KU rallies to win at Oklahoma 67-57

photo by: AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck

Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr., left, goes against Oklahoma guard Javian McCollum, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024, in Norman, Okla.

Norman, Okla. — In his first game back from injury, Kevin McCullar Jr. was having an inefficient shooting day, of the sort that became all too familiar for him during the month of January.

He was 3-for-13 midway through the second half. Then he hit the biggest shot of the day.

“I thought he was definitely out of sorts. Out of rhythm,” KU coach Bill Self said. “But he played within himself, and we don’t win the game unless he plays.”

KJ Adams found McCullar for a corner 3 that gave KU its first lead since the opening minutes and helped the Jayhawks mount a 17-4 run, as they managed to escape the Lloyd Noble Center with a 67-57 victory in a battle of ranked teams.

KU (20-6, 8-5 Big 12 Conference) had trailed by double digits in the first half but picked up speed as the game went on and claimed just its second road win of Big 12 play Saturday evening.

“It’s always good to win, but I feel like everybody around the country was kind of waiting for us to win a game on the road here,” center Hunter Dickinson said.

Dickinson was the game’s leading scorer with 20 points and added 16 rebounds.

“That was probably the best I’ve felt in about two months, with all the injuries I was dealing with,” he said.

Dajuan Harris Jr. and McCullar each reached double figures, and Johnny Furphy had 15 points with nine rebounds and three steals.

“Obviously he hit some shots,” Dickinson said of Furphy. “But I think Kevin coming back helped him a lot because now he’s back into that role where he can kind of play off others and he doesn’t really have to try to facilitate, and I think right now at this stage that’s great for him.”

Jalon Moore led the Sooners with 17 points, but 13 of them came in the second half. Javian McCollum took primarily 3-point attempts from the field and ended up with 15 points.

OU was just 4-for-22 in the second half as it saw its lead slip away.

“All the credit to the coaching staff, they changed some stuff up with the bigs and KJ, and we executed the defensive end,” Harris said.

Added Self: “We changed ball-screen coverage some. We hadn’t practiced it, we just kind of drew it up at halftime, and they actually did a good job.”

OU began the game with a similar offensive strategy to the previous meeting in Allen Fieldhouse, as its athletic guards tried to drive to the hoop whenever one of them got switched onto Furphy. The tactic produced mixed results in the early going and the Sooners trailed at the first media timeout thanks to a 3 by Furphy himself.

They jumped ahead 13-7, however, with some 3-point shooting of their own from Milos Uzan and Moore.

As OU struggled at the free-throw line — to the tune of 3-for-8 early — the Jayhawks were able to draw close when Furphy connected from deep again and Dickinson made a jumper to cut the deficit to 17-16. But Uzan turned a turnover by McCullar into a transition 3-pointer to fend off the run.

By the time five minutes remained in the first half, OU was up to 5-for-9 behind the arc to KU’s 2-for-10 and had leveraged that disparity to obtain a 28-18 lead. McCullar broke the seal when he hit a contested 3, giving the Jayhawks their first points in three minutes and 49 seconds, only for Moore to connect from the corner moments later.

The Jayhawks finally picked up some speed when they scored three straight baskets ahead of the break — led by returning guard Jamari McDowell, who provided a spark off the bench — and went in trailing just 34-29.

Dunks by Adams and Furphy restored some energy to the KU offense and the Jayhawks were able to tie the game briefly at 39-39, 41-41, 43-43 and 46-46 when a 3 by Harris countered an and-1 off a dunk by Sam Godwin.

“We ran a play for Hunt and they kept leaving me because I was missing obviously in the first half,” Harris said. “My coaches and my teammates told me to keep shooting, be ready to shoot every time.”

But they couldn’t quite get over the hump until Dickinson found McCullar for the 3-pointer that gave KU its first lead since 5-4.

Not long afterward, Furphy hit his third of the game to double the Jayhawks’ advantage to 54-48.

KU led by as many as 10 points before the game essentially devolved into a battle of free throws. Dickinson put the exclamation point on the game with a two-handed dunk with two minutes to go.

KU has an open date before hosting Texas at Allen Fieldhouse next Saturday at 5 p.m.

“I think it’ll be good for us just to finally get some rest now, and finally get that kind of monkey off your back, per se,” Dickinson said postgame.

This story has been updated to reflect that Adams provided the assist on McCullar’s key 3-pointer.

Box score


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