Shorthanded Jayhawks fall in Big 12 tourney

The Kansas Jayhawks were minus their top two scorers due to injury, and struggled mightily once again in a 72-52 loss to Cincinnati in the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas coach Bill Self said he hopes to have Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. back in the lineup for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

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March 14, 2024 - 2:02 PM

Kansas' K.J. Adams Jr. (24) is fouled by Cincinnati's Day Day Thomas (1) in the first half during the second round of the Big 12 Tournament at T-Mobile Center on Wednesday, March 13, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images/TNS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Dan Skillings Jr. scored 25 points, Cincinnati took advantage of No. 16 Kansas playing without injured stars Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr., and the Bearcats rolled to a 72-52 victory over the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday night.

John Newman III added 12 points and Simas Lukosius had 10 for the No. 11 seed Bearcats (20-13), who knew they had to keep winning to have a shot at the NCAA Tournament. Now, they will get another opportunity to pick up a marquee win on Thursday, when they face No. 14 Baylor — the third seed in the league tourney — in the quarterfinal round.

Dickinson missed the game after dislocating his shoulder in a 30-point loss to Houston last weekend, while McCullar has been dealing with a knee injury. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said earlier Wednesday that he expects the Big 12’s two leading scorers to able to practice Monday, and that bodes well for their NCAA Tournament hopes.

It certainly didn’t help their chances in the conference tournament.

The situation grew more dire for Kansas, trailing 43-38 with just over 10 minutes left in the game, when Elmarko Jackson came up hobbling. And even more so when KJ Adams Jr. crashed to the floor defending a fast break and briefly left the game.

Adams returned to lead the No. 6 seed Jayhawks (22-10) with 22 points. Jackson also was able to finish and scored five.

Bearcats coach Wes Miller probably didn’t have much sympathy for the Jayhawks’ injury plight. He was without center Viktor Lahkin, who missed his fourth game with an ankle injury, and CJ Fredrick Jr., whose hamstring has kept him out three weeks.

The fact that the Jayhawks were close in the second half was noteworthy.

Day Day Thomas, who hit seven 3s and scored 29 points in their opening win over West Virginia, remained hot from behind the arc in the first half. Lukosius, who also had seven 3s and scored 31 a day earlier, did his early damage around the rim. And by the time Kansas came up empty on a final possession of the first half, the 12-time tournament champions were facing a 38-25 hole.

The Jayhawks dug out by holding Cincinnati to a 1-for-13 start from the field in the second half, and they were helped by a pro-Kansas crowd inside T-Mobile Center that roared when their team closed within 40-38 with 13:30 to go.

But the Jayhawks kept missing on open looks, and that gave the Bearcats an opportunity to rebuild their lead.

UP NEXT

Cincinnati lost 62-59 at Baylor on Jan. 13 when Lukosius missed two 3s in the closing seconds. Making the rematch even more challenging will be the fact that the Bearcats will be playing for the third time in three days.

Kansas was once considered a potential No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. Now, it could be looking at the No. 4 or 5 line on Selection Sunday. The big question is how much the selection committee will weigh the Jayhawks’ injuries.

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