LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – Christian Braun scored 22 points, Ochai Agbaji added 16 and sixth-ranked Kansas rolled to a 88-61 victory over Nevada on Wednesday night in a hastily scheduled game after both teams had opponents drop out with COVID-19 problems.
The Jayhawks (10-1) were supposed to play Harvard before an outbreak forced the Crimson to cancel the trip early this week. The Wolf Pack (6-5) stepped in when their Mountain West opener against San Jose State had to be postponed because of positive tests within the Spartans’ program.
The result was the first meeting of the schools since Nevada dealt Kansas a rare Allen Fieldhouse loss in 2005.
The outcome was far different this time.
Dajuan Harris had a career-high 14 points and David McCormack also scored 14 for the Jayhawks, who slowly built a 39-17 halftime lead. They used a 12-0 run early in the second half to put the game away.
Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Grant Sherfield scored 16 points apiece to lead the Wolf Pack.
With all the scheduling changes this week, it wasn’t surprising that both teams were a bit discombobulated.
The Wolf Pack, hounded relentlessly by a Jayhawks defense that forced 20 turnovers in each of its past two games, nearly had that many in the first half alone Wednesday night. In fact, Nevada at one point had turned the ball over nearly as many times (14) as it had taken shots (18) before finishing with 21 turnovers for the game.
Not that the Jayhawks were a whole lot better. They had 10 turnovers at halftime and 14 in all.
Still, a hot start from Braun coupled with a big run over the final couple minutes – including a turnover by DeAndre Henry that turned into Agbaji’s windmill dunk – sent the Jayhawks into the locker room with a comfortable lead.
Kansas initially struggled to pull away, but it got some help from Wolf Pack coach Steve Alford, who was incensed that a foul wasn’t called when Sherfield scored a layup high off the glass. Both teams had already started back up the court when one of the officials blew his whistle and hit the third-year Nevada coach with a technical foul.
Braun hit both of the free throws, triggering a 10-0 run that included a 3-pointer from Harris and Abgaji’s back-to-back transition dunks. By the time Remy Martin curled in a 3-pointer, the lead had ballooned to 61-36 with 12 1/2 minutes to go.
Kansas coasted the rest of the way to its 24th straight nonconference home win.
Nevada never gave itself a chance with its turnovers. And when the Wolf Pack did set up in the half court, the Jayhawks dominated them in the paint. Kansas finished with a 46-14 scoring edge there and a 39-33 rebounding advantage.
Kansas scheduled the game after Harvard dropped out to to prevent a nearly two-week break before it was supposed to begin Big 12 play this weekend. The Jayhawks’ game at Colorado was canceled just hours before tipoff last week, which meant they hadn’t been on the floor since struggling to an 80-72 win over Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 18.
Nevada opens Mountain West play against New Mexico on Saturday. The Jayhawks return the same day against George Mason, which added to the schedule when their Big 12 opener against TCU was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols.