LAWRENCE, Kan. – Jalen Wilson scored 21 points and No. 4 Kansas overcame a frigid performance from 3-point range to beat Harvard 68-54 on Thursday night.
The Jayhawks (11-1) went 4 for 20 from behind the arc, with no player besides Gradey Dick hitting one until Wilson made one with just over a minute remaining. Wilson scored 11 points in the final 6:24.
“I was not pleased with Jalen tonight,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He didn’t guard his man and he didn’t move the ball. He kind of stood. But he’s a stud. He closed the game out the way winners close games out. There’s 35 minutes of game that’s really important, but the last five matter more than anything else. He played like an All-American in the last five minutes.”
Kevin McCullar added 14 points and Dick had 11, going 3 for 7 behind the arc. KJ Adams had 10.
Wilson reached the 1,000-point plateau with his 16th point. He knew he needed to take charge late in the game.
“Down the stretch I was trying to be aggressive and attack the paint,” he said. “As a leader, I was not in a very good mood. They got way too comfortable shooting the ball. A lot of that was because of my defense. I felt like I owed it to my team to be as aggressive as I could to win the game.”
Chris Ledlum had 17 points for Harvard (8-5). Evan Nelson scored 10.
“I thought (Ledlum) was the best player in the game until the end,” Self said.
Kansas stretched the lead to 11 points early in the second half, but Harvard would not go away. The Crimson trailed by four points when Dajuan Harris stole an inbounds pass and fed it to Dick, who drained a 3-pointer.
The Crimson were 4 of 11 from behind the arc in the second half.
Wilson finally gave the Jayhawks a comfortable lead with a pair of buckets to extend the lead to 55-46. Then he blocked a dunk attempt by Ledlum.
“I thought (Harvard) played well,” Self said. “We had a couple of chances to stretch it out and deliver at least a standing-8 count, maybe not a knockout blow. But they responded every time.
“The key to having great seasons isn’t winning when you play great. It’s winning when you don’t play great. This team did exactly what it’s supposed to do on a night when they didn’t make shots.”
Harvard hung with Kansas through most of the first half. The score was tied at 20-all at the final media timeout of the first half. The Jayhawks did not hit a 3-point field goal until 2:20 remained in the first half, missing their first nine tries.
Dick, the Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer coming in with 15.8 points per game, didn’t score until hitting a pair of free throws at the 5:07 mark.
Neither team shot particularly well in the first half. Kansas raised their shooting percentage late to 44.8%. Harvard finished at 34.6%. At one stretch late in the half, each team missed eight out of nine shots.
Kansas concluded the half on a 16-3 run to take a 32-23 lead into the locker room. Harvard scored just six points in the final 10:13.
Harvard: The Crimson were not intimidated by the raucous crowd at Allen Fieldhouse. Every time Kansas stretched the lead, Harvard responded.
Kansas: Kansas will go as far as Jalen Wilson goes. A starter but not the star on last season’s national championship team, he is the leader in every way.
Harvard: The Crimson will conclude the non-conference portion of their schedule with a road contest at Maine on Wednesday before opening up Ivy League play on the road at Princeton on New Year’s Eve.
Kansas: The Jayhawks have nine days off before opening Big 12 action on New Year’s Eve with an afternoon game against Oklahoma State.