KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Elijah Johnson scored a career-high 26 points, and No. 3 Kansas began pursuit of its third straight Big 12 tournament title with an 83-66 win over Texas A&M in the quarterfinals Thursday.
Thomas Robinson, the conference player of the year, finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, and All-Big 12 guard Tyshawn Taylor added 16 points for the Jayhawks (27-5).
They’ll play No. 12 Baylor on Friday. The Bears beat Kansas State 82-74 in the quarterfinals.
Khris Middleton led Texas A&M (14-18) with 24 points, though he didn’t get a whole lot of help. Leading scorer Elston Turner was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
The Aggies, who beat Oklahoma in the opening round, simply couldn’t contain Johnson, who knocked down five 3-pointers. The junior guard set his previous career high of 23 points early in the year against UCLA, before spending several months struggling with his shot.
He didn’t struggle very much Thursday afternoon.
Kansas didn’t struggle with much of anything.
The Jayhawks have won nine straight overall, including a thrilling overtime victory against Missouri. They improved to 15-1 in their opening game at the Big 12 tournament, and are 14-2 in quarterfinal match-ups, their last loss coming to Baylor in the 2009 quarterfinals.
The same team they’ll face Friday night.
Early on, it didn’t look like things would be nearly so easy for top-seeded Kansas against the No. 9 seed Aggies, who were coming off a victory about 16 hours earlier.
Texas A&M clamped down on Robinson in the post and flustered Taylor in the backcourt while inching out to an early advantage. Middleton provided the offense for the Aggies, scoring 14 of his points in the first half as Texas A&M established a 21-17 lead.
Middleton’s basket with 8:48 left wound up being the high point for the Aggies.
Robinson got on track with a basket inside to start the Jayhawks on a 13-0 run, ultimately giving them the lead for good. Johnson knocked down a pair of 3s during the spurt, and Taylor’s signature floater in the lane with 4:19 left gave Kansas a 30-21 advantage.
Middleton stemmed the tide with a three-point play, but it was only a speed bump for the Jayhawks, who pushed the lead to 38-24 on Taylor’s back-to-back 3-pointers.
They scored on 10 of their first 11 possessions of the second half to put the game away.
Johnson started the clinching run with a jumper in the opening seconds, and after Withey made one of two free throws, Robinson knocked down a 3 from the top of the key — the bruising forward improved his career mark to 5 of 12 from beyond the arc.
Robinson scored again on the Jayhawks’ next possession, and Johnson converted a three-point play before Robinson’s two foul shots made it 53-37 with 15:35 left.
The lead eventually swelled to more than 20 when Robinson made the first of two free throws, stole the ball after missing the second, and made one of two on his next trip to the line.
Robinson even knocked down another 3 with 5:04 remaining, the first time in his three-year career at Kansas that he’s made more than one in a game.
Kansas cruised the final 12 minutes to a comfortable win.
The Jayhawks, who met Texas A&M in the semifinals two of the past four years, improved to 20-1 against the Aggies in the final meeting as members of the same league.
The Aggies head off to the Southeastern Conference beginning next season.
Big 12 Conference
At Kansas City, Mo.
No. 3 Kansas 83, Texas A&M 66
TEXAS A&M (14-18)
Loubeau 4-12 0-0 8, Middleton 9-15 5-5 24, Hibbert 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 2-7 2-3 7, E. Turner 3-11 2-3 8, Davis 3-5 2-2 8, Green 0-1 0-0 0, Alexander 0-2 0-0 0, Kinsley 1-2 0-1 3, R. Turner 3-8 2-3 8. Totals 25-64 13-17 66.
Robinson 6-9 5-8 19, Withey 3-4 5-8 11, Taylor 6-11 1-2 16, Johnson 8-11 5-5 26, Releford 2-2 3-4 7, Tharpe 0-1 0-0 0, Teahan 0-2 0-0 0, Wesley 0-0 0-1 0, Juenemann 0-1 0-0 0, Young 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 27-44 19-28 83.
Halftime — Kansas 40, Texas A&M 28. Three-point goals — Texas A&M 3-13 (Kinsley 1-2, Harris 1-3, Middleton 1-4, E. Turner 0-4), Kansas 10-15 (Johnson 5-7, Taylor 3-4, Robinson 2-2, Teahan 0-2). Fouled out — Davis. Rebounds — Texas A&M 31 (R. Turner 8), Kansas 30 (Robinson 10). Assists — Texas A&M 8 (Middleton 3), Kansas 19 (Johnson, Robinson, Taylor 4). Total fouls — Texas A&M 19, Kansas 15. A — 18,972.