The 2nd-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team took a heck of a punch from visiting Yale on Friday night, but wound up winning in convincing fashion, 75-60 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Super-senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. went OFF, finishing with a career-high 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range and 8-of-8 at the free throw line. He added 6 rebounds and 4 assists, along with just 1 turnover, in 37 minutes.
⬇️ Sign up today for just $12 for a full year!!! ⬇️
The win moved the Jayhawks to 11-1 on the season and was the second-to-last tune-up before Big 12 play. KU will play Wichita State at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri on Dec. 30 before opening Big 12 play on Jan. 6 against TCU in Lawrence.
Here’s a look back at the more memorable moments and highlights from Friday’s tough win over Yale.
• Holy 2nd half: At one point, after trailing by double digits in the first half and by one point at halftime, the Kansas Jayhawks built a 17-point second-half lead, which was the result of a 50-24 run after trailing 25-14 midway through the first half. That’s flat-out playin, and nearly everything the Jayhawks did in the second half appeared to be the result of KU waking up and responding to a heck of a fight thrown at them by the Bulldogs. That’s what you want to see from the No. 2 team in the nation, and it was made even more impressive by the fact that a couple of Jayhawks said earlier in the week that the recent upsets at the top of the polls caught their attention. Yale gave it a run, but Kansas was just too much.
• KJ Adams on D: So much is made about KJ Adams’ versatility, but boy did it show up on the defensive end in this one. After Yale big man Danny Wolf got off to a pretty good start against Hunter Dickinson, KU coach Bill Self switched the more athletic Adams onto him and the move immediately paid off. Wolf struggled with Adams defending him all the way out past the 3-point line and also struggled with Adams’ strength and physicality closer to the basket. It was clear that Adams was up for the challenge of switching onto him, as he was seen clapping while sitting in his defensive stances and pumping his fist after forcing a miss or turnover by Wolf. Adams’ versatility is reaching other-world status. We already saw him do this kind of thing last year, as KU’s primary 5 man, but he also can switch onto guards, play inside and out on the offensive end and even bring the ball up the floor, both as a rebounder and as a primary initiator.
• Fight to get back in it: It would’ve been really easy for Kansas to start pointing fingers and throwing their arms up midway through the first half, when Yale was kicking their butts and getting whatever they wanted. But the Jayhawks didn’t. Being at home had to be part of the reason for that. But their veteran experience had to be part of it, as well. Even after that cut into an 11-point deficit but saw Yale knock in a couple of 3-pointers to keep the lead around 8 points, the Jayhawks didn’t blink. Inbound the ball, go get a bucket, trust that your consistency and talent will win out as long as you don't freak out. That's veteran leadership, coaching and culture coming through.
• Nick Timberlake cameo: He’s struggled big time through the first 11 games of the season, and his confidence is probably as low as it’s been in a while because of that. But Timberlake was one of the few offensive bright spots for Kansas in Friday’s first half. He went to the locker room at the break as KU’s second-leading scorer with 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range. Timberlake finished the night with 13 points (2nd best in a KU uniform) and, most importantly, knocked down 3-of-7 shots from 3-point range and 5-of-10 overall. We’ll see what this does for his confidence, but the outing was much needed and long overdue, both for him and the team.
• Sluggish start: It was to be expected and is darn near forgivable, but, still, the Jayhawks appeared to be sleep-walking through the first 10-15 minutes of the game. That allowed Yale to build a 25-14 first-half lead, partly on some hot shooting, partly on some smart play and partly because the Jayhawks struggled mightily to get anything going on offense and to get stops on defense. Bill Self’s Kansas teams entered this one at 15-5 all-time in the final game before winter break, so it’s not as if he didn’t know this could be coming. But Self said Thursday that his emphasis with this team would be to remind them that Christmas is the 25th or 24th and not the 22nd. It took them a little while to remember that, but they figured it out.
• KJ’s right calf issue: The depth on this team is a major question, so any time something happens to one of the core four — Adams, Dajuan Harris Jr., Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. — you can’t help but hold your breath a little. After a defensive stop that had him tangled up with a Yale player, Adams, came up limping and grabbing his right calf. He went to the bench but was able to come back in not long after that. More important than his return to the floor was his return to being him. Adams was a huge part of the Jayhawks putting Yale away, with his energy and athleticism giving KU a dimension that the Bulldogs just didn’t have.
• Oh no, Elmarko: There was a sequence, early in the second half, when Elmarko Jackson momentarily lost his mind. After catching a clean pass on the right wing, Jackson elevated for a 3-point shot in a tight game. Up to that point, everything looked fine. But somewhere between his jump and his release, something went wrong and his 3-pointer slammed off the top of the backboard. Misses happen. Even bad ones. But the bigger issue with the sequence was what happened next. Sensing a desire to go make a play, Jackson got his own rebound and attacked the rim. He was, however, a little sped up and even the second play became a problem, as he went 1-on-3 in the paint and lost the ball out of bounds. Later in the game, Jackson had another moment where he attacked the basket in transition but got caught jumping to pass and when nothing materialized he fired the ball out of bounds for another turnover. These are basic freshman mistakes and the type you see a lot. But KU needs more than that from its fifth starter with so much uncertainty and inconsistency in the rotation behind him.
— For tickets to all KU athletic events, visit kutickets.com