Bloomington, Indiana — Despite trailing by as many as 13 points in the second half, the 2nd-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team left Assembly Hall with a hard-fought, 75-71 win over Indiana.
The win moved Kansas to 10-1 on the season and 1-0 in true road games. The Jayhawks are also now 4-1 in games played from Allen Fieldhouse so far this season.
Kansas won despite shooting 42.6% for the game and giving up 28 points to Indiana guard Trey Galloway, who made 12 of 17 shots in this one, many of them layups at the rim and two of them coming from 3-point range.
After securing the comeback win, the Jayhawks were overjoyed as they returned to their locker room, screaming “Now, that’s a road win!” and things like it over and over as they left the floor and headed back to the locker room to celebrate.
Four Jayhawks were in double figures in this one, with Kevin McCullar Jr. leading the way with 21 points. Hunter Dickinson added 17 points and 14 rebounds, while drawing all kinds of affectionate hate from the Indiana crowd.
Next up, KU will return home for a matchup with Yale on Dec. 22. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. After that, the Jayhawks will have eight days between games before returning to the court to take on Wichita State on Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Here’s a look back at some of the more memorable moments, good and bad, from Saturday’s tough win over the Hoosiers.
• KJ Adams’ emotion: While the Jayhawks struggled as a team to find anything that worked for much of the first half, it was Adams and his emotional charge that helped keep Kansas in it. Not only was he one of the few Jayhawks who found success — he finished 6-of-12 from the floor for 14 points in 36 minutes — but he also showed his entire team, from the other four on the floor to the players and coaches on the bench, that he still believed the Jayhawks could get this thing done. That kind of fire is so critical for this Kansas team, and it’s even bigger in games like this, when you’re trying to fight a quality opponent and an entire arena on a day when it looks like you just don’t have it. Adams’ yelling, screaming, flexing ways reminded KU that it did, in fact, have it, and the 2nd-ranked Jayhawks eventually found a way to lock in, play with poise and rhythm and steal the victory despite leading for just 4:15 all afternoon.
• No quit: While Adams was the catalyst from an energy standpoint, you have to give the rest of this group credit for keeping their cool in the face of some tough odds. Despite the Hoosiers holding a win probability rate of 80.7% with 9:36 to play, per ESPN.com’s tracking, the Jayhawks held their ground, never quit and just kept coming. It finally turned when KU managed to put together a few stops and a few scores of their own. The Jayhawks’ first lead of the game (62-61) came on a bucket in the paint by Dickinson with 4:53 to play. That sparked a 15-10 run by the Jayhawks to close the game, with Kansas veterans Dickinson, McCullar and Dajuan Harris Jr. doing most of the damage.
• Navigating foul trouble: Both KJ Adams and Kevin McCullar Jr. did a nice job of playing the final five or so minutes of the first half with two fouls and without getting their third. Self sat them for a while (see “What the?” below) but once the Hoosiers got up by a dozen and seemed to be steamrolling toward building an even bigger lead, the KU coach had to go back to his top guys, and Adams and McCullar responded by remaining saddled with just two fouls as KU trailed 40-32 at halftime. McCullar did pick up his third foul 21 seconds into the second half, so that was less than ideal for the Jayhawks. But, still…
• BOOOOO!: Hunter Dickinson’s second run-in with a former Big Ten foe was met with more boos on Saturday. After being booed nearly every time he touched it in Chicago by the Michigan State fans who stuck around to watch Kansas play Kentucky, the IU fans let Hunter hear it early in this one, booing him in a vocal manner during the starting lineup introductions. As the boos rained down from all corners of the arena, Dickinson put up both hands as if to welcome more. There were more throughout the game, but only at opportune times and not every time he touched the ball. The last time the Hoosier fans saw him, Dickinson scored 24 points and grabbed 14 boards along with 5 blocks in a 75-72 IU win over Michigan last March. After the game, Dickinson talked about what being booed in Hoosier country meant to him and did for his game.
• No poise on offense early: Missing shots is one thing, but KU struggled to get good looks early and missed the ones they did get. Short. Long. Over the rim. Everything. It wasn’t until KJ Adams finally scored in tight on a couple of possessions that KU’s offense looked like it had any flow or purpose. Prior to that it was one shot and out or a turnover here and a turnover there, with Indiana not having to work too hard on defense and easily cleaning up the defensive glass. Self said after the win that a lot of the shots they got in the first half were good ones that just didn’t fall. But whether they got good looks and missed them or just played poorly and without much poise, the slow start clearly contributed to how tough this win was to get.
• More Timberlake troubles: The struggling senior transfer misfired on his first 3-point attempt of the day midway through the first half and finished 0-of-2 for the game in just 6 minutes, with zero minutes in the second half. It looks to me like he’s shooting to shoot shots and not necessarily shooting to make them. He obviously wants them to go in and is trying to make every one of them, but he looks a little rushed and also like he’s more concerned with making sure the shots go up when they should than anything else. That’s obviously a confidence and comfort issue, but it’s a problem and not easy to fix unless he has a game where he makes 4 of 5 from downtown and sort of breaks the curse.
• McCullar off on both ends: Even Kansas coach Bill Self acknowledged after the game that McCullar did not have his best day in this one. But, with the game on the line, he hit a huge 3 and a few free throws to steal the victory for the Jayhawks. That’s the type of things that veterans who have been in this position can do, but there’s little doubting that both McCullar and his teammates would much rather have had his production start to show itself a little earlier. Despite shooting just 3-of-11 from the floor for the game, he finished with a team-high 21 points, thanks in large part to 13-of-16 shooting at the free throw line. McCullar also made a couple of clutch defensive plays late, mostly on the glass to secure the victory.
• Get a load of this lineup: Want to know how much of a struggle this one was at times? Just look at this lineup the Jayhawks had out there midway through the first half. Joining starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and Elmarko Jackson on the floor were freshman Johnny Furphy and transfers Nick Timberlake and Parker Braun. Far from KU’s most explosive group, and also lacking in the way of a true take-over kind of guy, this unit scored on its first offensive trip together, with Timberlake finding Braun for an easy layup after the big man perfectly sealed off his man from the basket. They weren’t out there long. And you might never see that fivesome together again. But their limited time together illustrates perfectly what a grind this one was for the visitors. More than that, in a game decided by four points, that bucket turned out to be pretty big.
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