Survive and Advance: Kansas Jayhawks basketball player ratings from A to Z in win over Samford

Samford v Kansas
Samford v Kansas / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
1 of 3

March Madness is officially here! One blue blood was the first to fall in Kentucky, but we decided not to make it a trend. Facing the run and gun, let it fly Samford Bulldogs, we knew it would be a 40-minute dog fight. The game did not disappoint. Kansas basketball led the entire way en route to a 93-89 victory.

KU came out firing with Johnny Furphy hitting two early threes and Nicolas Timberlake adding one within the first four minutes. The Jayhawks controlled the first half and went into the half up 48-38 after being up by as many as 16 in the first half. Despite the 10-point lead, it felt like Samford could go on a run anytime with their full-court press and let-it-fly mentality. The Bulldogs press led to 18 Jayhawk turnovers for the game.

The start of the second half saw KU start off right where they left off, coming out hot out of the gate again. We built our lead up to 22 points at one point, but the Bulldogs would not go away. From that point on, Samford caught fire, drilling 10 second-half threes and 16 for the game.

Samford cut the lead to one point with 5:15 left, but the Jayhawks did not waver. We responded with a Dajuan layup and a Johnny Furphy layup shortly after, and what looked like a dagger three by Nicolas Timberlake to go up seven points with under three minutes to play.

However, Samford cut it to one again with 20 seconds to play. Nicolas Timberlake was fouled going up for a dunk in a controversial call, as some thought it looked clean. It looked like a foul to me, but I may be a little biased. One call doesn't make or break a game and there were several questionable calls the other way as well. We survived a 3-point attempt by the Bulldogs to tie it with five seconds to go, and Johnny iced the game away with a free throw to get our final score of 93-89.

KU looked dominant at times while also struggling with the press, defending the three, and rebounding. Nicolas Timberlake stepped up and played great, and Hunter Dickinson was Hunter Dickinson as the Jayhawks got it done. No Kevin McCullar, no problem in game one. At this time of the year, it doesn't matter how it looks just as long as you win. Survive and advance is the mentality teams must have! Next up is Saturday against Gonzaga, who absolutely blasted McNeese State 86-65 in their opening-round game.

Kansas Basketball Player Ratings vs. Samford

Hunter Dickinson
Samford v Kansas / Chris Gardner/GettyImages

Tier 1: Big Jays

1. Hunter Dickinson

Hunter Dickinson, coming off a shoulder injury, came in and was Hunter Dickinson. He dominated the game on the offensive side of the ball and rebounded at an elite level. This is what we need to keep marching on in the tourney. Hunter played 37 minutes and gave his all on both sides of the ball. Hunter was an efficient 9-for-14 from the field, but he did struggle from the free throw line, going 1-for-4. He finished with 19 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, four blocks, two steals, and no turnovers. This is the All-American we were envisioning all year. It is his time of the year to take over.

2. Nicolas Timberlake

I hope this is the beginning of a new Mr. March for KU. Nicolas, starting in place of Kevin McCullar, who is out for the tournament, delivered in a substantial way. Timberlake delivered all day, going 5-for-8 from the field and 3-for-6 from deep. He was limited to 26 minutes as he battled foul trouble most of the game. Timberlake delivered when he was out there. Nicolas hit a clutch three down the stretch with Samford closing and was fouled with 14 seconds left up one point. He calmly made both free throws. Timberlake finished with 19 points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal, and no turnovers.

3. KJ Adams

KJ did it all against Samford. He was his usual elite defender, brought the ball down against the press multiple times, dropped dimes, rebounded, and finished at the rim. KJ played 39 minutes and was a super efficient 10-for-13 from the field but struggled at the free throw line, going 0-for-4. KJ led the team with 20 points and added four rebounds, six assists, one block, and three turnovers.

4. Johnny Furphy

Johnny set the tone early, drilling two threes in the opening minutes. Johnny battled all night on both sides of the ball, playing 35 minutes and going 5-for-9 from the field. Johnny finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, and four turnovers.

5. Dajuan Harris

Dajuan played 36 minutes and battled on the defensive end of the floor. At times, he disappeared against the press and didn't go and get the ball as aggressively as he should have. Juan made several key plays down the stretch and finished 3-for-8 from the field as he let it fly from deep, although he made just 1-of-5 attempts from deep. Juan finished with 13 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and four turnovers.