The 3rd-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team bounced back from its Tuesday night loss in Orlando with a double-digit home win over No. 9 Oklahoma on a brutally cold afternoon on Saturday.
KU improved to 14-2 overall and 2-1 in Big 12 play with the 78-66 victory. OU (13-3, 1-2) played the Jayhawks tough and trailed by just a point at the half. But KU had too much in the second half and the Sooners soon grew tired.
More from Saturday's win...
KU big man Hunter Dickinson led Kansas with 24 points and 14 rebounds and also tied a career-high with 5 blocks. Senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. added 21 points in 38 minutes and KJ Adams had a monster first half to help keep KU in position to take control of the game.
The Jayhawks led for 34:29 of Saturday’s game and were highly efficient throughout, scoring 1.24 points per possession on 44% shooting while the Sooners shot just 40% from the floor overall.
Here’s a look back at some of Saturday’s big moments, which included KU fans chanting “S-E-C! S-E-C!” to the Sooners late in the game.
Saturday’s loss marked the final time these two longtime rivals will play a game against each other as league foes inside Allen Fieldhouse.
• McCullar forces the action: If you don’t like fouls, you might not have loved it, but it was a genius strategy by Kanass and Kevin McCullar. Time and time again in the second half, the veteran KU guard just kept driving it and the officials kept blowing their whistles. That’s a big part of McCullar’s game anyway, but it was huge that he was able to execute it in this one, even if not all of them should’ve led to whistles. McCullar didn’t just drive his way into whistles. He also posted up on a few occasions and went to work in the paint, backing his man down until he got close enough to go up and draw the foul. McCullar finished the day 21 points in 38 minutes, with 10 of those coming off of 11 trips to the free throw line.
• KJ’s strength: After getting a gift of a save under the basket from John Hugley, the Jayhawks quickly got the ball to KJ Adams, who appeared to have a wide-open path to the basket from 4 feet away. Hugley decided to close that window and contest the dunk. Adams made him pay. Not with a poster dunk that humiliated the man. But maybe worse. He powered the ball into the basket through contact and stuck Hugley with his second foul. Adams was sensational in the first half, finishing with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal in all 20 minutes. That, by the way, was against OU’s game plan of making/letting Adams beat them when KU was on offense.
• Jekyll and Harris: Take the good with the bad with Dajuan Harris Jr., who continued to sruggle with his shot (missing a layup and runner in tight off the glass in the first half) but also didn’t turn it over. In playing all 40 minutes — don’t overlook the importance of that nor the toll it takes on a player — Harris finished with 7 points, 8 assists and 3 steals while shooting just 3-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-2 from 3-point range. The turnovers, or lack thereof, were by far the best part of Harris’ day and it was one of those classic Dajuan Harris days/games/lines. Don’t worry about his scoring or his shot. He’ll find it. And even if he doesn’t, as long as he keeps giving those other numbers, he’ll contribute to KU winning a bunch of games.
• Closer mentality to end 1st half: It wasn’t anything massive or any huge run, but it was important. After trailing OU 35-34 late in the first half, the Jayhawks got two quick buckets to reclaim control of the game. It was the best they had looked since the opening minutes. They were strong, decisive and efficient in everything they did. And that was the difference between going into the locker room up by a point and going into halftime down by as many as four or five. Huge difference.
• On-ball defense: The KU guards struggled to guard OU’s guards for big chunks of this game. Part of that was the talent of OU’s guards. Nearly all of them have good handles, lots of wiggle and confidence that exceeds both of those things. So, guarding them — and stopping them — is no easy task. Still, to escort a guy into the paint, often fouling him when he gets there or along the way is not the ideal type of defense that Kansas coach Bill Self is looking for from this group. Especially when there’s no true shot blocker or rim protector waiting in the lane.
• El bencho no bueno: The Jayhawks got just 4 points off the bench in this one, with Elmarko Jackson hitting a pull-up jumper in the second half and Parker Braun finishing a lob from Harris in the first half. In fairness, the bench played just 29 minutes in this one, with Jackson logging the majority of those, with 18 after playing 6:33 in the first half off the bench. It marked his first game not starting so far this season and he made a couple of plays in his new role but still didn’t show a ton of aggressiveness or energy while he was out there.
• KU’s turnovers: The Jayhawks spent a good chunk of the week emphasizing taking care of the basketball after coughing it up 18 times in the road loss to UCF early in the week. But to turn it over just twice was incredible. Especially against a good OU team that had good athletes at multiple positions. What’s even more amazing than how low that final number was was the fact that it was THIS CLOSE to being a turnover-free afternoon. Kevin McCullar air-mailed an outlet pass to KJ Adams for one of the giveaways. He easily could’ve just kept bringing the ball up the floor instead of trying to hit the home run. And the other one came when Hunter Dickinson’s bounce pass to a teammate in the corner rolled slowly out of bounds after his teammate went one way and Dickinson threw the pass the other. Terrific bounce-back effort by the Jayhawks in this area. KU is a much, much different — and better — team when they take care of the basketball. Said OU coach Porter Moser: “Two turnovers; that’s really good efficiency,” as he lamented not putting the Jayhawks under any stress.
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