Kansas Jayhawks bounce back with blowout victory over Texas Southern Tigers

The Kansas Jayhawks entered Monday night fresh off their first loss of the season to Tennessee and a six-spot slide in this week’s AP Top 25 poll.

Texas Southern offered KU a chance to bounce back into the win column, however, and KU took advantage of that opportunity in decisive fashion, crushing the Tigers 87-55 to improve to 7-1 on the season.

While a few individual offensive performances stood out for the Jayhawks, it was a group effort for Kansas that helped put Texas Southern away. For the night, KU shot 54.5% from the floor and 44.8% from three-point range. That included a 57.7% shooting effort in the second half.

Junior forward Jalen Wilson broke the 20-point threshold for the fifth time this season in the victory, pouring in a game-high 22 points on 8-of-16 from the floor and 5-of-10 from beyond the arc. That’s the most threes that Wilson has ever made in a single game and it ties his career high in attempts.

He was one of five Jayhawks who reached double digits in points Monday night. A pair of freshmen both got there, including another 15 points from Gradey Dick, his second straight game in double figures, as well as a career-high 19 from M.J. Rice in his early season breakout game. He got there on an efficient 6-of-9 from the floor, 2-of-4 from three and 5-of-6 from the free throw line.

Rice took advantage of extended playing time on Monday, also setting a new high in minutes played with 22, and he added that he’s just focused on his specific role when he gets the opportunity to see the court.

“Whether that’s bringing energy or playing defense, everything else will take care of itself,” Rice said.

In regard to the freshman’s big night, Wilson said Rice “Has the ability to do that every single night.”

Junior guard Joseph Yesufu also racked up 14 points for the second game in a row while sophomore K.J. Adams scored 10.

Those back-to-back performances by Yesufu are the first times he’s scored in double figures since transferring to Kansas, and he made his first start with Jayhawks on Monday, too, in place of injured senior guard Kevin McCullar.

“It’s a blessing,” Yesufu said. “I need to step up for the guys who are out. That’s my job, to bring energy to the court.”

Yesufu went 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc in the victory, a shooting clip that Kansas coach Bill Self said he needs to hit regularly.

“He needs to be a guy who can make two out of five when he comes in the game,” Self said. “His stroke looked good tonight.”

KU has struggled to find consistent scoring outside of Wilson and Dick, so getting strong minutes out of players like Yesufu and Rice is a much-needed boon for the Jayhawks.

“We always preach to them how aggressive we need them to be,” Wilson said, adding: “It makes our offense so much easier.”

Self said that McCullar suffered a strained groin versus Tennessee, but he could potentially play on Thursday if he can practice on Wednesday.

“If he’s not ready, I’m not going to push him,” Self said.

Sophomore guard Bobby Pettiford Jr. also missed Monday’s game due to an injured hamstring, and Self said he could possibly return on Dec. 10 for KU’s rivalry game at Missouri.

First, however, the Jayhawks have another home game coming up on Thursday night against the Seton Hall Pirates in this year’s edition of the Big East-Big 12 Battle. The Pirates are 4-3 this season and have dropped consecutive games to Oklahoma and Siena. Thursday’s contest between Kansas and Seton Hall is set for an 8:00 p.m. tip.