no. 3 Kansas Beats NC State In Head Coach Bill Self’s Return :: WRALSportsFan.com

— Bill Self was looking forward to Wednesday’s start at Battle 4 Atlantis. Not even Kansas rookie Gradey Dick.

Dick scored a season-high 25 points to help the third-ranked Jayhawks beat North Carolina State 80-74 in Wednesday’s tournament opener, giving Self a successful return to the bench after a four-game suspension.

Dick had 18 for six 3-pointers in the first half before going 1-for-8 from the field after halftime. Jalen Wilson added 19 points and 11 rebounds for the defending national champion Jayhawks (5-0), who blew an eight-point halftime lead and a nine-point second-half lead before grinding.

“I think he really showed what our team is all about and at critical moments, we can come out with tough plays when we really need to,” Dick said.

It also helped, Dick said, “to have a Hall of Famer in our corner again.”

Kansas had imposed suspensions on Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend as part of the aftermath of a pending NCAA infraction case related to the federal investigation into corruption within the sport.

Self was allowed to coach practice, so he remained involved with the team. But on game days, he said he got a dose of a fan’s helpless perspective as assistant Norm Roberts led the team. He said he couldn’t even take notes until he watched the game in a replay.

He was ready for Wednesday right from the 7am wake up call.

“I don’t usually jump out of bed,” Self said, “but today I did because I was excited about what was to come.”

As he emerged from the tunnel, Self was met with loud cheers from a boisterous section of Kansas fans. He got a slight smile as a fan tangled up a Jayhawks national title banner as he passed and high-fived a line of about a half-dozen fans who had stretched their arms over the railing.

Casey Morsell had 21 points as he led the Wolfpack (4-1), while Terquavion Smith added 19 points.

This was NC State’s first appearance at Atlantis since 2017 when Kevin Keatts’ coaching tenure began. That team opened by beating No. 2 Arizona and this year’s group gave Kansas attacks until the last few minutes.

“We missed a couple free throws down the stretch, I thought they went out in transition,” Keatts said. “We had a couple of breakdowns that when you’re on that one or two possession game, everything matters down the stretch.”

SWITCHBOARD

NC State: The Wolfpack program was also involved in the FBI sports investigation involving recruiting violations related to freshman Dennis Smith Jr. under former head coach Mark Gottfried. That case loomed over Keatts’ entire term until there was a December resolution. Now Keatts has restocked his roster with a style closer to his vision: playing fast and picking full-court even against a program named marquee.

“I don’t know from a pure speed standpoint if there’s anyone we’re going to play against who is as fast as” Smith’s and Jarkel Joiner’s backcourt, Self said, adding, “We’re athletic, pretty athletic, but we’re not I’m as fast as the jet. So we had to be introduced well enough to stand in front of them. “

Kansas: The 6-foot-8 Dick got off to a good start. Lui averaged 16.8 points while shooting 10-of-20 from 3-point range, then surpassed his (short) season high of 23 points from the opener against Omaha.

KEY SEQUENCES

Dick’s sixth 3-pointer for a 39-31 lead came before the halftime horn and on light contact from Morsell, with Dick falling to the floor. He stood up with an emphatic cry, clapping, while Morsell could only respond with a frustrated shrug.

But NC State responded with an 8-0 flurry, with Morsell hitting a 3 on a fast break and another on a back pass to tie it.

The Wolfpack never led after the break but tied it five times, most recently on 63, all on Jack Clark’s jumper with 7:14 left.

NEXT

NC State: The Wolfpack will face Dayton, who lost to Wisconsin, in Thursday’s consolation round.

Kansas: The Jayhawks advanced to the semifinals on Thursday to face Wisconsin.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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AP College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball & https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll & https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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