Jackson’s strong second half lifts Kansas past Spartans
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Everything about Josh Jackson’s demeanor screamed this game was personal, from the back-and-forth chirping with childhood friend Miles Bridges to his emphatic late-game dunk and celebration.
Playing against the school he grew up cheering for, Jackson channeled that emotion into a dominating performance to help top-seeded Kansas advance to the Sweet 16 for a second straight year with a 90-70 victory over Michigan State on Sunday.
The standout freshman scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half, finishing 9 of 16 from the field and ousting a Spartans team from the NCAA Tournament that he very nearly joined before signing with the Jayhawks.
“I knew it was going to be a fun game before it even started,” Jackson said. “So, it was just really fun to be able to go out there and play against those guys and I’m really proud to see them here and having success.”
Frank Mason III added 20 points for the top-seeded Jayhawks, who have advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in nine of coach Bill Self’s 14 seasons.
But it was Jackson who shook off misses on his first three shot attempts — including an embarrassing failed dunk attempt — who shined the most in his second straight dominating performance in the tournament.
And he did so while matched up for much of the game against Bridges, his former elementary school friend in Michigan.