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Moments That Popped: KU's season ends with 21-point loss to Gonzaga

Highlights and lowlights from the Jayhawks' 89-68 Round 2 NCAA Tournament loss

4 min read
KU point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. flies to the rim during the Jayhawks' season-ending loss to Gonzaga on Saturday in Salt Lake City. [Kansas Athletics photo]

For the second year in a row, the Kansas men’s basketball team’s season came to an end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Unlike last season’s loss to Arkansas, though, this one was over much earlier as KU played a strong first half before fading in the second half during an 89-68 loss to 5th-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

The loss dropped KU to 23-11 on the season, giving the program its most losses in a single season in the Bill Self era.

For the second straight game, the Jayhawks came out firing, using hot shooting and an aggressive mentality to take a 44-43 lead into halftime.

But KU’s offense stalled big time in the second half. At one point, the Jayhawks had scored just 9 points in 13 minutes and were shooting just 16% from the field in the second half.

It didn’t help that Gonzaga came out red hot. The Zags pushed the lead to double digits quickly and then got up by as many as 27 (80-53) midway through the second half, making the rest of the game all but irrelevant.

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights from the disappointing ending to a Kansas season that started with the Jayhawks ranked as the No. 1 team in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll.



• 1st-half 3-point shooting: For the second game in a row, the Jayhawks let it fly from behind the 3-point line, making 7 of 11 from downtown in the first half and 9-for-22 for the game. The biggest development there was the fact that big man Hunter Dickinson drained a pair of first-half 3-pointers. After starting the season with a strong showing from 3-point range, Dickinson went quiet from behind the arc and stopped shooting them. His two makes in the first half were huge — or at least seemed huge at the time.

• Timberlake time: There’s no denying that Nick Timberlake brought a whole new game to Salt Lake City with him. The senior guard, who made his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after missing out five times at Towson came out firing for the second game in a row. While it helped keep Kansas in it during the first half, he didn't do much in the second half as his season and KU/college career came to an end.

• Furphy's fast start: It was another quick start for the freshman from Australia, but he faded again after that. Furphy competed on the glass and knocked down a couple of 3-point shots to give KU a lift early. But his overall game in this tournament, which showcased his offensive potential and a few of his shortcomings as well, should answer all questions about whether he should or even will come back to KU for another season in 2024-25. We'll see. And that won't be the only thing we'll be watching over the next several weeks, as Self gets back to work to rebuild his roster for next season.


• Paint defense: Kansas gave up 26 points in the paint in the first half but offset that by scoring 20 points in the paint of their own. So many of those were by guards attacking the rim off the dribble. By game’s end, Gonzaga had reached 40 points in the paint while also out-rebounding the Jayhawk 38-33, including 30-18 on the defensive glass.

• Slow start to the second half: After taking a 44-43 lead into the half, Kansas gave up 13 points in the first four minutes of the second half, while also coming up short on so many of its shots. That 13-5 run by Gonzaga gave the Zags a 7-point lead early in the second half and put Gonzaga in the driver’s seat. The Zags opened the second half shooting 7-of-7 from the floor and built a 14-point lead 6 minutes into the final frame.

• Fatigue a factor: It may sound like an excuse, but the proof was in the pudding. So many of the Jayhawks’ shots early in the second half were short. You can definitely just call that missing shots, but the fact that almost all of them were short makes me think that the quick turn-around and the effort they expended in the tough win against a high-tempo, pressing Samford team on Thursday night may have caught up with them.

• Second-half mindset: As soon as the Jayhawks got down by double digits, it looked like they were trying to make up the deficit with every possession instead of chipping away and trying to grind their way back into it. Quick shots missed and that allowed Gonzaga to feel comfortable and add to their lead possession by possession until it was simply too much for the Jayhawks to even think about overcoming.

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