a strong 8-0 scoring run to tie the game at 39-39 with 18:01 left in the second half.

The Jayhawks went up 55-47 with 12:46 left in the game after Wilson sank two free shots. They looked like they might have the separation that they needed but the Wolfpack came knocking on their door once more – this time tying it at 61 points apiece on two made free shots by Jarkel Joiner at the 7:42 mark.

Like they did in the first half, the Jayhawks went on a run and led by eight. They held a 76-68 advantage. The closest the Wolfpack got to them the rest of the way was six points.

Games continue today at noon, and action wraps up on Friday night.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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