NEW YORK — Bill Self wanted to see his young team play in and win a tough, grind it out game. They did just that against a team he thinks can compete for a National Championship in March.
Dedric Lawson had 24 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and No. 2 Kansas rallied to beat No. 5 Tennessee 87-81 in overtime early Saturday morning in the NIT Season Tip-Off title
“It’s ok to win ugly. Winning ugly is actually pretty at the end of the day and we won a game today that artistically wasn’t very good,” the longtime Kansas coach said. “But we’ve won a lot of games over the years where we didn’t look very good but we just kind of hung around and found a way, so I think it gave our guys some confidence.”
Lagerald Vick scored 15 points, with eight straight during a crucial stretch for the Jayhawks’ comeback, and assisted on an alley-oop to Lawson that made it 78-73 with 2:39 left in overtime. Lawson was named the tournament MVP.
“In overtime I just wanted to be aggressive. I came out and knew that the score was 0-0 and it was a new game,” Lawson said. “Originally I wanted to win. I wanted to win very badly and I tried to do everything I could to seal the deal.”
Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield had 21 points and six rebounds while Grant Williams had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists before fouling out. Jordan Bone added 16 points for the Volunteers (4-1).
Bone skipped back to the bench after hitting a 3-pointer to end the first half and put Tennessee up 33-31. The Volunteers led by as many as nine points in the second half before Kansas (5-0) stormed back.
Vick stuck out his tongue when he nailed a 3-pointer with 7:30 remaining to tie the game at 56. He hit another 3-pointer and a jumper to put the Jayhawks ahead 61-56 with 6:03 left.
“They know exactly what they’re looking for and we haven’t gotten there yet,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “And that’s the next step that we can take.”
Jayhawks big man Udoka Azubuike fouled out with 4:26 left, and Tennessee retook the lead at 62-61.
Kansas’ Charlie Moore tied the game at 69 on a pair of free throws with 1:24 remaining. It would go to overtime that way after a couple defensive stands by Tennessee in the waning seconds.
“We’re not going to win them all. I don’t think Kansas is going to win them all either,” Barnes said. “You learn from it. It’s disappointing. … .But you’ll learn from it. This time of year — that’s why you play these games. You play them because you want to go up against the best teams. I know we can play better.”