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Moments That Popped: 4th-seeded Kansas survives Samford

Jayhawks to take on Gonzaga in Round 2 on Saturday

6 min read
Kansas forward KJ Adams elevates to finish an uncontested dunk during the Jayhawks' 93-89 NCAA Tournament win over Samford in Round 1 on Thursday night. [Kansas Athletics photo]

The 4th-seeded Kansas men’s basketball team looked as good as it had in weeks while building a 22-point lead on Thursday night and then held on for dear life to advance at the NCAA Tournament with a 93-89 win over Samford.

The Jayhawks got a monster offensive effort from its starting five but also surrendered 16 3-pointers to Samford on the defensive end.

That balance — or was it imbalance — turned this one into a wild finish, with KU (23-10) making one or two more plays late to survive and advance to the second round.

Playing without Kevin McCullar Jr., who was ruled out for the tournament on Tuesday, the Jayhawks got 19 points and 20 rebounds from big man Hunter Dickinson, 20 more points from forward KJ Adams and 19 huge points from senior guard Nick Timberlake, who started in McCullar’s place while playing in his first ever NCAA Tournament game.

Johnny Furphy (16) and Dajuan Harris Jr. (13) also reached double digits for Kansas, which put up its second-highest offensive point total of the season.

KU was on fire early, opening the game by making 14 of their first 16 shot attempts, with 13 assists during that span. Twelve first-half turnovers limited their halftime lead to just 10 and the Jayhawks turned it over just 6 times in the second half. One or two more and it might have been pack-your-bags-and-head-back-to-Lawrence time.

Instead, KU will stick around Salt Lake City for a couple more days.

Next up, the Jayhawks will take on 5th-seeded Gonzaga in the second round at Delta Center at 2:15 p.m. central time on Saturday.

The Zags advanced to Round 2 with an impressive 86-65 win over No. 12 seed McNeese in the early game of the night session at Delta Center on Thursday.

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights and memorable moments from the Jayhawks’ Round 1 win over Samford on Thursday night in Salt Lake City.


• Attack mode: Nothing symbolized this better than Nick Timberlake, who tried a two-handed hammer dunk in traffic midway through the first half. He was fouled — and hit the two free throws — but it was his intent was terrific. And he wasn’t alone. Johnny Furphy attaked from the start. Elmarko Jackson was aggressive from the start. And KJ Adams and Hunter Dickinson also looked to get to the rim whenever and wherever possible. It was a huge part of setting the tone for the game and played a huge role in KU maintaining the upperhand from the start. Late in the game, with KU leading by two, Timberlake caught a long leading pass behind the defense and immediately attacked the rim at a crucial juncture, drawing a foul and giving KU just enough of a cushion to secure the win.

• 3-point shooting early: The Jayhawks’ got off to a great start from behind the arc, with Johnny Furphy hitting his first two 3-point shots and Nick Timberlake burying a wide-open 3 from the corner on the first look he got from the outside. Furphy’s first make rattled around and nearly came out before falling softly through the net to open the scoring. The make might not have been been a dead-eye, pure swish. But it helped loosen up the rim and the Jayhawks, who led the entire first half and made their first three 3-point attempts — 2 from Furphy and one from Timberlake. KU finished the night 6-of-18 from downtown, with Timberlake hitting 3 of 6, including a big one late to help KU maintain a lead that proved to be just big enough. It wasn’t all good from 3-point range. KU gave up 16 triples and was outscored from behind the arc by 30 points yet still managed to find a way to win.

• Size matters: Rare was the game when KU big man Hunter Dickinson had multiple dunks, but he crossed that threshold in the first 10 minutes of this one. The Jayhawks held a significant size advantage over Samford, which was the 68th tallest team in the entire tournament, and they made the Bulldogs pay over and over and over. KJ Adams and Dickinson played above the rim on a regular basis. And those two, along with Johnny Furphy did good work on the glass. KU shot 60% for the game and 22 of the Jayhawks' 35 baskets were either dunks (8) or layups (14).

• Final offensive possession of the first half: The Jayhawks’ final possession of the first half was picturesque Kansas basketball. Crisp, clean and quick ball movement — especially between KJ Adams and Hunter Dickinson — led to an easy basket in the paint for the Jayhawks, who outscored Samford 28-10 in points in the paint during the first 20 minutes. It was a reminder of (a) how well those two first showed they could play together and off of each other all the way back in Puerto Rico and (b) how well this team plays and looks when it’s confident and connected.


• Offensive fouls: Twice, the Jayhawks were called for offensive fouls on inbounds passes after a made basket by Samford, immediately giving the ball back to the Bulldogs, who had a chance to build momentum as a result. One call went against Dajuan Harris Jr. and the other Elmarko Jackson. Harris was nearly whistled on the play for a third time midway through the second half.

• Free throw woes: The Jayhawks made this one a lot harder on themselves than they needed to by struggling at the free throw line. Especially in the second half. KU finished 17-of-27 at the line on the night, including 8-of-16 in the second half. Any worse, and it would’ve got them beat. Free throws haven’t been a problem the whole way this year, but KU has picked some poor times to shoot poorly at the free throw line and Thursday night was almost another one of those.

• Elmarko turnovers: The KU freshman had a couple of really nice mid-range jumpers that helped offset his issues with the ball. But the turnovers — 4 in the first half alone — cost him some minutes and cost his team some possessions. Without them, KU likely would’ve been up by more than 10 at halftime. Jackson did make a heads-up play late to save a loose ball from going out of bounds by throwing it off of a Samford player to secure possession for KU.

• Lack of poise and composure for a key stretch: Granted, it seemed for a while like the entire Delta Center was pulling for Samford, but the Jayhawks’ inability to make shots, free throws or take care of the ball during a critical stretch in the second half, sure gave those folks something to cheer for. A 9-0 Samford run, which seemed to coincide with KU running out of gas and tightening up, allowed Samford to cut what once was a 22-point KU lead all the way down to 1 with just under 5 minutes to play. Several KU players during this stretch looked a little tight, almost like they had developed the yips – on shots, passes and even while dribbling. For the most part, though, KU handled the Samford press well, especially in the first half, where it looked to attack it instead of being passive.


• Furphy back-court violation: Midway through the first half, with KU big man Hunter Dickinson facing intense pressure in the backcourt after blocking a shot and snagging the rebound, Dickinson rifled a pass up the floor to Johnny Furphy, who skied high to catch the ball along the sideline. After landing with one foot while his momentum was carrying him out of bounds, Furphy followed his instincts and saved the ball by throwing it into the backcourt to Dajuan Harris Jr. Harris caught the ball cleanly, but it was a clear turnover. Furphy kept a somewhat blank stare on his face as if to say, ‘What was I supposed to do?’ And Harris couldn’t help himself and spent a couple of seconds laughing about the miscue. KU finished the game with 18 turnovers, none more head-scratching than that one.

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