KU cruises past Texas for dominant home win, 86-67

photo by: Mike Gunnoe/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas guard KJ Adams Jr. throws down a two-handed dunk against Texas Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Allen Fieldhouse.

Saturday night at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas played the sort of game in which Parker Braun could mishandle a layup attempt off an errant lob pass, only for KJ Adams to corral Braun’s miss and make a contested close-range shot.

It was the sort of game in which a 3-point attempt by Texas’ Tyrese Hunter could get stuck in between the rim and the backboard, only for the Longhorns to miss an open look at a hook shot off the possession arrow with less than a second left in the half.

And it was the sort of the game in which even KU’s embattled transfer guard Nick Timberlake could finish an alley-oop from Dajuan Harris Jr. with a dunk over Longhorns star Dylan Disu — and complete the ensuing three-point play, no less.

It was a charmed night for the Jayhawks, even playing without injured star Kevin McCullar Jr. (bone bruise), as they built a 20-point lead by halftime and cruised to a 19-point win over Texas, 86-67.

“It’s always refreshing having games like that where we come off really good and then stay even-keeled the whole game and it’s definitely a relief,” Adams said, “but we just got to do that — I wish every game — but hopefully we can have some more games like that.”

All five KU starters scored in double digits, but more importantly the Jayhawks held Texas standouts Max Abmas and Disu to five and eight points, respectively. Hunter and Dillon Mitchell had 12 apiece for the Longhorns, who shot a lackluster 41.9% from the field; they left Allen Fieldhouse for the last time as Big 12 Conference members with a loss.

“Of course it’s always going to be a fun time beating your hometown team,” said Adams, an Austin native. “Hopefully we get to play them again, but if we don’t it’s going to be OK because we got a win.”

KU was led by 20 points and seven rebounds from Hunter Dickinson, as well as 16 points and eight boards each from Adams and Johnny Furphy.

“Without Kevin obviously our margin of error is even less,” KU coach Bill Self said, “but when the ball moves like that and you guard like that to start a game, you’re going to be in a pretty favorable position most times, especially at home, and that’s what happened tonight.”

Reproducing that effort will be especially key for the Jayhawks going forward because McCullar’s status will be in doubt for the remainder of the season. Self ruled him out for Tuesday’s game against BYU, noting that he hasn’t practiced since returning from the Oklahoma game last weekend, and that the bone bruise is “week to week” rather than “day to day.”

“My concern is, will he play again this year,” Self said.

In the meantime, the remaining eight scholarship players put in one of their all-around best performances of the year, particularly early.

“We have a lot of pieces that we tried to fit in today,” Adams said. “It worked pretty well, everybody got pretty good shots, so I think we flowed well together today.”

KU jumped ahead early Saturday evening as the Longhorns started 1-for-8, until a 3-pointer by Hunter allowed Texas to cut its deficit in half to 8-5. That kicked off an 8-0 run, and by the first media timeout — which for the second time this season arrived inordinately late at more than eight minutes into the game — the Jayhawks led just 14-13.

Despite some initial struggles from a bench-heavy lineup with Braun, Elmarko Jackson and Jamari McDowell, KU’s offense kicked into gear — and got the Allen Fieldhouse crowd about as pumped as it’s been all season — when Furphy finished a two-handed dunk, Timberlake hit a 3-pointer and then Timberlake rammed home his own dunk and made the ensuing free throw.

That all amounted to a 12-0 run by the Jayhawks to force a timeout from Texas.

Adams started to assert his presence on offense for the reserve-laden unit and made three hard-fought baskets in just under two minutes, interrupted only by a fast-break dunk from Dillon Mitchell, as KU went up 38-21 with three minutes to go in the first half.

On the strength of a behind-the-back assist by Jackson to Dickinson for an easy layup and a late scoring drought from Texas, the Jayhawks took a 20-point lead into the break.

KU did not replicate its intensity quite as well after the break and committed six early turnovers by the first media timeout — after just four in the entire first half — but the Longhorns were only able to shave four points off the deficit.

Ithiel Horton hit a 3 out of the stoppage, but from then on the momentum swung back in KU’s favor, and after a 3-pointer by McDowell and a transition dunk thrown down by Adams the Jayhawks led by 22 again.

With 1:42 to go, Abmas fouled Timberlake hard in transition, which led to some pushing and shoving under the Jayhawks’ basket. Timberlake made a pair of free throws, though KU turned it over on its extra possession and Hunter made a 3-pointer on the other end.

The Jayhawks will remain in Lawrence to host BYU Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Box score


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