Jayhawks get friendly late whistle to advance in March Madness with 93-89 victory over Samford

SALT LAKE CITY — Kansas got a kind whistle at the end and Nicolas Timberlake made both his free throws to help the Jayhawks hold off Samford for a 93-89 victory Thursday in the NCAA Tournament.

The 13th-seeded Bulldogs were trapping after trimming a 22-point deficit to one when Timberlake took a long pass as he was streaking toward the basket with 14.7 seconds left. He went to dunk and Samford’s A.J. Staton-McCray came from behind and blocked the shot, appearing to touch nothing but ball.

The whistle blew and Timberlake calmly made both free throws to help the fourth-seeded Jayhawks push the lead to three. They will play Gonzaga on Saturday in the second round of the Midwest Region, and if Timberlake thought there was any controversy, he wasn’t letting on.

“I was definitely fouled on the breakaway,” he said.

KJ Adams Jr. led the Jayhawks with 20 points. Timberlake finished with 19, as did Hunter Dickinson, who added 20 rebounds and four blocks.

Coach Bill Self’s team came into the tournament slumping — a popular pick to go down early without leading scorer Kevin McCullar Jr. (knee) and having lost four of its last five.

Samford trapped and pressed and wore down a KU rotation that had essentially been reduced to six players. Achor Achor had 23 points and eight rebounds, including a tomahawk jam with 38 seconds that cut Samford’s deficit to two.

Dickinson found Adams for a dunk, but Jaden Campbell (18 points) answered with a 3-pointer for the Bulldogs to set up the crazy finish.

Kansas, and the refs, walked off the court to lusty boos from the rowdy crowd from the tiny school in Birmingham that was seeking the program’s first NCAA victory.

The Jayhawks won this game, but they were forced to do it Samford’s way. The Bulldogs rushed Kansas into tying its season high with 18 turnovers.

The tradeoff was that Kansas shot 60% from the floor and made this look like a dunk contest at times. Of KU’s 35 field goals, 14 were layups and eight were dunks.

The biggest shot, though was the one that didn’t go in by Timberlake.


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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