Christian Braun leads Kansas Jayhawks past Iona Gaels for third place at ESPN tourney

Bill Self prior to Sunday’s ESPN Events Invitational third-place game against Iona admitted being “excited” about getting a chance to coach against fellow Hall of Famer Rick Pitino for the first time.

“It should be fun,” Self, Kansas’ 19th-year coach said on his pregame radio show, noting he told his Jayhawks players the 69-year-old Pitino just might “be the best coach in college basketball over the past 20 years.”

Self left HP Field House on the ESPN Wide World of Sports campus with a 1-0 all-time record in head-to-head matchups versus Pitino as his No. 4-ranked Jayhawks (5-1) upended Pitino’s Gaels 96-83 in the consolation contest of the eight-team tournament.

Christian Braun scored 18 points (with seven rebounds and four assists) while Ochai Agbaji had 17 points, David McCormack 13 and Remy Martin 11 as the Jayhawks bounced back from Friday’s semifinal loss Dayton of the Atlantic 10 and wound up with a 2-1 record in the holiday tourney thanks to a first-round win over North Texas and victory over Iona of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Mitch Lightfoot had 10 points and six rebounds and Joseph Yesufu contributed nine points for KU, which hit 54.9% of its shots, going 6 of 14 from three and 12 of 19 from the line.

Iona (6-2), which beat No. 10 Alabama in the first round for its second victory in school history over an AP Top 10 team, was led by Ryan Myers and Tyson Jolly, who had 14 points apiece, and Nelly Junior Joseph, who had 10. Elijah Joiner also had 10 for the Gaels.

Braun scored 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting while Lightfoot had seven points and four rebounds and Agbaji seven points in the first half. KU, which led by as many as 22 points, led 46-31 at the break.

KU led by 23 points with 7:28 left, but Iona cut the gap to 79-66 at 5:10 and 80-68 at 4:41.

The Jayhawks will next meet St. John’s on Friday in a 6 p.m. Central time tip at UBS Arena in Elmont, New York.

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