Sensational second half: Defensive intensity sends Jayhawks past Davidson, 89-71

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) gets inside for a bucket against Davidson during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

— It’s debatable whether Davidson simply ran out of gas or the Kansas defense stiffened.

What is not debatable is that the Jayhawks, who trailed at halftime for just the second time this season, out-played, out-toughed and outscored the Wildcats convincingly in the second half en route to a hard-fought, 89-71 victory Saturday night at Sprint Center.

“I’ve been telling them all along I’d like to see how we play, if we’re tough enough to guard, when we don’t make shots,” KU coach Bill Self said after the game. “And in the first half we really didn’t, but in the second half I thought we did.”

Trailing 43-42 at the break and by as many as five early in the second half, the Jayhawks dug in defensively and started harassing everything Davidson did.

Whether it was jumping passing lanes, hitting the glass on both ends or challenging shots that, in the first half, were much easier to step into, the Jayhawks (10-1) made the Wildcats (5-4) uncomfortable in every way possible during a second half that saw Kansas use a 23-5 spurt to gain separation and end the game on a 31-13 run.

“I think the second half was one of the best halves we’ve played so far,” said junior guard Devonte’ Graham, who scored 10 points and swiped three steals in 32 minutes. “Just staying aggressive and having that we’ve-gotta-get-stops mentality, because in the first half they were getting whatever they wanted.”

Podcast

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Frank Mason, Josh Jackson and Svi Mykhailiuk discuss 89-71 win over Davidson

Kansas guards Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson and Svi Mykhailiuk met with the media following their 89-71 win against Davidson ...

Listen to episode

After scoring the first basket of the game on a tip-in of his own miss, Kansas freshman Josh Jackson continued to impact the game more than anyone on the floor with hustle plays, offensive rebounds and stifling defense.

In the game’s first 10 minutes alone, Jackson had three offensive rebounds, all of which led directly to points for the Jayhawks. However, when Jackson picked up his second foul midway through the first half, the tone of the game changed and Davidson started to look much more comfortable.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop said Jackson heading to the bench did not inspire the Wildcats to change anything they did, but it was evident, on both ends of the floor, that Jackson’s absence helped the Wildcats find their flow.

“I don’t think it helped us at all,” said Self, who noted that Jackson was close to having a “bust-out” game. “We didn’t finish the half near as strong.”

Podcast

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self talks 89-71 victory over Davidson, strong play from Lucas and Bragg

After an 89-71 victory over Davidson in Kansas City, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self met with the media to discuss ...

Listen to episode

Davidson finished the half 7-of-16 shooting from 3-point range — compared to 0-of-8 for the Jayhawks — and joined Duke as the only other team to lead this group of Jayhawks after 20 minutes of play.

Despite trailing, the Jayhawks said the halftime talk was more about execution and less about panic, and their play in the final 20 minutes proved they were listening.

“There’s not many things less significant than the score at halftime,” Self said. “Although you’d rather be up than down, there’s no question about that.”

It took the Jayhawks nearly 23 minutes to find the bottom of the net on their first 3-point make but just 38 seconds to find their second.

After a pair of Davidson 3-pointers to open the second half pushed the Wildcats’ lead to five, Jackson (18 points, eight rebounds in 27 minutes) splashed the Jayhawks’ first three of the night with 17:09 to play to pull Kansas within two at 49-47.

Jackson’s triple came on the back end of a bad-play-gone-oh-so-good as Landen Lucas’ offensive rebound of a missed free throw by Graham led directly to the Jackson’s three from the corner. Seconds later, after another second-chance scrum by the Jayhawks, Frank Mason III drained one from the opposite corner to put Kansas back in front 50-49.

“Second half, we had a couple of great offensive rebounding possessions,” Self said. “We did a really good job of creating some energy off of the offensive glass.”

Related document

Box score: Kansas 89, Davidson 71 ( .PDF )

After a nip-and-tuck few minutes left things tied at 58, the Jayhawks ripped off a 23-5 run over the next seven minutes to bury the Wildcats and send the Sprint Center crowd out to brave the elements with a smile on its face.

By game’s end, that final run wound up being 31-13, but it was that initial spurt that broke Davidson’s spirit.

“We had a tremendous opportunity in front of us,” McKillop said. “And, for about 25 minutes, I thought we handled it very well. But I thought they annihilated us in the paint, on second-chance points, and they annihilated us in transition.”

Most of that annihilation came as the result of terrific balance. Four Jayhawks reached double figures in scoring, three others came within a shot of joining them and Kansas out-rebounded (43-34), out-shot (.485-.429) and out-hustled (10 steals and five blocks to four steals and one block) Davidson, most of it coming at the most crucial times.

But that whole sensational second half was the result of the Jayhawks’ effort on the defensive end and that was what the Jayhawks were most proud of when they bundled up to head to the bus for the short ride back to Lawrence.

“It’s a game of runs,” Jackson said. “Everybody’s gonna make a couple shots here and there. But it’s all about who can string the most together and get stops while doing it.”

The Jayhawks will close the non-conference season Thursday at UNLV in Las Vegas before opening Big 12 play Dec. 30 at TCU.

By the Numbers: Kansas 89, Davidson 71.

By the Numbers: Kansas 89, Davidson 71.

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Davidson


Comments

Steve Macy

I wonder if at the half Coach Self was about to dust the "fool's gold" speech off?
Painful to watch the first half, exciting to watch the second half.
Glad to see Carlton back.
RCJH

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Robert Brock

You could tell that the Hawks were loafing by noticing that Davidson put up 43 points in the first half. Self wasn't going to allow that in the second half. Everything falls into place when the Jayhawks play solid defense.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Jay Scott

Loafing? Do you even watch the games Robert?

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Barry Weiss

Davidson was shooting lights out from beyond the arc. Once Coach Self probably drilled into the players heads they have to get out on them more, it payed dividends in the second half. I did not notice anyone loafing.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Adam Collins

The defense was definitely lacking. We scored enough points in the first half to win, but didn't have enough stops. They had too many open shots the first half and we were definitely more locked in during the second half.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Humpy Helsel

Am I the only one confused about this "home court winning streak" thing? Since when are games at the Sprint Center figured into the equation? Allen Fieldhouse streaks and Sprint Center strings are separate and distinct. Right? Was this a made for TV/media fake drama/marketing deal? If so, I care not for it. What am I missing here? Someone straighten me out on this.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Adam Collins

Yeah, I dont like it either. Granted, there is a big Jayhawk on the Sprint Center court, but it's nowhere near the same as being in Allen Fieldhouse. So if we lose a game in the Sprint Center, will they reset our home court winning streak? I'm guessing they will just go back to an Allen Fieldhouse winning streak.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Barry Weiss

I concur, leave the Sprint stuff out of the equation.

8 months, 1 week ago

Report

Commenting has been disabled for this item.