One day after moving up to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, the Kansas Jayhawks moved to 8-1 on the season with an 88-69 home win over Kansas City at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks finished fast and started strong, getting double-digit scoring efforts from four players, including reserve guard Johnny Furphy, who had 10.
Kevin McCullar Jr. led Kansas with 25 points (more on that below) and KJ Adams added 18 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in a second consecutive strong all-around game.
Hunter Dickinson added 14 points and 12 boards and Dajuan Harris Jr. scored 8 points with 7 assists and 2 turnovers.
Here’s a look back at some of the highlights and memorable moments from Tuesday’s potential trap game, which came right after a showdown with No. 4 Connecticut and right before the Jayhawks welcome bitter rival Missouri to Allen Fieldhouse this weekend.
KU-Mizzou is slated for a 4:15 p.m. tipoff on Saturday.
• Kevin McCullar a man on a mission: It took about 2 minutes for you to realize that this was going to be a big night for KU senior Kevin McCullar Jr. Already off to a hot start this season, McCullar was sizzling to open this one. He scored 10 of KU’s first 12 points and was up to 16 points and 5 rebounds by the 9:31 mark of the first half.
• Defense to offense early: Kansas’ defense was turned up in a big way during the first 5 minutes of the game, forcing the Roos into tough shots, turnovers and turning those opportunities into fast-break chances. KU flew up and down the floor throughout the start of this game, scoring easily in transition. The Jayhawks forced 8 Kansas City turnovers, scored 10 points off of those turnovers and snagged 7 fastbreak points, as well. Most of it came in the first 5-7 minutes of the game, as the Jayhawks built their big lead that held up the rest of the game.
• Elmarko’s competitive spirit: Early in the first half, the KU freshman had back-to-back rough stretches on the defensive end. The first came when he fouled and created a three-point play opportunity for the Roos after leaving his feet in the paint. The second came on a step-back by veteran KC guard Khristion Courseault. After each defensive breakdown, though, Jackson found a way to get it right back on the offensive end, hitting a 3-pointer of his own on one possession and scoring on a pull up-jumper on the next. In football, they call plays and players like that erasers. For a young player who has been just kind of out there as much as he’s made himself truly noticed for most of this season so far, it was good to see Jackson get aggressive and immediately look to make up for what went wrong on the defensive end, especially since he didn’t in any way force either offensive possession.
• Answering a run: Much like Eastern Illinois did last Tuesday, the Roos had moments in the second half when they looked like the better team and appeared to be threatening to make it a game. On one such occasion, after a KC 3 cut the Kansas lead to 55-45 midway through the second half, the Jayhawks responded to a timeout by Self with a 7-0 run to reclaim control of the game. Adams, Dickinson and a Johnny Furphy 3-pointer from the right wing accounted for the scoring in that spurt. Later, after Kansas City cut the KU lead to 8 (75-67), the Jayhawks called timeout and responded to that sluggish stretch with a knockout punch that was as good — maybe better — as the start to the game.
• Jayhawks nearly out-rebounded: It’s a theme that’s popped up on a few occasions already this season and it was again a factor on Tuesday night. Outside of McCullar and Hunter Dickinson, no one on the Kansas roster made an effort to assert themselves on the glass on either end. KJ Adams, who finished with 7 rebounds on the night (half of them late), did have a couple of moments where he crashed hard to the offensive glass, but overall it was still just an average night for the rest of the KU lineup on the glass. It didn’t cost them in this one, but Self has talked a couple of times already about needing to get rebounding from somewhere other than Dickinson and McCullar. Adams is the easiest place to expect that to come — and he showed signs of life in that regard late, never better than following up his own miss with an offensive rebound for a potential and-one — but guards like Nick Timberlake, Johnny Furphy and Jamari McDowell can also make their presence felt there.
• Another rough night for Timberlake: The KU guard hit his first 3-pointer of the night — a pure swish from the corner that came in rhythm and looked exactly how they’re supposed to look. But that was it as far as the highlights went for the struggling Towson transfer. Timberlake missed his next four shots (all from 3-point range) and also picked up a couple of tough fouls. It didn’t matter much in the outcome of this one because he wasn’t needed. But it also probably didn’t help the senior feel any better about the funk he’s found himself in during the first 9 games of his Kansas career and final season of college basketball. Self insists that Timberlake will be fine, so we’ll go with that for now.
• Fouling 3-point shooters: In fairness, it only happened once in this game. But it's happened a few times already this season and teams certainly don't want to make a habit of doing that. This time, the foul belonged to veteran forward KJ Adams, who hit Cameron Faas on a deep 3 to give up the 4-point play. That sequence cut the KU lead to 75-61 with 4:37 to play and forced Self to call a timeout after Elmarko Jackson turned it over while stepping over the baseline on the ensuing inbounds play.
• Jamari McDowell – Turnover Saver: With just under 6 minutes to play in the first half, the KU freshman caught the ball on the left wing and drove baseline looking to make a play. Rather than trying to drive to score, he pulled up at about 12 feet and fired a pass to the paint. One problem: No one was there to receive it. Instead, as McDowell’s defender bumped him and knocked him to the ground, the pass caromed off of someone’s shin and looked to be headed out of bounds. Still on his butt, McDowell did a sit-up and grabbed the ball with two hands to save it from going out. No only that, but he then picked up the hockey assist (the pass that led to the pass that led to the bucket) on another Kansas basket.
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