By Tim Reynolds ,AP
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Winning ugly is nothing that Kansas coach Bill Self will complain about.
In fact, there’s times he finds it downright satisfying.
Like Thursday, for instance, when Andrew Wiggins was slowed by the flu, when the second-ranked Jayhawks used reserves more than starters in the second half and when the hottest scorer on the court happened to be wearing a Wake Forest uniform. No problem — Self was all smiles afterward, because above all else, a win always beats the alternative.
Wiggins scored 12 of his 17 points in the final 5:53, and Kansas held off previously unbeaten Wake Forest 87-78 in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. A pair of reserves, Frank Mason and Joel Embiid, combined for 23 more points for the Jayhawks (5-0), who will face Villanova in the semifinals on Friday night.
“I’ve always taken great pride in winning ugly,” Self said. “I think it’s good to win ugly. I’d rather win pretty, but there’s nothing wrong with winning ugly. The thing about it that’s frustrating to me, and I think these guys will probably agree, we’ve always been a team that won ugly by not allowing the other team to score.”
That wasn’t the case Thursday, at least not in the final 20 minutes. Well, the last 20:01, really.
Kansas was up by 16 when Codi Miller-McIntyre got a layup to fall for Wake Forest just before the first half ended.
Before that shot, Miller-McIntyre had only four points. He finished with a career-best 26, and has scored at least 20 in five of Wake Forest’s six games this season.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time and he’s one of the best I’ve ever been around,” Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “Great, great person. You’re seeing the fruits of his labor … I’ve never seen a young man put the amount of time into his game as he has, both on the court, in the weight room and cerebral. He watches as much film as us as coaches.”
Miller-McIntyre was seated to Bzdelik’s right as he raved about his effort.
As his coach spoke, Miller-McIntyre’s facial expression barely changed. The Demon Deacons let a chance slip away, and Miller-McIntyre wasn’t thrilled about that realization.