LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP)Kansas coach Bill Self acknowledged his No. 8 Jayhawks have played some high-level hoops the past eight days, beginning with a blowout of then-unbeaten Missouri and finishing with an 84-62 romp over No. 14 Indiana on Saturday.
To clarify: They’re playing at a high level in games.
”We’re not a great practice team,” Self said with a smile.
That just might be the only fault he can find these days. Gradey Dick had 20 points to lead six Kansas players in double figures scoring Saturday. Dajuan Harris Jr. had 10 points and 10 assists while Kevin McCullar Jr. had 11 points and 11 boards. And the Jayhawks (10-1) forced 23 turnovers that often turned into easy baskets at the other end.
”I think we’re getting better,” Self said. ”That’s the best we’ve defended all year.”
Indiana (8-3) played most of the way without second-leading scorer Xavier Johnson, who hurt his right ankle less than 10 minutes into the game. The senior guard, who’d been averaging 10.9 points and 5.2 assists, was hurt scrambling for a loose ball. He returned on crutches wearing a walking boot to watch the second half from the bench.
By that point, Kansas already had jumped to a big early lead that eventually swelled to 22 in the first half. And while the Hoosiers briefly got within 10 in the second half, the Jayhawks simply turned up the pressure and pulled away again.
”It didn’t help that we lost Xavier early on,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson said, ”but at the end of the day, it’s next man up.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis had 13 points and nine blocks for the Hoosiers, who couldn’t overcome 23 turnovers and a 50-24 disparity on points in the paint. Race Thompson and Jalen Hood-Schifino added 11 points apiece.
”We just didn’t compete. That’s all I can say,” Woodson said, ”and that’s just kind of upsetting because I mean, this team – we were matched up from a statistical standpoint going into this game. We were a dead-even team, pretty much. And they came out and took it right to us and we didn’t respond.”
The Hoosiers, who had lost two of their last three, were fortunate to be within 44-29 at halftime.
Much like last week’s win over the Tigers, the Jayhawks made their first four shots, held Indiana to a single field goal over the first 5 minutes and jumped to a 21-8 lead. And it only continued to swell as Dick heated up from beyond the arc, Jalen Wilson continued to get to the basket and KJ Adams provided a physical paint presence.
By the time Dick knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers, and Bobby Pettiford Jr. coasted in for a layup, the defending national champions had pushed their advantage over the Hoosiers to 42-20 – their biggest of the half.
”We had a whole week to come in here and prepare for them and we did just that,” Dick said. ”We came out with energy and that just picks everything up, and our defense transitions into offense.”
Indiana gained a little momentum in the closing minutes of the first half, then stormed out of the locker room and kept trimming its deficit. Jackson-Davis, who had been quiet in the first half, asserted himself in the paint, and it was his basket with 16 minutes to go that got the Hoosiers within 48-38 and forced Self to call timeout.
It was the only run the Hoosiers had in them.
The Jayhawks scored the next six points to start a 10-2 run and regain control. And as Indiana’s turnovers began to mount, the lead again reached 20, allowing Kansas to coast through the final 8 minutes to victory.
”We just wanted to set the tempo early. We knew it was a game of runs,” McCullar said. ”The second half coming out, they kind of made their run, but coach and all the leadership on the team, they just said, `It’s a long game.’ We had 20 minutes. We knew we had to pick it up and we made our run to finish it.”
Indiana could be without Johnson for a while, and his ballhandling was sorely missed against the Jayhawks, who finished with 17 steals. That allowed Kansas to have a 28-13 advantage in points off turnovers.
Kansas went through a malaise late in the first half and early in the second, but the veteran leadership of Harris and Wilson allowed the Jayhawks to overcome it. Harris had only three turnovers alongside his 10 assists.
The Hoosiers play host to Elon on Tuesday night.
The Jayhawks welcome Harvard on Thursday night.
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