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Moments That Popped: KU's road woes continue at No. 15 Baylor

A key starter returns, but familiar miscues cost Jayhawks

5 min read
Kansas freshman Johnny Furphy looks for somewhere to go with the ball during the Jayhawks' road loss at Baylor on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Waco, Texas. [Kansas Athletics photo]

Before we get into the specifics of Saturday’s 82-74 loss by 7th-ranked Kansas at No. 15 Baylor, let’s make sure we’re clear on one thing.

Baylor’s good. Like top-10 good. And there’s nothing about losing in Waco that Kansas should be ashamed about. However, because of the way the rest of the season has gone — especially on the road — there’s no doubt that the Jayhawks left this one feeling down.

Even though they lost, KU showed on Saturday that they still have enough to compete with teams like Baylor. And you’re not going to face those teams until you get to the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

The key between now and then will be for KU to keep its confidence high and spirits up. That might be easier to say than do.

The Jayhawks got a pair of 20-point efforts from their top two scorers, with Kevin McCullar Jr. returning to the starting lineup to drop 20 and Hunter Dickinson scoring 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting.

Dajuan Harris Jr. added 12 points and 9 assists in 39 minutes.

Next up, the Jayhawks will head back home for the Sunflower Showdown rematch against Kansas State on Tuesday. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. on ESPN.

After that, it’s back to Texas for the regular season finale at Houston on March 9.

Here’s a look back at some of the highlights and memorable moments from the Jayhawks’ latest road loss at Baylor on Saturday afternoon.


• McCullar’s return: I’m not sure you can put words to just how big McCullar playing in this game was. In part because of the way KU coach Bill Self worded things over the past couple of weeks, I sincerely thought that he would miss the rest of the year, but him playing shows a couple of things. One, the knee is OK. Two, he’s willing to show up and fight and compete with his brothers. He still had some rust and a pretty inefficient final line. But there’s time to work through that. And Kansas won’t go anywhere without him. McCullar finished with 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds and 3 turnovers in 32 minutes. His day was perhaps best summed up by a bad break inside the final four minutes. After making a terrific effort play and full-court run to get into position to score, his reverse layup off of a sweet dime from Dajuan Harris Jr. after a steal rolled off. KU could’ve cut it to 5 with the make. But instead was down 8 after a free throw and another Baylor bucket on the Bears’ next possession.

• Low turnover total: Any time you can keep your turnovers down on the road, you give yourself a chance. And the Jayhawks did just that on Saturday, turning it over just 8 times in the loss. That did in fact give Kansas a chance, but Baylor made every play it needed to make to keep Kansas in chase mode and the Bears only turned it over 11 times themselves.

• Elmarko competes: There was a stretch in the second half, with KU trailing by double figures, when Jackson stepped up and showed some fire. He made three huge baskets and fired up the KU bench after each one. Two of them were 3-pointers and the other was a pull-up from the elbow. He played with poise, looked calm and confidence, too what was there and delivered. He production was well-time, both in the course of the game and when you consider how much KU’s other wing guys struggled in this one.

• Hunter flashes moments of solid post D: Early in the second half, with the Jayhawks leading by a basket, Baylor pounded the ball inside to Yves Missi, who immediately started trying to back Dickinson down to the basket. Dickinson held his own through repeated blows of contact and even timed Missi’s shot attempt to get the block. As the two fought for the loose ball after the block, it wound up staying with Baylor after Dickinson knocked it out of bounds. Still, for a guy who has been questioned and even called out for his defensive play, that was a big moment and Kansas definitely needs more of it down the stretch.


• Furphy looked like a freshman: On both ends, really. That’s to be expected from time to time. After all, he still IS a freshman. But he’s played so well and had such a big role on this team that I think some people may have forgotten how young he still is. Give credit to the road environment for some of Furphy’s struggles. He didn’t look nearly as comfortable in this one as he does at home or has in other road games. Baylor’s talent and athletes all over the floor also had something to do with it. In 25 minutes — just 7 in the second half — Furphy was 1-of-5 from the floor, 1-of-3 from 3-point range and finished with 6 points and 3 rebounds.

• 3-point woes: It might’ve only been a +9 advantage for the KU opponent in this one — much better than +30 like they saw in the recent home loss to BYU — but in a game that was decided by 8 points, that’s still a pretty big number. And pretty significant. It’s not likely that the Jayhawks are going to magically find a way to fix this through personnel or game plan. They’re just going to have to find a way to become better at defending the 3-point line. Baylor shot 41.2% from behind the arc (7-of-17) in this one compared to a 4-of-12 mark (33.3%) for the Jayhawks.

• Mental mistakes costly: Whether it was throwing lazy passes that shouldn’t be thrown, taking bad shots that shouldn’t be hoisted or being a step or two slow on the defensive end, both on the close-out and the drive, there were just too many mental mistakes by the Jayhawks to put them in position to take control of the game and make it one that was played at the pace and style the Jayhawks would prefer. KU led for just 7:05, compared to 26:52 for Baylor, and never really made the Bears feel uncomfortable for most of the second half.

What The?

• Jayhawks now 2-6 on the road in Big 12 play: It’s certainly not the recipe you’re used to seeing from a Kansas basketball team, which has made a living in the Big 12 Conference by winning on the road. Not this year. The Jayhawks are now just 2-6 away from Allen Fieldhouse in Big 12 play this season, with arguably the toughest road game of them all — March 9 at Houston — still on the docket. Overall, KU is just 3-6 in true road games this season, with the only wins coming at Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma and in December at Indiana. If there’s a glimmer of good news here, it’s the fact that playing away from Allen Fieldhouse hasn’t been a total disaster for this team. KU is 4-1 in neutral-site games and, from here on out, other than the Houston game and next week’s home finale, that’s what the Jayhawks will be facing throughout the Big 12 tourney and NCAA Tournament.

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