Kansas’ Jalen Wilson (10) drives towards Kentucky’s Jacob Toppin in the course of the second half of an NCAA school basketball sport in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. Kansas received 77-68. (AP Photograph/James Crisp)
**1 – Jalen Wilson -** There have been a few Jayhawks who performed actually large video games however had a lot smaller roles, so it wasn’t that straightforward to place them forward of Wilson after the Jayhawks’ 77-68 win at Kentucky. And why would you? Wilson performed arguably his finest all-around sport of the season, delivering time after time in clutch moments and main the Jayhawks to victory. He completed with 22 factors on 9-of-18 taking pictures, whereas knocking in two big 3-pointers and including 8 rebounds. Extra necessary than any of that was the best way Wilson saved his head early within the sport. As Kentucky ran out of the gate and showing to be on the point of knocking the Jayhawks down at any second, Wilson simply saved taking part in. He scored, he shook off no-calls and he discovered a method to get his teammates going, as nicely. Briefly, he did what All-People do and it’s in all probability time we begin taking an actual take a look at him as a nationwide participant of the 12 months candidate. If he winds up being the very best participant in the very best convention (by a mile) in school basketball, he a minimum of must be within the dialog.
**2 – Kevin McCullar Jr. -** McCullar didn’t shoot it nice (simply 4-of-10 from the ground) however that was hardly an issue. He greater than made up for his common offensive night time with an elite effort night time. And he performed that means from the soar. It was crystal clear early on that McCullar was greater than keen to do what he may to assist the KU large males with UK’s Oscar Tshiebwe. So he went exhausting to the glass, performed sturdy with the ball and completed with a game-high 12 rebounds to associate with his 11 factors. Greater than that, he performed by way of a rolled ankle and, in line with KU coach Invoice Self, didn’t even contemplate sitting longer than he needed to sit to guage the ankle. That confirmed up in his total numbers, his 34 minutes performed and the KU victory.
**3 – KJ Adams -** Adams obtained again to his offense on this one, scoring 17 factors on 8-of-10 taking pictures, with a lot of his baskets coming proper on the rim and a few them going proper by way of Tshiebwe alongside the best way. I’m unsure Tshiebwe was prepared for Adams — or anybody on the undersized KU roster — to take it proper at him. However Adams did, selecting up buckets in tight and confidence with every journey. He solely recorded two rebounds, however he hit Tshiebwe on nearly each shot try, both shifting him out or boxing him out in order that his teammates may clear up the glass. Adams famous after the win that Tshiebwe wasn’t the largest dude KU has performed however was the strongest. It’s attainable the UK large man was saying related phrases about Adams after this one. His large night time got here in simply 24 minutes due to foul hassle, which additional illustrated how necessary he will be while not having to play large minutes. In actual fact, the best way the opposite bigs performed on this one, you’ll be able to see a future path than contains Ernest Udeh and Zuby Ejiofor taking part in 5-7 minutes apiece and Adams subsequently needing to go simply 28-30. He’ll at all times be on the market when it counts, after all. However the extra the others can play earlier than that, the brisker he’ll be when that point comes.
**4 – Dajuan Harris Jr. -** Harris’ two early 3-pointers had been HUGE on this one. Larger than big, in all probability. They not solely signaled that he was a keen scorer — which the Wildcats instantly then needed to account for — however his buckets had been big in serving to Kansas preserve contact as Kentucky rode the wave of adrenaline and emotion to an early lead. Harris performed 37 minutes and appeared a lot extra like himself than he had up to now few video games. Particularly as a passer and play-maker for others. If his two 3s had been his largest photographs, his two lobs to Ernest Udeh had been his largest moments. Each obtained Kansas straightforward factors and delivered a powerful dose of confidence to Udeh, whom KU wanted to win this one and may want much more within the weeks forward. Harris’ 8 assists got here with simply 2 turnovers.
**5 – Ernest Udeh Jr. -** Udeh’s second-half minutes had been largely forgettable, however boy had been his first-half minutes large. He performed exhausting, fought for all the things, completed a few large lobs and hustled to assist make up for his positioning points on the defensive finish. One of many largest performs that didn’t present up within the field rating or result in factors for Kansas got here when he hustled again on protection to knock a cross out of bounds so the KU D may get again and get set. It may not have appeared that massive on the time, but it surely was extra the assertion the play made reasonably than the precise consequence. He’s getting it. Slowly however certainly. And if Self and firm can permit him just a bit longer leash, he’s confirmed he could make performs that may result in successful. We’ll see the place his PT goes from right here, however his confidence ought to solely go up.
**6 – Gradey Dick -** Give Gradey credit score for making just a few big photographs late, none greater than the late 3 that he obtained off after a pump pretend to free himself on the wing. However as much as that time, the freshman had performed a reasonably frantic sport. He performed exhausting. Nobody can query that. However he appeared somewhat sped up and like he was making an attempt too exhausting. That confirmed in his misses and determination making. One shot hit the highest of the backboard, a really sudden sight for a shooter as gifted as Dick. Nonetheless, he hung in there and helped Kansas discover a method to win whereas grabbing 13 factors and 5 rebounds in 33 minutes. It’s exhausting in charge him for an excessive amount of of this. As nice of a season as he’s had up to now, he’s nonetheless a freshman, it was nonetheless Rupp Area towards Kentucky and it got here in a sport that was highlighted as the sport of the day on ESPN. It’s in all probability exhausting to not get somewhat additional turned up in that scenario.
**7 – Zuby Ejiofor -** Earlier than leaving the sport for good with a turned ankle simply earlier than halftime, Ejiofor was an necessary a part of this one a lot in the best way Udeh was. He performed large, bodily and unafraid. The ankle damage, which saved him out of the second half and left him in a strolling boot after the sport, was the one detrimental about his outing. KU wants extra of this from him, however it’s a must to marvel if the damage will make it exhausting to ship within the weeks forward.
**8 – Bobby Pettiford -** Somebody advised me the opposite day that they thought Pettiford — and others — wanted to only decelerate somewhat. Reasonably than taking part in at Mach 3, maybe he may dial it down only a bit to be somewhat simpler. I didn’t assume a lot of it once they stated that, however his one turnover final night time confirmed it is likely to be the case. He pushed exhausting in transition and even obtained the ball the place it wanted to go. Earlier than that, although, he misplaced management of the ball and was referred to as for a journey that took away a Wilson 3-pointer on the wing. Perhaps Wilson wouldn’t have made the shot if Pettiford had gone somewhat slower. However would you’ve gotten wager towards it? It’s a nice line for Pettiford proper now. However, yeah, slowing down only a hair may truly make the sport simpler for him and permit him to extend his manufacturing and time on the ground.
**9 – MJ Rice -** I actually thought Rice is likely to be in for an evening to recollect. He appeared terrific within the pregame shoot-around and we knew he was going to get a chance due to Self and the Jayhawks’ need to search out one thing from their bench. Nevertheless it was a few misses, just a few sluggish rotations on protection and simply 5 minutes for the freshman. He continues to remain prepared and at all times appears the half. Perhaps his Udeh day nonetheless coming.
**10 – Joe Yesufu -** There was some discuss from Self about taking part in Yesufu extra and giving him an opportunity for a breakthrough scoring sport. That continues to be exhausting to do due to the selections he makes when he’s within the sport. His lone shot in his 3 minutes of this one missed all the things. And it usually appears to me like Yesufu doesn’t even totally catch the ball earlier than he begins to shoot it. I do know he needs to make the best play and convey some scoring to the lineup. However he’s too rushed too usually and he often sits due to it.
1 – Jalen Wilson, 176
2 – Dajuan Harris Jr., 150
3 – KJ Adams, 146
4 – Gradey Dick, 141
5 – Kevin McCullar Jr., 129o
6 – Bobby Pettiford, 88
7 – Joe Yesufu, 72
8 – MJ Rice, 54y
9 – Zuby Ejiofor, 52
10 – Ernest Udeh Jr., 49
11 – Zach Clemence, 31z
12 – Cam Martin, 11q
13 – Kyle Cuffe Jr., 2x
*x – Out for 10-12 weeks with a knee damage beginning Nov. 13*
*y – Missed 3 of the primary 5 video games of the season due to damage and sickness*
*z – Missed Duke, Southern Utah and NC State video games due to damage*
*o – Missed Nov. 29 sport vs. Texas Southern with a groin damage
*q – Missed first 9 video games of the season with shoulder damage
KU-Kentucky Notebook: Freshmen big men step up big for 9th-ranked Jayhawks