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Kansas takes out Eastern Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament

EWU led for large portions, but a huge second half for KU sparked the win.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Eastern Washington at Kansas Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It couldn't have started much worse. Kansas missed their first four shots of the game while posing very little obstruction to Eastern Washington early, allowing a 9-0 run out of the gate before Bill Self called a timeout to stop the bleeding. Out of said timeout, the Jayhawks got more aggressive on both sides of the floor, and made it clear they could get into the lane far easier against EWU than what they're used to. KU seemed to settle in and the score was 14-9 at the first media timeout.

KU came storming back from there with high-pressure defense and attacking offense. The Eagles found themselves back on their heels, calling a panic timeout of their own after KU went on a 7-1 run to go up 16-15. KU continued to play better, but struggled to take full control. The Jayhawks stayed just a step ahead for some time, before the Eagles took the lead back with just under five minutes to go in the half, 30-28.

From there, EW caught fire and pushed the lead right back out to nine. Self had to call another cool-them-off timeout following a three point barrage that had Kansas down 41-33 with 2:38 remaining. From there it was pretty ugly for both teams, and Kansas was down 46-38 at the break.

At halftime, Eastern Washington was 7-14 from three while KU was a frustratingly normal 5-17 (29%). Marcus Garrett led the Jayhawks with 12 points and four boards, but already had three fouls. Ochai Agbaji had nine points, but it took nine shots to get there. EWU's Grove brothers, whose images are going to be burned into KU fans' heads for years to come, combined for 32 points while shooting 6-9 from deep.

McCormack was hot right out of the gate in the second half, but the Jayhawks showed no signs of slowing the Eagles’ offense down. KU chipped away at the lead a bit but struggled to get within striking distance, still down 61-57 at the under-12. With 9:44 remaining, Kansas finally clawed their way back to a lead after DaJuan Harris hit his third three of the game, putting the Jayhawks up 64-63.

Kansas went on a nice run from there and got their biggest lead of the game, 73-66 at the under-8 following a Garrett triple. From there, the Jayhawks finally found their footing, as well as their collective three point stroke. Garrett started lighting it up and EW was running out of answers.

Down the stretch the Eagles hit enough threes to keep Kansas from running away with it, but ultimately it wasn't enough as the Jayhawks' dominant stretch had already put the game out of reach. Kansas ended up hanging on for a hard-fought victory, 93-84.

Matt Tait said on Twitter that the game ball should be split into thirds and given to Garrett, Harris and McCormack. It's hard to argue with that. All three were huge down the stretch. Garrett went for 23 points with eight boards, and avoided fouling at all in the second half. Harris was 3-4 from deep and scored 13 with a team-high five assists. McCormack played far more than expected at 25 minutes, which had to be draining, but still scored 22 and grabbed nine boards in a downright heroic effort.

The Jayhawks await the result of Drake-USC to find out their Round of 32 opponent for Monday.