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Moments That Popped: Kansas-Cincinnati

An improvement on defense, the Australian sensation, rebounding woes and more

6 min read
Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. is fouled in the air while trying to catch a home run pass from a teammate during Monday's 74-69 win over Cincinnati at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

The Kansas men’s basketball team bounced back from a tough road loss over the weekend at West Virginia with a better defensive effort in a 74-69 win over Cincinnati on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Freshman guard Johnny Furphy exploded for 23 points and 11 rebounds, securing his first double-double and doing it in front of his parents, who made the trip all the way from Australia to see their son play in Allen Fieldhouse.

Furphy was 7-of-8 shooting on the night and 3 of his team-high 11 rebounds came on the offensive glass.

Senior Kevin McCullar Jr. added 20 points in the win and KJ Adams (11) and Hunter Dickinson (10) also reached double digits.

The win moved the Jayhawks to 16-3 overall and 4-2 in Big 12 play. Cincinnati, which has played everyone close in its first dip into Big 12 play, fell to 13-6 overall and 2-4 in conference play.

Next up: KU will take a few days to catch its breath after the Saturday-Monday turnaround before traveling to Ames, Iowa to take on Iowa State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights and memorable moments from Monday’s win.


• Defense improves: Kansas held Cincinnati to just 39.3% shooting in this one while forcing 16 turnovers, with 12 of them coming from KU steals. When asked about the team's defense after the win, KU point guard Dajuan Harris Jr. said there was a simple explanation for the improvement on that end — "Well, you saw last game; the other team scored 91 points. So we just wanted to play (better) defense. We had practice yesterday and we set the tone by trying to guard our scout team (harder) and I think it showed today. We just needed to focus on defense."

• Adams to the rack: It’s not always the preferred option but it’s rarely the wrong play. And it was on full display several times during this one. Whether you’re talking late in the shot clock or when a set of some kind breaks down, KJ Adams’ ability to handle the ball and bully his way to the paint and explode to the rim when he gets there. More often than not it ends with Adams finishing at the rim. But even when it doesn’t, it puts pressure on the defense and can lead to a foul or a good shot. Adams has always had this in his game, but his improved ball handling and increased confidence in his role on this team has led him to showcase it more and more this season, including a handful of times on Monday night. One of his biggest baskets of the night put KU up 59-52 in the final 5 minutes of the game on a strong take to the rim in which he absorbed some contact and finished through it. Adams pumped his fist in the paint on his way back on defense, further illustrating what a big bucket it was for the Jayhawks.

• Furphy grabs first rebound: Fresh off of a late-game collapse in the box out department in the Jayhawks’ road loss to West Virginia two days earlier, freshman guard Johnny Furphy somewhat fittingly grabbed the first rebound of the game on Monday night against Cincinnati. The rebound was nothing special and it certainly did not come with the game on the line. But, still, he boxed out, made the right play and executed the way he’s expected to execute. You’re watching a player growing up right in front of your eyes. In fact, Furphy had a pretty great first half again, finishing with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals on 3-of-3 shooting in 18 minutes. Not long after that initial rebound, he crashed the offensive glass to keep the possession alive and then relocated to the corner to catch a pass in rhythm and bury a 3-pointer.

• Full-court laser by Dickinson: It didn’t end up working out, but you gotta love that KU went for it. After a great defensive possession that forced a travel as Cincinnati was trying to hold for the final shot of the half, KU had 1.1 seconds remaining on the clock before halftime and the length of the floor to go. KU coach Bill Self subbed KJ Adams (who was out with 2 fouls) back into the game to be on the receiving end of the pass and Dickinson took it out. It was clear at that point that KU was going to try to get some kind of shot, perhaps even a Christian Laettner vs. Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament type of shot. Dickinson fired the pass on a line toward Adams, who was standing near the other free throw line. It reached his hands but he never caught it clean and time expired. Remember that moment, though, in case KU faces a similar scenario and needs someone to make a pass/play like that later in the season. Dickinson clearly has the cannon to be able to do it.

More from Monday's win over Cincinnati...






• KU struggles to extend the lead: If you’ve watched this team at all this season, this is nothing new. It’s still a head-scratcher every time, though. KU had all the momentum and everything going its way throughout the first half. Yet, there the Bearcats were, trailing by just a point (26-25) with 4:35 to play in the first half. Kansas, which led by double digits on a couple of occasions, certainly had opportunities to blow the game open even more. But fouls, defensive breakdowns and turnovers (like I said, if you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it) prevented them from doing it. By halftime, Cincinnati had the game tied at 35 and a half that saw KU lead for 15:38 (and UC for just 1:34) was right back where it began.

• Rebounding & free throw woes: For the second game in a row, Kansas struggled on the glass for big chunks of this one. In the first half alone, Cincinnati out-rebounded Kansas, 21-12, with 7 of those 21 boards by the visitors coming on the offensive glass. The Jayhawks were out-rebounded 40-29 for the game and they compounded the issue by missing eight free throws in 28 trips to the line. Those two areas made the game much closer that it might otherwise have been. Of course, in fairness, KU coach Bill Self also noted after the game that Cincy is one of the best rebounding teams in the country and the Bearcats also missed five free throws themselves.

• Dickinson foul trouble: It wasn’t just that Dickinson picked up his third and fourth fouls relatively early in the second half. It was also what that did to the overall flow and structure of KU’s offense. Dickinson first checked out at the 16:08 mark after picking up his third foul. By the 12:02 mark, he was back on the floor with 3. But that stint was short-lived, as he was hit with his fourth foul with 10:02 to play and went to the bench for the better part of the next five minutes. During that time — from 16:08 to 5:24 — KU scored just 17 points, shooting a low percentage and struggling to run or execute much of anything that looked like good offense. Most of what they did get came at the free throw line or in transition.


• Attack the Aussie: Cincinnati isn’t the first team to do this, nor will the Bearcats be the last. But boy were they intentional about it. Time and time again throughout this one, the Bearcats tried to get Furphy in switches defensively and then attacked him when they did. Even when they weren’t able to get him on the switch, the Bearcats often instructed the man Furphy was guarding to attack him off the dribble. For as good as he’s been offensively during the infant stages of his KU career, Furphy also has shown some defensive deficiencies and it’s clear that he needs to put in a lot of work there to get better. Like all freshmen. The good news for KU is he’s so active and wants so badly to be great that you can see it’ll come. How long it takes him to get there is the question at this point.

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