March Madness: Kansas basketball defeats Samford in the NCAA tournament with clutch plays

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In their NCAA tournament clash on Thursday, Kansas basketball defeated Samford 93-89 to move ahead from the Midwest region’s round of 64 to the round of 32.

Following the No. 4-seeded Jayhawks’ (23-10) victory over the No. 13-seeded Bulldogs (29-6): 

Without Kevin McCullar Jr., Kansas wins.

When it became known that graduate senior guard Kevin McCullar Jr. would not be able to participate in the NCAA tournament, Kansas was dealt a difficult hand. Similar to senior center Hunter Dickinson, McCullar is an All-America prospect who is sidelined due to injury. Even without McCullar, though, the Jayhawks defeated Samford.

Nicolas Timberlake, a graduate senior guard, took McCullar’s place in the beginning. Timberlake had one of his better games of the season while dealing with foul trouble. He scored 19 points in the end.

Hunter Dickinson prospers

Dickinson’s 7-foot-2 and 260-pound physique gave him an advantage going into the contest. He took advantage of that early and often. He had already recorded a double-double before the first half had even ended.

Dickinson ended with 20 rebounds and 19 points. Parker Braun, a graduate senior forward, didn’t play much off the bench, but Kansas didn’t really need him on Thursday as some may have assumed. Clearly, Dickinson’s presence had an impact.

Kansas gets beyond its turnover problems

On paper, if a team committed 10 more turnovers than its opponent and scored zero points as a result of turnovers, it might be difficult to predict which team would lead at the half. But Kansas succeeded in doing just that. The Jayhawks maintained their lead because of their steady ability to make baskets when they refused to give up the ball.

The second half saw Kansas handle the ball more skillfully, which helped the Jayhawks withstand Samford’s last 3-point shooting spree. At the end of the game, the Jayhawks had scored seven points from seven Samford turnovers, while the Bulldogs had scored fifteen points from eighteen KU errors. Simply put, Kansas would have had an easier night if it had controlled the ball from the start.