ST. LOUIS -- Coach Johnny Dawkins knows what people sometimes say about his Stanford basketball team: Not tough enough.
"I hear the same stuff," he said.
No one was saying it Sunday, not after the Cardinal arrived at the Scottrade Center armed with a heavy dose of grit and applied it to a 60-57 victory over No. 2 seed Kansas, sending the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
"I really think we were the tougher team tonight and that shows in the score," senior Josh Huestis said. "We were really aggressive from the tip, we didn't let them bully us around."
The reward for the 10th-seeded Cardinal (23-12) is a trip to Memphis, Tenn., to face Dayton (25-10) in the South Regional semifinals on Thursday.
Absent from the NCAAs for five years, the Cardinal showed it wasn't happy just to be in the tournament. And it showed it had the mettle to take down one of college basketball's most storied programs.
The Cardinal held the Jayhawks (25-10) to 22 points below their season scoring average and 33 percent shooting. And it made Andrew Wiggins -- possibly the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA draft -- look like the freshman he is.
Hounded by Huestis whenever Stanford played man-to-man defense, or by a constantly changing zone, Wiggins shot 1 for 6 and scored a career-low four points. The 6-foot-8 forward had averaged 28 in his previous four games, including 41 in one game.
"Give Josh a lot of credit. He did a great job," Dawkins said. "Then we had help, of course. He's a guy you are not going to guard with one guy."
That's how it felt to Wiggins. "Whenever I went right, I saw three Stanford guys. Whenever I went left, I saw three Stanford guys," Wiggins said. "If I had played better, we'd have won."
Stanford led most of the first half, then fought back from a five-point hole early in the second. The Cardinal forged a 47-40 lead with just under 7 minutes left, then tried to withstand KU's ferocious full-court press.
The Jayhawks clawed their way within 53-51 with 2 minutes left before two free throws by Dwight Powell doubled the margin. Anthony Brown was fouled four times in the final 43.6 seconds and converted 5 of 8 from the line to counter two long 3-pointers by KU's Conner Frankamp.
"We kept digging in. Had to secure balls, not turn it over, make our free throws to end it," Dawkins said. "We made just enough."
Still, KU had one last shot to tie, but Chasson Randle tightly defended Frankamp, whose 3-pointer at the horn wasn't close.
The outcome didn't shock the Cardinal. "I always expect us to come out and play like that because that's our potential," Huestis said. "That's how good we can be."
Powell, who shot 0 for 8 and fouled out in Stanford's win over New Mexico two days earlier, bounced back to provide 15 points and seven rebounds. Randle added 13 points, and Brown and Stefan Nastic each scored 10.
Kansas again played without its top defender, injured 7-foot center Joel Embiid, but coach Bill Self made no issue of that. "It was their defense against our offense that hurt us," he said.
Wiggins wasn't the only KU player who struggled. Forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor combined to shoot 4 for 18. "They defended the rim very well," Self said.
Dawkins is convinced Stanford's experience -- four fourth-year starters compared with a KU lineup with two freshmen and a sophomore -- gave his team an edge. It allowed Dawkins to pull out a 1-3-1 zone defense the Cardinal heard might cause the Jayhawks some grief.
Asked the last time he used it, Dawkins said, "Not this year. Every year we work on it a little bit because we have to play against Oregon State. So I thought, something they haven't seen, maybe change their rhythm."
The rhythm of Stanford's season now takes the Cardinal to Beale Street in Memphis.
"We're still in the race, and we're still playing in March," Powell said. "And it feels great."
Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.
SOUTH Regional SEMIFINALS
At Memphis, Tenn
Dayton (25-10) vs. Stanford (23-12), 4:15 p.m. CBS
Chasson Randle is fueled by "extra motivation" after
perceived slight. PAGE 4
perfect no more
(8) KENTUCKY 78,
(1) WICHITA STATE 76
Guard Fred VanVleet and No. 1-seeded Shockers see winning streak end. PAGE 4
For more on the tournament, go to mercurynews.com/sports