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'I failed today; I didn't do my part'

KU point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. laments rough outing vs. Cincinnati, vows to make up for it during NCAA Tournament

5 min read
Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. struggles to find an opening against the Cincinnati defense during KU's 72-52 Big 12 tournament loss to the Bearcats. [Chance Parker photo]

Kansas City, Missouri — Before the game, Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. was the last player to deliver the final words of encouragement to his team during the on-court huddle before tipoff of Wednesday’s clash with Cincinnati at the Big 12 tournament.

“Keep fighting. We’ve just got to keep fighting,” was the gist of that message from the KU point guard to the rest of his team.

After the game, an unforgiving, 72-52 loss to the Bearcats that sent the Jayhawks home early, Harris walked off the floor with a towel over his head and then tried to make sense of it all in the locker room.

Harris, who entered the night averaging 8.3 points per game, finished with 8 points on 3-of-11 shooting.

That was the pretty part.

He also added nearly as many turnovers (4) as assists (5) during an uncharacteristic night for KU’s lead guard, who too often appeared to be forcing things or trying to make plays that just weren’t there.

Playing without leading scorers and first team all-Big 12 picks Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. forced everyone on this team to dig a little deeper and try to bring a little more to the table.

Harris thought he could do that, too. But he fell short of what he envisioned, and the Jayhawks are now headed back to Lawrence with a 22-10 record having lost four of the last five games they have played and eight of the last 15.

“I mean, I wanted it,” Harris told R1S1 Sports in the locker room after Wednesday’s loss. “But I didn’t come out and play well. Coach put the ball in my hands. I told him I wanted it, and I failed to (deliver). I’ve just got to be better.”

These weren’t just words. These were emotions.

That’s what was hiding under that towel as Harris walked back to the locker room and started to cut the tape from his ankles following yet another loss that he struggled to accept.

As he continued to talk about his night, the words got stronger and began to match the crystal-clear emotion and despair in his eyes.

It wasn’t quite tears. But it was close. Perhaps whatever comes either right before or even right after tears start to well up in one’s eyes.

“I really wanted to win this tournament, since we lost last year and got beat up pretty bad,” Harris said, explaining why Wednesday night hurt so much. “I really wanted to play this week to show everybody that I can be the point guard that I am. I failed today.”

KU point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (3) and KJ Adams come together to talk during the Jayhawks' Big 12 tourney loss to Cincinnati. [Chance Parker photo]

Harris used the word “failed” three different times during the 3-minute interview inside the KU locker room.

There were plenty of other reasons Kansas lost on Wednesday night.

KU’s starters, outside of Harris combined to shoot 14-for-42 from the field. And that’s with KJ Adams going 9-for-14.

The undersized Jayhawks were out-rebounded by the Bearcats, 49-38, including 16-8 on the offensive glass.

And Cincinnati nailed nine 3-pointers for 27 points — more than half of KU’s game total — compared to a clip of just 3-for-20 by the Jayhawks from behind the arc.

So, yeah; it wasn’t exactly KU’s night.

But because Harris believes so much in himself and his abilities and what he’s done his entire life — in a word, win — he was willing to put the bulk of KU’s latest setback on his shoulders.

Even the fact that, given the circumstances, KU was actually an underdog on Wednesday night didn’t make Harris feel any better about coming out on the short end of things.

“I had seen that and heard it, but that’s what happens when you lose two of the best players in the country,” he said of Cincinnati’s status as the pregame favorite. “So, I understand it. But I feel like if I would’ve played my part, it would’ve been a different situation — a different game — so I’m just upset about that.”

“KJ played a pretty good game,” he added of the junior forward’s 22-point night. “We wanted to play a two-man game. KJ did his part. I just didn’t do my part. I’ve just gotta be better.”

Asked if the silver lining of getting a few extra days off to get some rest — of both the mental and physical variety — was any consolation to the disappointing defeat, Harris shrugged and shook his head.

“I mean, I don’t ever want to lose,” he said, stating the obvious. “It’s good to get some rest, too, though. So, I’ll take it.”

He continued: “It’s very hard because we’re not used to this. I’m not used to losing at all. I’m just ready to get back to it. I’ve still got an opportunity in March Madness to show everybody the point guard I can be, so I’ll be ready for that.”

With or without Dickinson and McCullar, Kansas will need him to be.

Otherwise. Well, we may already know what that looks like.

More from Wednesday's loss to Cincinnati...

• Moments That Popped

• Photo Gallery

• Notes & Numbers

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