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Christian Braun's career night helps No. 8 Kansas cruise past St. John's, 95-75

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) reacts after being fouled by St. John's forward Aaron Wheeler (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Elmont, N.Y. Kansas won 95-75. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Elmont, N.Y. — Kansas guard Christian Braun dropped a career-high 31 points in Friday’s 95-75 win over St. John’s, and the extra mustard that came with it inspired some of the Jayhawks to revert to a name that was often used to describe Braun as a freshman.

Senior guard Ochai Agbaji credited walk-on Chris Teahan with the nickname, but he stopped short of sharing it, saying simply that he couldn’t say the word.

“Freshman-year Christian, when he was just that little… I can’t say the word,” Agbaji said after the victory. “He was just that man. He thought he was that guy, had the confidence with him and everyone followed that, too.”

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Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) dunks over St. John's forward Aaron Wheeler during the second ...

Asked what the word started with, Agbaji smiled and said, “B.A. Keep it simple.”

Said Braun of his role as the resident bully during Friday’s win: “Their crowd was really good tonight, and to quiet them down when they’re making all that noise feels really good.”

There was nothing simple about Braun’s big night on Friday. He opened with nine points in the first eight minutes of the first half and he played a monster role in KU’s knockout punch, which came after St. John’s (5-2) had trimmed KU’s 13-point halftime lead all the way down to three (64-61) midway through the second half.

For the fourth game in a row, Braun showed tenacity in the half-court and transition, looking to attack the defense and get to the paint whenever possible.

That, he said, was by design and the result of his offseason self-evaluation.

“Just working on being aggressive,” he said. “Coming in (to college), I wasn’t just a spot-up shooter and that’s kind of what I turned into. But I know that if I’m aggressive that stuff will open up.”

Braun made 10 of 16 shots on Friday night and nine of 10 free throws. Four of those charity shots came after back-to-back technical were called on St. John’s coach Mike Anderson and guard Posh Alexander when the game came unraveled.

He also added eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

“CB’s climbing up some draft boards,” KU coach Bill Self said after the victory. “He’s a good player, he does a lot of everything and he’s playing the best he’s played since he’s been here.”

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Box Score: No. 8 KU 95, St. John's 75 ( .PDF )

Whether it was a clutch 3-pointer to maintain KU’s cushion or a vicious dunk to quiet the rowdy St. John’s crowd, Braun’s fire and passion was as important for the Jayhawks (6-1) as the points he put on the board.

“I think any time you show personality it’s important,” Self said. “Energy’s contagious. And I think CB’s much better when he’s showing how he’s enjoying being out there.”

After struggling to close out games in the second half throughout the season so far, it appeared as if the Jayhawks were headed down that path again on Friday.

A 13-point lead, which — stop me if you’ve heard this one — could have been more, quickly dropped to eight when SJU scored the first five points of the second half.

Self immediately called what he described as “a pissed off timeout” and the Jayhawks regained their footing.

One of the big catalysts to KU’s strong first half — second-chance points — showed up early in the second to help slow St. John’s surge.

Senior forward David McCormack’s sixth offensive rebound of the night and subsequent assist to Braun for an easy layup stopped the Red Storm run and put KU back up by 10.

The two teams then traded baskets for the next few minutes as the game moved into the final stretch still in doubt.

After scoring just four points in 17 first-half minutes, Champagnie hit four 3-pointers in a 4-minute span early in the second to pull St. John’s closer.

“He was really, really good,” Self said of Champagnie, who finished with 24 points on six 3-point makes, one better than Agbaji’s 5-of-9 3-point night. “I don’t think we guarded him very well, but you’ve still got to make those shots and they weren’t wide open either.”

Champagnie made five second-half 3-point shots before missing, which helped St. John’s pull within three at 64-61. But KU responded to the Red Storm’s push — and the fired-up crowd — with a 11-0 run to push the lead back to its halftime margin.

Agbaji and Braun had five apiece during the run, which later grew to 21-3, and the first ever basketball game played inside the brand-new New York Islanders hockey arena was effectively put on ice.

McCormack and Agbaji both said the Jayhawks understand that basketball can be a game of runs. But it was their goal on Friday night to make sure St. John’s did not gain confidence from that run.

“(It was what we learned) from the last two games,” Agbaji said. “Today we knew how to handle that, how to keep playing our game and how to focus on defense more than anything.”

Added McCormack: “We just kind of rallied together and said, ‘It’s time to cut their water off and time to get more stops defensively and worry about offense less.’”

That’s the message Self always preaches and, for the most part, he was happy with what he saw on Friday night.

“We did much better when they cut it to three,” he said. “Of course, we didn’t guard anybody until they cut it to three, but it was a good way to close the game.”

The Jayhawks’ defense was stellar down the stretch and led to KU outscoring St. John’s 31-14 to close out the game.

Kansas out-shot, out-rebounded and out-willed St. John’s in this one, playing what Self said was a pretty good 30 minutes of basketball.

But it was Braun’s swagger, McCormack’s rebounding prowess (he tied a career-high with 13 while scoring 15 points) and KU’s experience that led the Jayhawks to an important road victory.

“These (non-conference) games mean a lot,” Agbaji said. “Kind of practicing for conference road games, when we have road stretches like that and winning on the road and responding to crowds like this.”

While those things were key, Braun said the bigger picture was the most important part of the puzzle.

“We’re just trying to get a win and get better every game,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of emphasis on playing better defense and we’ve got to finish and start halves better.”

The Jayhawks will return to action on Tuesday when they play host to UTEP at T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo., before returning to Allen Fieldhouse to take on Missouri on Saturday, Dec. 11.

Comments

Rodney Crain

Better. Got a little tight in the 2nd half, but nice response. DM looked a lot better, JW not yet.

We have all the pieces if Coach can get them to play together. CB cold blooded on the free throw line. Clear Blue ICE.

Defense a little shaky still but its getting there.

Nice game, nice win!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Tony Bandle


Random Thoughts:

1] For awhile there it looked we were in the "Classic KU Three Point Defense"....identify the best outside shooter on the opposing team and make sure he has an open shot whenever possible!! We did improve in the second half.

2] Jalen is still wailin'.

3] Ochai had a nice night but could have had more. That little rascal Braun took his thunder.

4] Was it my imagination but did it appear that Remy was a little better?

5] I agree with Rodney...Big Mac showed a lot of aggressiveness and toughness....a definite improved performance. Now, build on that, big guy!!!

5] Any win on the road to a legitimate Div. One team is a good one but, St.John's, thanks for the turnovers and missed foul shots.

6] WE ARE GOING TO DESTROY MISSOUR IN ALLEN NEXT WEEKI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Creg Bohrer

Braun keeps playing the way he is, we could see him in the draft next year.. He's a animal..

1 month, 1 week ago

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Benjamin Shear

Obiter Dictum:

*Braun is the man. He really looks like a different player this year. Last year, he would make a lot of the same moves, but not finish at the rim, and so he settled for a lot of 3s. This year, he is stronger, faster, and able to finish. I'm impressed.

*Speaking of players who look different, Agbaji really does look like pro material. He just seems to have a different gear/speed than everyone else.

*It was funny/sad to see Wilson playing during scrub time. But, that's his level right now. He is the insanely athletic 6ft 8 inch player who is a mediocre substitute at the moment. Hope that changes.

*Coach Mike Anderson is fortunate he didn't more than a technical. He literally shoved the ref when the ref accidentally slightly bumped him.

*St. John is scrappy and talented. They fought the entire game. It was great to see our team take some punches and keep fighting.

*DMac was better, still missing bunnies, as always (and FTs, he was actually pretty good at those last year, what happened?). But he seemed to be more aggressive and went towards the basket instead of his limp wrist flick shots. I hope we see more of this version of him.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Dirk Medema

Great game by CB and maybe even more important is that David got a double double. It didn’t seem that the O ran through him much, but just that he worked and worked. It’s what we need with all the guards around him.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Steve Zimmerman

M'kay, we've got 3 guys who can score at will any nights: Remy, Ochai, CB. Today, CB has elevated to even a higher level. The fire in his eyes is always there, now that we don't depend too much on hi-low, he's on fire! Let's hope he'll be playing like this consistently, which I believe he will.
Dave looks like a giant out there. Hope to see his contribution like that in each game!! Good fight from St. John. They'll get better. It's always a great to win vs Mizzo alumnus.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Dirk Medema

It was nice to see JWil pull down a bunch of rebounds even if his shot wasn’t falling.

It also seemed interesting that he was bringing the ball upcourt. Was Champagnie defending him? Thought that was interesting and rather strategic move by Coach Self to make their big O threat work that much harder from start to finish of each D possession. Didn’t that coincide with our 10-0 run?

1 month, 1 week ago

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Dirk Medema

Love that CB/BA made 9-10 FTs.
Wasn’t there an article during his freshmen year about him not being a very good FT shooter?

1 month, 1 week ago

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Barry Weiss

Great to see DMac get back to his groove. Once JW does, we will be very, very tough.

1 month, 1 week ago

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David Robinett

Tony, I like this tongue in cheek moniker!

"Classic KU Three Point Defense"

dates back to Roy…

1 month, 1 week ago

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Rodney Crain

I agree lol. I get that Self wants you to be in the right place on defense but he is never going to get on you for contesting a 3 point shooter.

Saw more than a few guards not even put up a hand.

Maybe he should tell them don't guard a shooter at the arc, even if he is not your guy. :)

1 month, 1 week ago

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Rodney Crain

Just 4 short months ago (Jul. 7th) a certain reporter, Tait, propound about a Golden Opportunity for OA for the upcoming senior season. He fortell of OA's senior season and though he blended in at the NBA combine scrims., he would not make that mistake during this season. He would be Assertive from the 1st jump.

Mr. Matt Tait you were then and are now 100% correct. He is as you tweeted just a short while ago, clearly asserting himself in the game, I will add every game.

Sir, not sure you will be considered for a Peabody, but you got that prediction spot on!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Bryce Landon

KU still has a lot to learn about 3-point defense and not letting opponents back into ball games. But last night, listening to Brian and Greg's radio broadcast, was the first glimpse I got of a developing killer instinct. Once KU pulled away from St. John's in the second half, they kept their foot on the throat and didn't let up. I want to see more of that in the days and weeks to come.

Side note, how funny it would have been if Mike Anderson had gotten two technicals and been ejected, just like he got ejected the first time one of his teams met Kansas (KU vs. UAB in the 2004 Sweet 16)!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Thomas Harrison

Great game by David! If he can
Play like that consistently, we
Will have a great season ! Braun
Is killing its the 4!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Pius Waldman

I know Self really likes Harris. But wouldn't it be better to have Martin run the guard position and let Wilson rebound and play at a forward position.

1 month, 1 week ago

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