No. 1 Kansas rolled to another early-season win on Friday night, knocking off visiting Manhattan 99-61 at Allen Fieldhouse.
The two tune-ups, which KU (2-0) won by an average of 40.5 points, served as the appetizer for next week’s Champions Classic showdown with Kentucky in Chicago.
That game is set for approximately 8:30 p.m. (central) on Tuesday night at United Center. The last time the Jayhawks were in the United Center, they punched their ticket to the 2022 Final Four.
Five Jayhawks scored in double figures on Friday night, with Hunter Dickinson leading the way with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Kevin McCullar Jr. was active throughout, finishing with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 26 minutes.
Here’s a look at some of the moments and highlights that stood out in KU’s second game of the season.
• KJ Adams’ emotion: I wrote about this last year — A LOT — and I think it might be even more animated already this season. Adams has to lead the country in post-play emotion. Whether it’s a vicious dunk, which he had two of in the first 7 minutes of Friday’s win, or a big defensive play, Adams is not one bit afraid to yell, scream, clap, spin and pump his fist(s) in approval of a job well done. It’s not showboating and it’s really not even a celebration. It’s just a raw reaction to a guy making a play for his team. And the rest of the Jayhawks, and the KU bench, absolutely love it. Half the time, the show of emotion begins even before he lands after a big block or rim-rocking dunk. The funny thing about Adams’ displays of emotion is that, they usually happen so fast that by the time he reaches half-court while running back on defense, he usually looks totally cool, calm and collected again.
• Hunter’s footwork: Second time he touched the ball in the post — after missing the first — Dickinson showed off his athleticism and footwork to get a bucket. After facing up toward the rim, he beat his defender baseline but was quickly pushed too far under the basket. He stopped on a dime, pivoted back toward the area he came from and used his long arms to throw in an off-balanced hook shot to put two points on the board for the Jayhawks. The significance of the basket was not the points toward KU’s total, but the fact that, one game after lighting it up from the outside, Dickinson’s mind was focused on doing early work down low. The scouting report on him is already tough enough for opposing defenses, but if he’s going to be that balanced and patient, he’ll be even harder to guard. Case in point, a few minutes after his back-to-back touches down low to open the game, Dickinson did step out and bury the first 3-point shot he attempted on the night.
• Dajuan Harris Jr. is on the board: It took nearly 60 minutes of game action to open the season before Harris attempted his first shot, but when he finally did, he did it with style. Harris’ first shot of the season found the bottom of the net, when he finished a tough reverse layup with 2:08 remaining in the first half to put the Jayhawks up 41-19 en route to a 44-19 halftime edge. Kevin McCullar Jr. assisted on the play that broke the seal for Harris. The KU point guard then missed his next three shots to finish the game with 1-for-4 from the floor with 5 assists and 0 turnovers.
• Same starting five: Freshman guard Elmarko Jackson was back out there as the fifth starter for Kansas for the second game in a row on Friday night. He joined locked-in starters Dajuan Harris Jr., Kevin McCullar Jr., KJ Adams and Hunter Dickinson as KU went with the same first five for the second regular season game in a row and the third time in the last four games, counting exhibition. Jackson delivered in a couple of ways in this one, finishing with a game-high 10 assists, with one turnover, and scoring 9 points on 3-of-6 shooting. The one 3-pointer he made came in rhythm and without him thinking at all. He just shot and drilled it.
• Furphy’s coming: KU coach Bill Self said the other day that the fifth starter spot is between Elmarko Jackson and Nick Timberlake because Johnny Furphy missed so much time early with shin splints. Furphy’s coming though, and I think he’ll be in the conversation sooner rather than later. That was clear on Friday night, when the Australian freshman looked so smooth, plenty confident and played older and wiser — not to mention better — than his age. Furphy finished with 15 points in 20 minutes on 6-of-10 shooting to go along with three 3-point makes.
• A tough stretch for Timberlake: KU senior Nick Timberlake had a first-half stretch that he’d probably like to forget. In a 6-minute stint after checking in as the first Jayhawk off the bench, Timberlake appeared to be in the wrong spot on one possession — Kevin McCullar Jr. was yelling at him to move to the other side throughout the play — and then overthrew McCullar when trying to hit a home run on the break on the next possession. A couple of minutes later, he was beat off the dribble and compounded the mistake by fouling his man at the rim to give up the chance for a three-point play. Timberlake also missed the only shot he took during that stretch. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Timberlake already it’s that this kind of stuff doesn’t rattle him. He clearly was upset with himself for the mistakes, but they won’t stick with him nor will they keep him from continuing to work. He cares.
• Manhattan’s offensive rebounding: You have to really be nit-picking to go with this one, but the Jayhawks did give up 12 offensive rebounds to Manhattan. Of course, when a team only shoots 34% and misses 45 shots on the night, there certainly are plenty of misses to go after. What’s more, 7 of those Jasper offensive boards came in the first half, which was actually the worse of the two halves by the visitors on Friday night.
• Did you see Manhattan coach John Gallagher’s suit?: If not, take a look. In an era when coaches have gone away from wearing suits and ties on the sideline, Gallagher brought his Sunday best to Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night, a plaid number in the school’s green color with gray stripes and black shoes. It looked sharp and he drew a lot of love — and a little hate — on Twitter during and after Friday’s game for rocking with such style. You know he’s had that suit pegged for this game for a while.
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