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Kansas survives scare from Eastern Kentucky, advances to face Stanford

Andrew WigginsAndrew Wiggins (Andy Lyons/Getty)

ST. LOUIS -- Not to spoil the ending, but Kansas wins.

The Jayhawks secured an 80-69 win over Eastern Kentucky in a back-and-forth game on Friday. This is March, though, so not even Kansas beating a school from a little place called Richmond, Ky., is simple.

Just ask the Eastern Kentucky cheerleaders, who devolved into shrieking by the second half. The louder they yelled, it seemed, the better their Colonels played, taking Kansas into halftime tied at 32.

Just ask Eastern Kentucky's mascot, who had reason to stiffly dance long into the second half. Or ask the Colonels coach, Jeff Neubauer, who until the final seconds was screwing up his face and screaming and pointing his players into position.

This was far from simple.

Despite losing, Eastern Kentucky came within moments of upsetting Kansas and stealing Mercer's title as the biggest upset of the day. It came close, and it was fun. The story of the game beats the story of the ending. The tale of who goes home beats the tale of who remains.

The story of the game can be told in one possession. It's Eastern Kentucky's first of the game, and they're down two. They take the ball down the court, and there's Kansas, and so they stop around the three-point line, and they start passing.

Pass, pass, pass, and a few more for good measure. One might think they are stuck. This is Kansas, after all, and they're Eastern Kentucky, so this is going to be tough.

The thing is, Eastern Kentucky isn't stuck. It's just warming up. Pass, pass, pass, three. It's a perfect three-pointer, from a fellow named Glenn Cosey, who doesn't seem to care that this is Kansas, and thus that he was supposed to miss.

That's how it went for the rest of the game. Eastern Kentucky shot from outside, time and time again, never stuck, but never quite able to get by Kansas. The Colonels finished the game with 12 three-pointers; the Jayhawks, none. To combat the attack, Kansas leaned on Andrew Wiggins' 19 points and Perry Ellis' 14. It relied on the fact that it was supposed to win, and eventually, normal prevailed.

Kansas wins. Of course it does. But Kansas wins, and maybe it should worry about what's to come. March won't get easier.

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