Kansas City, Missouri — The 2nd-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team closed out non-conference play with an 86-67 drubbing of Wichita State at T-Mobile Center on Saturday afternoon.
The win — KU’s 8th in a row since losing to Marquette in Hawaii — moved the Jayhawks to 12-1 on the season and came the way so many of them have before this one.
Hunter Dickinson recorded a double-double with 22 points and 13 rebounds and Kevin McCullar Jr. also paced KU’s offensive attack with 20 points, despite 5-of-14 shooting. He made up for those misses by going 10-for-10 at the free throw line.
The Jayhawks never trailed in this game and weren’t really even threatened after the first 10 minutes of action.
KU now will have another week off before opening Big 12 play at home against TCU next Saturday at 1 p.m. on CBS. From there, it’s a sprint and fight to the finish, with the Jayhawks (and every other Big 12 team) playing two games a week through the first week of March to settle the conference race.
Here’s a look back at the more memorable moments and highlights from Saturday's easy win over Wichita State at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City.
• Second-half start: Kansas held a 16-point halftime lead and opened the second half on defense. Wichita State got the shot it probably wanted on the first possession — a corner 3 for one of their shooters — but the shot missed. That, in the blink of an eye, allowed Kansas to put the pedal down and push its lead over 20 before the Shockers could even blink. A tough, athletic layup by Kevin McCullar Jr., another wide-open 3-point make by Elmarko Jackson (see below) and a 3-pointer by Hunter Dickinson made the KU run 8-0 to open the half and pushed the Jayhawks’ lead to 51-27. Game over.
• Dickinson’s own misses: He’s had enough double-doubles this season that he doesn’t need to go stacking the deck to make them easier to get. But on back-to-back possessions in the first half, it looked as if that’s exactly what Dickinson was doing. Give him credit for staying with two of his down-low misses enough to put them back in without so much as giving the Shockers even a glimmer of hope that they’d grab the rebound before he did. Dickinson’s got potential to be a bright and shiny superstar with flashy tendencies. But he’s also all about the results when he’s on the court, and those rebounds and put-backs provided a great example of his willingness to do whatever it takes to get the basket, pretty or not.
• Elmarko the sparko: After jumping out to leads of 8-2 and 14-9, the Jayhawks hit a wall and watched the Shockers out-hustle them to get right back into the game and tie it at 14. Out of a timeout that followed the tie, freshman guard Elmarko Jackson made two big time plays in transition to reignite the KU offense. The first was on a hard-driving, off-balance scoop shot. The other was a two-handed dunk in traffic that put Kansas up 18-14. A few minutes later, Jackson drained a corner 3, capitalizing on the confidence and momentum that came from the quick surge.
• Parker being Parker: Less than 5 seconds after he checked in for the first time, midway through the first half to give Hunter Dickinson a breather, Braun found a way to make an impact. With his world champion brother sitting courtside, Braun blocked a shot at the rim after Kenny Pohto drove hard to the left. The block required minimal effort and great positioning and also sparked a KU fast-break opportunity.
• Big buzz for a change: It’s no secret that this game has typically been a dud year after year no matter who the Jayhawks were playing. But for most of the time leading up to tip-off and the first 10-12 minutes of the game, there was some serious buzz in the building. It seemed like another Kansas school being the opponent made a difference, and the Shocker fans certainly made their presence felt. But the post-holiday, Saturday-afternoon timing also seemed to have something to do with it. Kansas fans were fired up, too, and their team gave them plenty to like. It was by far the best regular season Kansas City atmosphere that I can remember.
• KJ on the glass: A lot is made of it when he doesn't rebound, so let's make sure to give him credit today. Adams led everyone not named Dickinson in rebounding with 11, 8 on the defensive glass and 3 on the offensive end.
• Timberlake with 2 fouls: KU guard Nick Timberlake picked up two personal fouls in his first minute on the court in this one, after being the first Jayhawk to check in off the bench. It was not a great way to follow up his breakout performance last week against Yale, but it also did not inspire KU coach Bill Self to take him out of the game. Instead, Self left Timberlake out there with the two fouls and subbed him out a few minutes later. To Timberlake’s credit, he hit the bench with just the two fouls. But it’s also not a great sign that Self did not appear to be worried about him getting his third. We quickly saw why. Timberlake again struggled with his shot and his defense was, as it has been all year, a major eye sore. The Towson transfer played just 5 minutes in Saturday’s second half, with three of them coming in the final 3 minutes with the game well in hand and KU just trying to run out the clock.
• Furphy’s still not quite there: In fairness, he did just return from six days back home in Australia and that’s no easy trip, but the time has arrived for Furphy to take the next step and he didn’t quite do it on Saturday. He did knock in one of his four 3-point tries in the first half — and he attempted six shots for the game. That’s good. He needs to shoot. But he also has the highest upside of the “rest of the Jayhawks” and if he can find another gear it could really benefit this team in so many ways. Confidence is such a big part of it, but so, too, is comprehension of what to do, how to do it and the college game as a whole.
• McDowell Time: KU freshman Jamari McDowell played just 2 minutes in the second half, as Self continued to give Timberlake chances. It might be time to scrap that idea, though. McDowell has brought so much more to the table already this season in terms of competitiveness, versatility, athleticism, energy and fight. Timberlake has tried hard. Don’t get me wrong and don’t take this for piling on a struggling player. But, midway through the second half, when Timberlake missed two 3-pointers, got cooked on defense and then air-balled a pull-up jumper, Self didn’t hesitate to go to McDowell off the bench. You want to be careful with Timberlake’s confidence because they could still need him. But it sure seems like McDowell has earned those minutes and probably could do more with them. Consider this: The two entered the day shooting darn near exactly the same thing from 3-point range — Timberlake 10-of-33 and McDowell 5-of-16. Timberlake’s numbers have to be much better than that to justify putting him out there over McDowell over and over.
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