Without McCullar, KU men’s basketball routs OSU 83-54

The Kansas bench explodes after a three from Kansas guard Michael Jankovich (20) toward the end of the second half on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

In the absence of one of its best players — one of the nation’s best too, according to the multiple national award committees who named him a top candidate for their honors Tuesday — Kansas did not miss a beat.

Playing without super-senior star Kevin McCullar Jr., who KU coach Bill Self previously said had been dealing with a bruised knee and who was in street clothes for the game, the Jayhawks had more than enough in the tank on both ends of the floor to take down Oklahoma State 83-54 Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

“It was good not to have to stress as much,” Self said. “We played well. Offensively, the ball moved, we got shots we wanted, and we shared it, and shot distribution was good.”

Freshman Elmarko Jackson returned to the starting lineup in McCullar’s place and scored 10 on a night when each KU starter managed to reach double figures — just the second time the Jayhawks have managed that feat, following their Jan. 16 game, which was also against OSU.

Kansas guard Elmarko Jackson (13) pulls up for a three during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

Hunter Dickinson led the way as the Jayhawks’ primary offensive option with 16 points and 11 rebounds; he was matched in scoring by KJ Adams (who was 7-for-7 from the floor). Johnny Furphy and Dajuan Harris Jr. were close behind.

The Cowboys’ freshman center Brandon Garrison held his own against Dickinson better than he had in Stillwater but faded after a strong start to finish with 11 points. John-Michael Wright led OSU with 16 of his own.

Jackson didn’t start totally smoothly with an early foul on Garrison and a pair of close-range misses, but he hit a 3-pointer to put KU up 8-4, the first time he had hit from deep in a month.

Garrison scored OSU’s first seven points and had an early edge on Dickinson but then had a putback waved off for offensive goaltending that would have cut the Jayhawks’ lead to 14-12. Instead, KU continued to extend its lead, and Harris used an elegant reverse layup to push the margin to 18-10 and force an OSU timeout, while the Cowboys did not score for 4:47.

“Especially when we’re at home, we always want to win and try to make a statement with the home-crowd advantage, and just getting out early helps a lot,” Adams said.

Jackson spent some time playing the point — at least nominally, though Self said no one really replaces Harris’ role — with Harris on the bench, and after an early turnover, he got things back running smoothly. He and Nick Timberlake hit corner 3s to bookend a 10-0 run that put KU up 31-15 with 6:14 to go in the half.

OSU chipped away with 3-pointers by Wright and Javon Small, but Furphy and Adams stepped up on both sides of the ball in a 9-2 stretch that helped the Jayhawks enter the half with a 44-26 lead, shooting 64.3% to the Cowboys’ 27.6%.

Kansas forward K.J. Adams Jr. (24) celebrates a dunk against Oklahoma State during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 at Allen Fieldhouse. Photo by Nick Krug

Dickinson briefly left the game holding his hip in the early stages of the second half, but returned promptly and then began firing away immediately, as he scored twice and KU built its advantage up to 24.

The Cowboys used some sloppy KU fouls to cut the deficit somewhat, including one committed by Timberlake on a 3-point attempt by Wright, and tried to rattle the somewhat younger Jayhawk lineup with the press. They didn’t gain much traction, though, and Harris essentially put the game to rest when he found Adams on an alley-oop from three-quarters of the way down the court with 6:18 to go.

The eighth-ranked Jayhawks, who improved to 17-4 and 5-3 in Big 12 Conference play, will host No. 4 Houston in a battle of top-10 teams on Saturday at 3 p.m.

“If we can just play harder than them, and defend their drives and slow down people like Jamal Shead, I think we’ll have a good chance,” Adams said.

Box score


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