Basketball is back. But don’t get too excited, Kansas fans - it’s still football season.
OK, fine, I know why you’re really here, and that’s the orange bouncy thingy. Preseason #1 Kansas took on #17 Kentucky in Chicago for the nightcap of the Champions Classic, and despite trailing for most of the second half, Kansas emerged with an 89-84 victory.
There were 10 lead changes and 8 ties during the course of the game. Kentucky’s biggest lead was 14 with 16:21 to play in the second half, while KU’s biggest lead was 9 less than three minutes after the opening tip.
The Jayhawks shot 53.6% on twos, while hitting 6-18 (33.3%) from behind the arc and 27-36 (75.0%) at the stripe. On the flip side, Kentucky shot just 34.2% on twos, 12-38 (!!!) (31.6%) from behind the arc, and 22-30 (73.3%) from the free throw line.
Yes, that’s right. Kentucky put up 38 3-point attempts - missing on 26 of them - which is one reason why Hunter Dickinson was able to clear 21 rebounds for Kansas. It worked for the Cats in the first half, though, as they hit a decent 9-23 (39.1%) from behind the arc. However, the 3-15 (20.0%) effort from deep in the second half gave Kansas enough empty Kentucky possessions to close the gap and eventually secure the win.
Jay Bilas and Dan Shulman talked a bit about this late in the second half, and I tend to agree, that Kentucky showed its youth and inexperience late in the game. The Cats had five individuals out there trying to go out and make a play, while KU’s overall team effort overcame Kentucky’s early hot shooting.
In regards to offensive rebounding, the Jayhawks rebounded 22.8% of its misses, which I don’t think is great (question mark?), while Kentucky nabbed 28.8% of their misses.
For the game, if my math is correct (because I don’t know where to look this up) Kansas turned it over on 15.7% of its possessions, while Kentucky turned the ball over on just 8.2% of its possessions.
Hunter Dickinson put up the best game for a Jayhawks big man since Nick Collison in 2003, going for 27 points on 8-12 shooting while collecting 21 total rebounds and swiping 3 steals. Dickinson finished 10-11 at the free throw line and 1-2 from behind the arc.
Dajuan Harris had a career high in points with 23 on 7-12 shooting, hitting two HUGE 3-pointers late in the contest to bring a six-point deficit to a more manageable 83-81 score with 2:59 to play. Harris would then hit two free throws on KU’s next possession, making it a tie game. Harris added 7 assists, 2 rebounds, and a blocked shot for good measure.
Kevin McCullar somehow gets third-billing here, which may be appropriate as he hit on a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. McCullar owes me $5 now too, as he was the only leg of my parlay that didn’t hit because he couldn’t hit a single 3-pointer, going 0-3 from deep. McCullar finished 3-11 from the field overall, which isn’t great, but did hit 6-9 free throws (nice).
KJ Adams fouled out with about 4 minutes left to play in the game, but had a huge impact for Kansas in this one, scoring 16 points on 8-11 shooting while collecting 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
Elmarko Jackson added 7 points over his 24 minutes, getting most of those from the free throw line after going just 1-4 from the floor. Jackson added 2 assists and a steal as well.
Nicholas Timberlake played 13 minutes but didn’t make much of an impact in the box score, going 0-4 from the floor while picking up just 2 rebounds.
Johnny Furphy played 11 minutes, going 0-2 from the floor (both on 3-point attempts) while collecting one rebound.
Parker Braun played 8 minutes, scoring two points and picking up two rebounds.
Jamari McDowell played just over 3 minutes, mostly after KJ Adams fouled out, and hit two huge free throws with just 5 seconds left to play to ice the game for Kansas and provide the final margin. Those were his only points, and he had one rebound as well.
Some bonus fun stats courtesy of @kucr8ton:
Over the last 8 years of the Champions Classic, KU is 7-1, Duke 5-3, Kentucky 2-6, Michigan St 2-6.
Overall, KU is now tied with Duke for the best record in the Champions Classic at 8-5.
Bill Self is now 9-5 against Kentucky since coming to Lawrence. That includes a 4-1 mark against UK in the Champions Classic.
McCullar’s triple-double was just the 6th in the history of Kansas basketball (126 years). Jeff Withey was the last Jayhawk to accomplish the feat.