The Kansas Jayhawks escaped with an 82-76 win over Southern Utah on a chilly Friday night inside of Allen Fieldhouse.
Neither team led by more than eight points all night long as the squads traded body blows for 40 minutes. In the end a tremendous offensive performance from senior forward Jalen Wilson, coupled with some stellar defensive plays by numerous Jayhawks, was the difference and helped Kansas earn their fourth straight victory to begin the 2022-23 season.
In the first half Kansas struggled to put together consistent offensive possessions due to numerous turnovers, as well as several misses at the rim.
Meanwhile Southern Utah did not share those same struggles as they stormed out of the gate, shooting over 50% for much of the half.
Kansas stepped up their defensive intensity in the second half as they held the Thunderbirds to 35% shooting from the floor and just 3-11 from three-point range.
For the second consecutive game, Wilson set career high in points. After scoring 25 points against Duke in the Champions Classic, Wilson one-upped that performance by scoring 33 points against Southern Utah.
An aggressive mindset has benefited Wilson to start this season as he has quickly become the leader for this Kansas team, and it was no different against Southern Utah.
“Not setting for shots was something we emphasized,” Wilson said. “We noticed that they didn’t really have any shot blockers, so we decided to attack the paint and that ended up working throughout the game.”
The aggressive mentality was not just with Wilson, as freshman Gradey Dick and redshirt junior Dejuan Harris also had an impact.
Harris finished with 14 points to go along with a season-high four steals, while Dick poured in 18 points and had 4 three-pointers.
Dick has shown a knack for clutch moments early on this season.
Dick scored seven straight points in the final minute against Duke to lead Kansas to a win, and against Southern Utah Dick hit a three pointer to extend Kansas’ slim one point lead with 40 seconds left to play.
Dick’s hot start to the year and clutch performances are not lost on his teammates, who are impressed with the young freshman so far.
“You know he’s got a high release so it’s hard to block him,” Harris said. “He’s really athletic too, he can finish around the rim, he can do everything.”
Acting head coach Norm Roberts was glad his team got the win, but was disappointed with the intensity his squad showed.
“We didn’t play with the intensity that we needed to today, and we talked about that being focused and competing,” Roberts said. “We just didn’t do that. We were a step slow tonight.”
This was the final game that assistant coach Norm Roberts will lead from the bench as the suspension for head coach Bill Self has now concluded.
Self will return to the bench, along with assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, for Kansas’ next matchup as they head to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Kansas’ first opponent in Nassau will be the NC State Wolfpack. Tipoff for that game is scheduled for 11am on Wednesday, November 23rd.
Click below to hear from acting Kansas head coach Norm Roberts and the Jayhawks after their 82-76 win over Southern Utah.