OMAHA, Neb. - Quick thoughts from Kansas' 63-60 victory over Purdue.
Overview: First it was Bucknell. Then came Bradley, Northern Iowa and VCU. Just when Kansas seemed primed to take a yearlong hiatus from stunning NCAA tournament upsets, the Jayhawks almost found a way to choke again Sunday.
This time, instead of wilting down the stretch, Kansas mustered up the inner toughness that's helped it win eight consecutive Big 12 titles and flourished when it mattered most. Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor (twice) each scored on breakaway layups in the game's final minute, turning a 60-57 deficit into a 63-60 victory against No. 10 seed Purdue - the sixth-place team from the Big Ten.
Taylor's layup came on a fast break after Purdue's Robbie Hummel missed a 3-pointer - which was heavily contested by Thomas Robinson - on the other end. Kansas got the rebound and fired ahead to Taylor, who scored easily with 2.5 seconds remaining. Taylor probably made a mistake by scoring instead of running out the clock, because Purdue had one last shot a game-tying 3-pointer. The Boilermakers got a decent look considering the circumstances, but Ryne Smith's heave from the right wing hit the backboard and clanged off the front of the rim.
Kansas fans - who comprised about 75 percent of the crowd at the CenturyLink Center - went wild in celebration as the final horn sounded. Five minutes later, Johnson, Taylor and Travis Releford danced at mid-court after conducting post-game interviews.
The heavily favored Jayhawks had to feel relieved after surviving a scare from a well-coached Purdue team that led for virtually the entire game. Kansas trailed 60-57 after Purdue's Terone Johnson scored on a pull-up jumper with 2:02 remaining. But the Jayhawks scored the next six points - all on fast breaks.
The first basket came on an alley-oop from Johnson to Taylor with 59.9 seconds left that shaved Purdue's lead to 60-59. Kansas coach Bill Self called a timeout and, on the ensuing possession, Johnson stole the ball from Lewis Jackson and scored on an uncontested lay-up to give KU a 61-60. Hummel - who was brilliant, with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting - missed the 3-pointer on the other end, and Kansas fired a pass to Taylor, who streaked down the court for the game-clinching basket.
The Jayhawks, who got 18 points from Johnson, will take on No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Friday in St. Louis. Purdue ends its season with a 22-13 record.
Key player: Johnson stepped up in a big way for Kansas. With Taylor (10 points) struggling offensively, Johnson made 7 of his 14 field goal attempts and hit three huge 3-pointers, including two in the second half. Robinson missed all but two of his 12 field goal attempts but still finished with 11 points and 13 boards.
Key stat: Kansas won despite its worst offensive showing of the season. The Jayhawks shot just 33.9 percent from the field.
Miscellaneous: Kansas' 2008 NCAA title run began in Omaha. ... If Kansas wins Friday it will likely play North Carolina in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels could be without standout point guard Kendall Marshall, who fractured his wrist in Sunday's win against Creighton.