SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Kansas might be sick of hearing how it’s taking the easy way toward the Final Four, even if the top-seeded Jayhawks aren’t exactly running into much trouble.
Twelfth-seeded Richmond sure didn’t put up much of a fight. Even after getting into a shoving match with Kansas players before the game.
Brady Morningstar scored 18 points and Kansas, playing like the dominant No. 1 seed in a historic NCAA regional full of underdogs, knocked off Richmond 77-57 on Friday night to move a victory from returning to the Final Four for the first time since its 2008 championship.
Players exchanged shoves and words during a pregame logjam when Kansas entered the tunnel to the court while Richmond players still huddled. It ended quickly without much to talk about, and the Jayhawks went on their way.
The same could be said for the game.
“We were already fired up. We were ready to take them on,” Kansas forward Markieff Morris said. “I think it showed when we went out there. We moved on. It was just a misunderstanding.”
The game itself was a mismatch. Kansas rolled past a third consecutive opponent and has won by an average of nearly 18 points in the tournament.
The Southwest Regional was the first in NCAA history to have three double-digit seeded teams make it this far. Kansas will get another in today’s regional final against 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth, which beat 10th-seeded Florida State 72-71 in overtime.
It’s given the Jayhawks what appears — at least on paper — to be an easy-looking path toward the Final Four. The Jayhawks can make it to Houston next week without having beaten a seed higher than ninth-seeded Illinois.
If that happens, Kansas will join Michigan State in 2001 and North Carolina in 1991 as the only schools to get that far without having to beat a seed higher than nine. And only five teams have reached the Final Four by feasting on teams seeded eighth or lower, according to STATS LLC.
One of those schools? The 2008 Jayhawks, who beat Memphis in overtime after Mario Chalmers hit a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation.
That run ended in the Alamodome with coach Bill Self winning his first title at Kansas. Three years later, the Jayhawks looked every bit at home in San Antonio.
Kansas will be coming right back to Texas if the beat the Rams today. The Final Four begins next weekend in Houston.
“There’s no playing down to the competition. If you lose you lose and you go home,” Morris said. “So we’re going to play them like the North Carolinas or the Dukes.”
The Jayhawks were calm and confident in reaching a fourth regional final under Self. The Spiders, meanwhile, looked jittery in the what was only the school’s second round-of-16 appearance.
Justin Harper led Richmond with 22 points. Kevin Anderson had 14.
“We can’t worry about this game right now,” Richmond coach Chris Mooney said. “We also can’t celebrate the season we had right now.”
Self downplayed the pregame tunnel dustup as “typical stuff, but it wasn’t anything.” Anderson said both teams were just eager to play and chalked it up to usual aggression.
Still, Self waited for Richmond to exit through the tunnel at halftime before letting his players walk down the same tunnel toward the locker room. Kansas was already ahead 41-22.
The Jayhawks shot 48 percent from the floor and made nine of 19 3-pointers. Morningstar was 7-for-11 from the floor, including four 3-pointers. Josh Selby added nine points.
The loss stopped Richmond from reaching the first regional final in school history.
“We didn’t really play that well tonight, so finishing like that is tough,” Richmond center Dan Geriot said. “There was a lot left in there for us to have competed a little better.”
Mooney sought to inspire his players this week by showing them Richmond’s stunning win at Allen Fieldhouse in 2004, which ended Kansas’ 52-game home unbeaten streak against unranked opponents. It had been the only meeting between the schools before Friday.
This time, the Jayhawks never looked in trouble.
“At the end of the day it was all love,” Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor said. “We shook hands.”
Record 35-2 27-11
Avg. Pts. 81.7 71.9
Opp. Avg. Pts. 64.5 66.9
Margin 17.2 5.0
FG Pct. .512 .436
Opp. FG Pct. .394 .446
3-Pt. FG Pct. .390 .367
Opp. 3-Pt. FG Pct .291 .344
3-Pt. FG-Game 7.3 8.4
Opp. 3-Pt. FG-Gm 5.8 5.6
FT Pct. .683 .715
Rebound Margin 7.9 -3.6
TO Diff. 0.8 3.5
Avg Steals 7.8 8.4
Avg Blocks 4.0 3.6
CBS — Kansas vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1:20 p.m.
Kentucky vs. North Carolina, 4:05 p.m.