The Kansas Jayhawks beat the UConn Huskies, 69-65, in a Big 12-Big EAST Battle Game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., on Friday.
The No. 5 Jayhawks (7-1) handed UConn its first loss of the season. Kevin McCullar Jr. led Kansas with 21 points, including three 3-pointers from the 30 percent 3-point shooter. K.J. Adams Jr. had a brilliant game, scoring 18 points and grabbing five rebounds and making three key free throws late in the game. Hunter Dickinson had 15 points and nine rebounds.
Kansas shot 50 percent and 9-of-14 from the 3-point line.
The No. 4 Huskies (7-1) saw guard Tristen Newton have an incredible game, as he scored 31 points, made six 3-pointer and at times kept the Huskies afloat on his own. Alex Caraban scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds.
The game lived up to the hype as the last two national champions played each other. Luminaries were in the building. For Kansas, it was Overland Park native Jason Sudeikis. For UConn, it was Huskies and WNBA legend Sue Bird.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
The Elmarko And KJ Redemption
This game had epic swings. At one point Kansas was up 12 on the defending national champions. At one point UConn was up five on the 2021 national champions. By the under-4 timeout the Jayhawks had control of the game again, thanks to an 11-0 run that include three straight 3-pointers by Kansas.
After that final timeout and up seven, the Jayhawks had to hang on, at times for dear life. Two plays meant the win. Both had elements of redemption.
Elmarko Jackson made a critical mistake with 50 seconds left as he air-mailed a cross-court pass to K.J. Adams on a fast break. At the time, Kansas was only up three and now UConn had a shot to cut the lead to one or tie it.
UConn’s Hassan Diarra had the ball on the wing and had a lane to the basket. It looked like he might make the layup. But it was Jackson who picked Diarra’s pocket from behind. More importantly, his steal went off Diarra’s leg and gave Kansas possession with 38 seconds after a review.
With 14 seconds left, the Jayhawks were up two and had DaJuan Harris Jr. at the free throw line. He needed both to ice the game. He missed both.
On the other end, Cam Spencer missed a 3-pointer and Adams rebounded it, drawing a foul with two seconds left.
Now he had a chance to ice the game and needed to make both. A few possessions earlier, he missed one of two, and had he made two it would have made Harris’ free throws a bit less relevant. This time, Adams made both and put the game out of reach.
A lot of Kansas players contributed to the victory. Jackson and Adams had a couple of key moments in the final minute to clinch it.
Centers on Parade
Sometimes, you gotta get the 7-footers on the floor and let them roll. This was a great game for it. Kansas had 7-foot-2 Hunter Dickinson. UConn had 7-foot-2 Donovan Clingan.
Objectively, Dickinson won the matchup, and not just because he went 3-for-4 from the 3-point line. Dickinson only had 15 points and nine rebounds, but he shot 6-of-12 from the floor, blocked four shots and played 38 minutes.
Clingan scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked three shots and played 32 minutes. He missed his only 3-point attempt.
Newton siphoned off some of that scoring his near-career game. He made six 3-pointers and Kansas found it nearly impossible to defend him.
But this is a matchup we’d love to see in March. Maybe late in the month? No, wait. How about April? That would be fun.
Bill Self as a Home ’dog
Before Friday’s game this stat started filtering around, and it seemed almost absurd.
Entering the UConn game Kansas had hosted a Top 10 team 26 times with Bill Self as head coach.
Kansas entered the game No. 5, while UConn was No. 4. That meant that the Jayhawks were the “underdog,” at least as far as the AP poll was concerned.
That had happened 12 times entering the game. Kansas was 12-0 in those games.
Well, now make it 13-0.
I mean, really, there’s homecourt advantage and then there’s that.iframe src=”https://app.e2ma.net/app2/audience/signup/1986400/1964875/” width=”510″ height=”500″ frameborder=”0″>
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.