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Moments That Popped: KU-Cincy, Big 12 tourney style

Shorthanded Kansas rides wave of highs & lows in 20-point Big 12 tourney loss to the Bearcats

6 min read
Kansas guard Jamari McDowell helps teammate KJ Adams up off the floor during the Jayhawks' Big 12 tournament loss to Cicinnati at T-Mobile Center on Wednesday night. [Chance Parker photo]

Kansas City, Missouri — The Kansas men's basketball team lost for the fourth time in its last five games, 72-52 to Cincinnati in the Big 12 tournament at T-Mobile Center on Wednesday night.

This one, however, was somewhat expected. The Jayhawks were shorthanded — down their top two scorers in Kevin McCullar Jr. and Hunter Dickinson, who sat on the bench in street clothes — and playing a lineup of basically six and a half players, with Parker Braun still battling an ankle injury.



There were moments where they fought. But that group, in a microcosm of the bigger picture all season, simply did not have much margin for error and could not overcome the mistakes it made, despite fighting into the second half.

KU trailed by 17 in the first half but got the deficit all the way down to 2 (40-38) before watching the Bearcats stretch the lead back out to close the game.

The loss dropped Bill Self's squad to 22-10.

Next up, the Jayhawks will head back to Lawrence to get some much-needed rest — of the mental and physical variety — and await their fate in the NCAA Tournament field, which will be revealed on Sunday during the Selection Show.

The Jayhawks, losers of four of their last five games, have been trending downward in recent weeks and have been on the 4 seed line in most projections. It remains to be seen if that will be where they land, in light of their recent injuries, or if the shorthanded nature of this roster and hope of returning to full strength for the Big Dance will keep them on that 4 line.

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights and memorable moments from the Jayhawks’ Big 12 tournament loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday night.


• 2nd half start: Even after that ugly first half, it was Kansas that was the team that showed up to start the second. Maybe that was simply a matter of pride kicking in. Either way, the Jayhawks ripped off a 7-0 run, against a Cincinnati team that very much looked like it was still in the locker room, and quickly cut the lead 38-32 with 16:43 to play in the game. Not only did that put the Jayhawks back into it, but it also brought the pro-KU T-Mobile Center crowd into the game and they stayed in it for a good chunk of the second half. The KU run eventually grew to 11-2 to open the half and Kansas cut the Cincy lead, which had been as many as 17 in the first half, all the way down to 2, at 40-38.

• Elmarko Jackson battling: It wasn’t picture perfect nor did it lend much help, but you have to give the freshman guard credit for showing up ready to compete. He shot when he should’ve, attacked the rim when he could (see below for more on that) and battled on defense. Again, it didn’t always lead to the desired outcome or anything good for the 6th-seeded, underdog Jayhawks, but on a night when they were so severely shorthanded, KU needed him to be willing to step up and play with that kind of mindset and he did. The dude even stayed on the floor after falling head first to the ground on a rebound attempt early in the 2nd half.

• Fine first 5: If you’re basing your judgement of the Jayhawks on just the game’s first 5 minutes, you’d have to give them fairly high marks. They looked poised, ready, willing and confident. In short, they looked like they remembered they play at Kansas and were willing to stand up and fight for the name on the jersey and their teammates who were out. They had all week to prepare for that reality and likely gained confidence to be able to do it as the week rolled on. It was good to see them start fast and show a willingness to grind.

• Adams' strong second half: It was like someone reminded him at the break that he's one strong dude. Adams used the second half to show that, attacking the basket and the body of his Cincinnati defenders over and over to the tune of 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 16 second-half minutes. For the game, he finished with a team-high 22 points and was the only Jayhawk in double figures.

• Faces in the crowd: In the final minute of the first half, during a timeout on the floor, the in-house camera flipped to four or five sets of Kansas fans sitting in the crowd. Each one of them wore the perfect facial expressions to describe how the first half went for the Jayhawks. Frustration. Confusion. Despair. Boredom. Disappointment. You name it. The best part about the whole thing was that none of the fans in the stands even realized they were on the video board in time to switch from their true emotions to a fake cheer or smile.


• First half field goal drought: Even though they trailed, Kansas was hanging in there for the first 10 minutes of the first half. But then a serious drought hit and Cincinnati took full advantage. The Jayhawks went without a field goal for nearly 7 minutes during that stretch and made just 1 of 9 field goal attempts as Cincinnati built a lead of as many as 17 points to put the Jayhawks in a real hole. Kansas trailed by 13 at halftime (38-25) after shooting 34% from the floor, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range.

• Harris turnovers: Perhaps he was just trying too hard to make plays, but Harris had several costly and uncharacteristic turnovers during this one that the Jayhawks just could not afford to have from a player they needed to be great.

• Timberlake troubles: It was clear that Nick Timberlake believed he was going to have to bring some added scoring to give Kansas a chance. Unfortunately, he didn’t back up that understanding with quality execution. That was clear on the first offensive possession of the game, when Timberlake turned the corner, drove to the rim but threw it too hard off the glass. Nothing, however, showed it better than his deep corner jumper midway through the first half that hit the top of the backboard and led to another easy bucket on the other end.

• No swag: Kansas coach Bill Self said after the game that the way the Jayhawks have finished the season has been frustrating and disappointing. And while there are several things that go into climbing out of that slump, Self said one of the biggest things was for the team to find its confidence again. "We need to get our swag back," he said. "Geez." They now have a few days off to reset before Selection Sunday and then a few days of practice to find it once they learn their NCAA Tournament fate.


• Elmarko Mayhem: Six minutes into this one, Kansas freshman Elmarko Jackson turned into Superman for a possession. With KU trailing 12-9, Jackson brought the ball up the floor in transition and was never picked up by the Cincinnati defense. Big mistake. Jackson kept his dribble alive deep into the paint and then elevated over two guys and dunked with two hands to bring the Jayhawks within one and the KU supporters to their feet. Oohs and Ahhhs filled the arena and Jackson’s teammates went nuts on the bench.

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