No. 8 Kansas was an underdog on its home court for just the second time ever under coach Bill Self on Saturday, and it proved early and often in a 78-65 dismantling of No. 4 Houston why that has been such a rarity over the years. KU trailed 2-0 out of the gate but tied the game and took the lead within a minute and never looked back from there, leading for the entirety of the game thereafter in one of the most impressive showings from any team all season.
Everything that could go right for Kansas seemingly did. Conversely, everything that could go wrong for Houston did indeed go wrong. Kansas shot a scorching 68.9% from the field and got big performances from Johnny Furphy and Kevin McCullar Jr. behind Hunter Dickinson. Meanwhile, Jamal Shead and Emanuel Sharp — Houston’s second and third leading scorers on the season — finished a combined 6 of 23. Leading scorer LJ Cryer caught fire midway through the second half and to finish with 24 points, but Houston never got within single digits after halftime.
Houston has been one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the county this season. The Cougars took 24 more shots than did Kansas thanks to 13 offensive boards and only three turnovers. But the story of the game was not Houston’s second-chance points. It was KU’s efficiency in limited opportunities and Houston’s inefficiency in expanded opportunities. KU made 31 field goals to Houston’s 25 despite taking 24 fewer shots and losing the turnover battle in lopsided fashion, 18-3.
Self and Kansas improved to 2-0 as home underdogs during his tenure, coming nearly three years after the only opportunity when 18-0 Baylor was favored in Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas also won that game by double digits, 71-58.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
1. Don’t bet against Self at home
Bill Self has lost a total of 16 times while coaching Kansas inside Allen Fieldhouse since he took over the program in 2003. He has nearly 19 times more wins than losses as the Jayhawks coach in Lawrence, Kansas. Betting against him in his own barn is not wise.
With the win, KU improved to 12-1 at home against AP Top 5 teams under Self and 19-1 when facing an opponent inside Allen Fieldhouse ranked higher than KU.
2. Johnny Furphy emerging as key cog
KU’s top four players can match up with just about any team in college basketball, but the Jayhawks’ fifth starter has been among its most glaring weaknesses as a team all season.
Freshman Johnny Furphy had 17 points in the win. He has emerged as a key piece and critical fifth starter for the Jayhawks at just the right time. He’s averaging 15.8 points per game over the last two weeks and his combination of shot-making and defensive tenacity has turned what was a team weakness into a true team strength.
3. Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
Including Saturday, Kansas has either lost or tied the turnover battle 12 times this year. That is an alarming trend for a team that hangs its hat on experience and reliability at its guard spots. Only three of those 12 games have resulted in losses, but three of those nine wins were by five points or fewer. Kansas plays with fire as well as any team in college hoops because it has a dominant big, an elite coach and the best homecourt advantage in the sport. However, its inability to take care of the ball all season feels like it is bound to rear its ugly head at an inopportune time for the Jayhawks at some point when the stakes are high.