Kansas Jayhawks’ Remy Martin helps KU beat Creighton

No. 1 seed Kansas, which led No. 9 seed Creighton by just one point at halftime in an NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional round of 32 game on Saturday, might have failed to survive a barrage of Bluejays threes if not for senior Remy Martin.

“That kept us in the game,” KU coach Bill Self said of the 6-foot-0, 180-pound point guard from Burbank, California scoring 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (2 of 4 from three; 2 of 2 from the free-throw line) the initial 20 minutes. “And then the second half we kind of spread the wealth a little bit,” Self added.

Martin finished with 20 points (his high in a game in his one season at KU), seven rebounds and four assists while playing 29 minutes in KU’s hard-earned 79-72 victory at Dickies Arena, a win that lifted KU into the Sweet 16 and also into a tie with Kentucky on college basketball’s all-time victory list (2,353).

Next highest KU scorer the first half was Jalen Wilson, who had eight points and eight boards. Creighton, meanwhile, knocked down 12 of 28 threes for the game and trailed the Jayhawks 39-38 at intermission.

Martin missed 10 games this season while recovering from a deep knee bruise. Safe to say he’s fully recovered now.

“You don’t expect a guy — I don’t know what he was from the field the first half, 6 of 8 or 6 of 9, and you don’t expect point guards to do that,” Self said. “We’re a different team with him. And certainly, if they’re going to put their four man on Juan (Harris, five points, two assists, 17 minutes) and back all the way up underneath the basket, we’re not going to throw it inside much that way. So we’ve got to have some guys make some shots and he bailed us out once again,” Self added.

Sophomore forward Wilson, who finished with 14 points and 14 boards, said Martin was “the player of the game.”

“His energy … him being able to create his own shot, especially when we needed a shot late in the clock. For him to be so much of a good teammate throughout the year and show leadership throughout the year, no matter what was going on, and now for him to step up like this is huge. He makes our team go farther than what we could without him,” Wilson added.

Senior guard Ochai Agbaji, who scored 13 of his 15 points the second half, said: “Remy’s attitude the entire year I think is what has gotten him prepared for this moment. For him to shine, for him to go on out there and just be Remy. It was really nice to see, and I’m just so proud of him, too.”

Martin, KU’s super senior transfer from Arizona State, said he never doubted he’d return from injury and be a factor in the Jayhawks’ rotation. His old scoring high in a KU uniform, by the way, was 17 points against Dayton during Thanksgiving week in Orlando, Florida.

“I mean, the guys and my family, the group, I have a pretty tight-knit group,” Martin said. “So they keep my confidence going. They keep my mental going. So I always felt like, I had something in me.

“But there’s nothing to it. I just keep it simple. I just go out there and try to give it my all and play. I wasn’t going out there and trying to do anything different. They were giving me shots, and I just had to knock it in in the first half. So I just like wearing this uniform. I love everything about it. I just love playing the game itself.

“I’m just happy.”

Self said the Jayhawks, who are still adjusting to the return of Martin from injury, have not played their best basketball entering the Sweet 16.

KU will meet Providence on Friday in Chicago.

“I still believe we’ve got another gear or another step we can take. And even though teams can defend us a certain way and give us problems, I’ve said many times in the NCAA Tournament, and it happened with Creighton tonight, you’ve got to have some guys take some marginal shots and make them,” Self stated.

Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.

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