The Kansas men’s basketball team fell to UCF, 65-60 on Wednesday night in Orlando.
The loss dropped the 3rd-ranked Jayhawks to 13-2 on the season and 1-1 in Big 12 play.
Before the game, KU coach Bill Self said that, given the strength of the conference and how tough every game can be, outings like Wednesday’s were extremely important to the Jayhawks.
But KU turned it over 18 times and got to the free throw line just 11 imes, which offset their 51% shooting and a 32-28 rebounding advantage.
KU led by 16 at one point in the first half but by just half that at the break before the Jayhawks' advantage disappeared completely.
Next up, KU will return to Lawrence for a 1 p.m. clash with Oklahoma on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. The Sooners (13-2) fell to 1-1 in Big 12 play with a road loss at TCU on Wednesday night.
Here’s a look back at some of Wednesday’s big moments, good and bad.
• Furphy in early: If you’ve been paying attention with your eyes or your ears, you know that there’s plenty of belief within the program and around it that freshman guard Johnny Furphy is on the cusp of a big surge toward more minutes, more production and a bigger role. Wednesday night might’ve been the next step toward that reality. Furphy played 17 minutes and finished with 9 points, including a 3-pointer and a nasty dunk in traffic that gave KU its first lead.
• KJ on the floor: If there was one good moment during the Jayhawks’ rough opening few minutes it was the play of Adams. Not only did he finish strong for KU’s first bucket of the night and fly high for rebounds to help wake up his teammates but he also was seen diving on the floor for a loose ball to try to save a possession after a Kansas turnover. He didn’t get the ball, but the effort was noticed. And, from there, the Jayhawks responded to a 7-0 hole to start the game with a 12-0 run to reclaim control. The run eventually ballooned to 17-3 and KU took a 17-10 lead midway through the first half. It might not all been because of that hustle play and KJ Adams floor burn, but it also might’ve.
• Timberlake fire: Ever wonder why KU guard Nick Timberlake keeps getting chances despite shooting 28% from 3-point range and 34% overall entering Wednesday’s game? It’s because he has not let those numbers define who he is as a player. Self has said over and over that Timberlake has had a great attitude and been a great teammate through the season. And on Wednesday night, he showed the kind of fire that any coach would love to see. After a turnover by Kevin McCUllar Jr. midway through the first half led to an open path break to the basket for UCF’s C.J. Walker. That is until Timberlake sprinted the length of the court and disrupted the play with a tough foul as he tried to take the ball from Walker. The foul was called but the two remained tangled up all the way under the basket, where Timberlake refused to give it up and held his ground throughout. That kind of fight and toughness gets noticed, and maybe it’s a play like that — and not just seeing his shot fall — that Timberlake needed to climb out of his slow start. He still played just 10 minutes and finished with 5 points on 2-of-3 shooting with 1 turnover.
• The start (to both halves): Any time you’re facing a team that sold out its basketball arena for just the second time in school history, you have to think the start is going to be full of emotion. And this one certainly was. UCF roared out to that 7-0 lead behind pure passion, energy and intensity — both from the players on the floor and the fans in the stands. Kansas didn’t even score until the 16:41 mark of the first half and that came only after a great individual play by Adams to get the Jayhawks on the board. The slow and sluggish start didn’t last long and it certainly didn’t hurt anything in the long run. Beyond that, there was also a reason for it. Still, if you’re Kansas, you’d like to see your players rise above that and come out with more poise and less chaos. After leading by as many as 16 points after righting the ship in the first half, the Jayhawks saw their lead completely disappear thanks to another sluggish start to the second half. That allowed UCF to take control of the game and dictate the way the rest of the action was played.
• Jayhawks out-athleted: It’s not often you see Kansas — Kansas! — get out-athleted by a team. But it’s now happened in back to back games, and the Jayhawks were lucky to survive one of them. That was not how it went on Wednesday, though, and UCF’s length, athleticism and speed — up and down the court and on defense — bothered the Jayhawks in various ways throughout the night, much like TCU’s did at Allen Fieldhouse a few days earlier.
• Limited touches for Hunter: Before Wednesday’s game, Kansas coach Bill Self said KU big man Hunter Dickinson was the type of player who could make 10 shots if you can get him 15. I thought it was strange that Self said “if” because, for the most part, Dickinson’s opportunities have seemed fairly easy to come by. They weren’t in this one. He had just two shots through the game’s first 14 minutes and just four through the game’s first 30 minutes. If you’ve paid attention to Dickinson at all, you know that he’s not one to force up shots and can be just as dangerous as a passer out of traps and double-teams as he is a scorer. (Never was that more obvious than his zip pass to the corner from the opposite block that led to a vicious KJ Adams dunk down the lane on the pass that followed). But no matter how teams plan and scheme to take Dickinson out of the action, the big fella who entered the day averaging 19.4 points per game and as the only player in the Big 12 averaging a double-double has to get more looks than that. He finished the night just 5-for-9 with 12 points and 4 rebounds and the UCF zone — which KU likely will see plenty of the rest of the way — had a lot to do with that.
• Wild week for college basketball — already: It’s not often you see the top three teams in the AP poll go down in a span of 48 hours, but that’s exactly what happened after KU’s loss on Wednesday night. No. 3 Kansas followed losses by No. 1 Purdue (at Nebraska) and No. 2 Houston (at Iowa State) by losing at UCF. All three were road favorites and all three had gotten their season off to tremendous starts. The loss in Ames was the first of the season for Big 12 newcomer Houston, which had been college basketball’s last remaining unbeaten team. KU’s loss to UCF came in the school’s first ever meeting with the Knights, just a few days after Kansas State clobbered UCF in Manhattan, 77-52 last Saturday.
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