Kansas holds on as late foul call hinders Samford’s upset bid at NCAA Tournament



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SALT LAKE CITY — Kansas survived an upset bid no one will soon forget, coming in the form of a Samford team and coach that left the court drained and dejected.

A controversial late foul call on what appeared to be a clean block by Samford’s A.J. Staton-McCray with 14.7 seconds left will forever stay with the Bulldogs. They trailed by one at the time and allowed a run-out against coach Bucky McMillan’s patented pressing defense. Kansas guard Nicolas Timberlake went up for an open layup but was met at the rim by Staton-McCray. The foul call resulted in two free throws and a four-point Kansas lead.

“I thought AJ made an incredible play on it,” McMillan said after the game. “I’m not faulting the call. People can see it different ways.”

Kansas coach Bill Self praised Timberlake saying that he “attacked the basket well.” As for Staton-McCray, he didn’t know if it was a clean block.

“Clean block? I dunno,” Staton-McCray said shrugging. “I don’t know what more I could’ve done in that situation. But, you know, the chips fall where they fall.”

Samford, having come back from a 22-point second-half deficit, couldn’t close the gap all the way. The fourth-seeded Jayhawks survived, 93-89, to advance to a second-round date with Gonzaga.

While the controversial call will get the attention, both teams deserve loads of credit. Kansas encountered the brand of game known as Bucky Ball — McMillan’s swarming, pressing, running, 3-point shooting style — and executed enough to stay alive. The Jayhawks shot 60.3 percent from the field, mostly on dunks and layups. They scored 93 points while making only six 3s. They were dicey all night from the free-throw line, going 17 for 27, but made enough in the closing minutes.

Hunter Dickinson was overwhelming. The senior center scored 19 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, handed out five assists and blocked four shots. KJ Adams added 20, while all five KU starters scored in double figures.

Samford, meanwhile, left nothing in the tank. The pressing defense forced Kansas into 18 turnovers, matching its season high, and the Bulldogs made 16 of 37 3s. Achor Achor led Samford with 23 points, including a one-handed dunk in the closing minute that sent Delta Center into a frenzy. Jaden Campbell added 18.

Samford’s style, its grit and the potential of a blue-blood upset turned Salt Lake City into a western Homewood, Ala. The environment went from sleepy to unhinged in a matter of about 15 minutes as the Bulldogs made their late push.

Kansas and Gonzaga will be a premier matchup in the second round, lining up two schools with a combined 36 Sweet 16 appearances.

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(Photo: Rob Gray / USA Today)





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