Kansas Jayhawks return to the court with impressive win over Nevada Wolf Pack

The Kansas Jayhawks didn’t show any rust in their return to action Wednesday night, coming back from an 11-day layoff and manhandling the Nevada Wolf Pack 88-61.

After narrowly escaping with a win in their last game against Stephen F. Austin the Jayhawks left nothing to doubt in their final game of the calendar year, taking the lead 31 seconds into the game and never relinquishing it.

KU entered the game with the third-ranked offense in the nation according to Kenpom and played efficiently and explosively once again. The Jayhawks shot nearly 54% from the field overall and almost 39% from three-point range. Plus, they scored 23 fast break points in the win and had 19 points off 21 Nevada turnovers.

“We have so many weapons, you’re going to see games where we’re just going to put our foot on people throughout the way,” junior guard Christian Braun said.

Braun’s torrid stretch continued in the win, as he led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. That makes it four games with 20+ points for Braun this season, all of which have come in KU’s last five games.

As Braun continues to light it up, he also continues to get more NBA draft buzz. He said he’s just focused on the Jayhawks right now, his coach said he sees an NBA future for the Burlington native.

“Christian Braun is a pro,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I still think Christian’s NBA skill is shooting the basketball, even if he’s doing everything else better.”

Not to be outdone, senior guard Ochai Agbaji, who entered Wednesday’s game with the third-highest scoring average in the country at 22 points per game, chipped in another 16 points and peppered in several highlight-reel dunks.

Sophomore guard Dajuan Harris had a huge offensive night as well, setting a new career high with 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Like several other teams have this year, Nevada left Harris open on the perimeter multiple times, something he’s taken notice of.

“If they’re going to do that, I’m just going to shoot it,” Harris said.

Braun added that he thinks the Jayhawks are at their best when Harris is scoring, while Self refuted the reputation Harris has gotten as a non-shooter.

“I’ve heard people say Dajuan can’t shoot. That’s not remotely accurate,” Self said, adding that the difference is Harris chooses not to shoot.

Self also said he thought Harris was KU’s overall best player in the win.

For as good as the Jayhawks’ offense was, their defense put together a complete game as well, responding well to critical comments from Self about that side of the ball in recent days. Along with the 21 turnovers, the Wolf Pack was limited to just 37.5% shooting from the field and under 30% from three.

Junior forward Jalen Wilson said that while Kansas allowed to Nevada to walk into several open shots in the first half, “I think all around team defense in the second half was a big turnaround.”

Kansas was originally scheduled to play Harvard on Wednesday night before that game was canceled due to a Covid-19 issue for the Crimson, which led to Nevada ending up at Allen Fieldhouse. That was just one of several recent virus-related schedule alterations for the Jayhawks, but despite a long layoff they didn’t feel any rust.

“We were all kind of itching to get back on the court,” Braun said. “We were excited to get back on the court and felt good.”

The exception to that was Braun, Harris and Wilson jokingly critiquing Agbaji’s first-half windmill dunk, saying the senior could have thrown down a better one if it wasn’t for tired legs.

KU’s new-look schedule will continue this weekend, when instead of opening Big 12 play against TCU the Jayhawks will now face George Mason on Jan. 1. Self said that he expects a sellout crowd for the impromptu nonconference contest, and added that tickets will be as inexpensive as they’ve been since he took over the program.