Udoka Azubuike, Malik Newman lead Kansas to Elite Eight as Jayhawks hold on against Clemson

Last week, Udoka Azubuike entered the NCAA tournament as an “emergency” option following a knee injury and played just three minutes in Kansas’ win over Penn in the Round of 64.

What a difference a week makes.

Azubuike scored 14 points and ripped down 11 rebounds, Malik Newman scored a team-high 17 points, and Devonte’ Graham knocked down some crucial late free throws as Kansas held on for a 80-76 win over Clemson. It’s the Jayhawks’ third straight Elite Eight and eighth in 15 years under head coach Bill Self.

Clemson kept things close early and trailed just 19-20 with 8:38 remaining in the first half. But the Jayhawks hit four of their next five shots and closed the half on 20-8 run, leading 40-27 at the break.

The momentum carried over into the second half with Kansas scoring nine of the half’s first 11 points to open up a 20-point advantage at 49-29.

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ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Cody Martin #11 of the Nevada Wolf Pack falls after saving the ball with a pass to Caleb Martin #10 in the second half against the Loyola Ramblers during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes up with the ball against Amaad Wainright #23 and Makol Mawien #14 of the Kansas State Wildcats in the second half during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Charles Matthews #1 of the Michigan Wolverines drives on DJ Hogg #1 of the Texas A&M Aggies in the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Jordan Caroline #24 of the Nevada Wolf Pack and Lucas Williamson #1 of the Loyola Ramblers battle for the rebound during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Loyola Ramblers defeated the Nevada Wolf Pack 69-68. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Terance Mann #14 of the Florida State Seminoles goes up for a shot against Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Jarred Vanderbilt #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats calls a timeout late in the second half against Kevin Knox #5 and PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Josh Perkins #13 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reacts after being fouled in the first half agaisnt the Florida State Seminoles in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: Marques Townes #5 of the Loyola Ramblers reacts after making a late three point basket in the second half against the Nevada Wolf Pack during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman #12 of the Michigan Wolverines goes up for a shot against Tyler Davis #34 of the Texas A&M Aggies in the first half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at Staples Center on March 22, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Justin Gray #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders dunks the ball during the second half against the Purdue Boilermakers in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats shoots the ball during the second half against Esa Ahmad #23 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23: Sagaba Konate #50 of the West Virginia Mountaineers reacts on the bench during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 22: PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats handles the ball against Cartier Diarra #2 of the Kansas State Wildcats in the first half during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at Philips Arena on March 22, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Senior guard Gabe DeVoe did all he could to keep the Tigers in it, scoring a career-high 31 points in what would turn out to be his final collegiate game. Trailing 54-34, DeVoe knocked down a jumper from the free throw line off a spin move and then stole a Devonte’ Graham pass and finished through a foul on the other end. His free throw cut the deficit to 15 and sent Graham to the bench with three fouls.

Considering Graham spent just 16 minutes on the bench during all of Big 12 play combined, it seemed like a terrific opportunity for the Tigers to claw their way back into things. But Kansas came right back with Azubuike hitting a left-handed hook shot before heading to the bench with his third foul. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk hit a tough step-back jumper and Silvio de Sousa — Azubuike’s backup — scored on a put-back layup as the shot clock expired, restoring the lead to 20 at the under-12 timeout.

As was the case all year, though, Clemson refused to go away. The Tigers whittled away at the lead and then used an 11-2 run to cut the Kansas lead to just 74-68. Shelton Mitchell capped the sequence with an emphatic dunk just seconds after a traditional three-point play, that fouled out Azubuike.

Even after some shaky late free-throw shooting from Kansas, Clemson never got to closer than four points, a deficit it got to with just seconds to go. It proved to be too little, too late. Kansas will meet the winner of Duke and Syracuse on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

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