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KJ Adams’ max effort sparks KU basketball: ‘When I go home and sleep, I may pass out’

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has had several heart-to-heart talks with junior forward KJ Adams since Adams’ mom, Yvonne, died on Nov. 17 after a long fight against cancer.

“We’ve talked a lot about it. He says he hasn’t slept. Maybe he can finally sleep some now,” Self said after Adams scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting (6-of-10 from line) with seven rebounds, six assists and four steals in Tuesday night’s 88-69 victory over Kansas City at Allen Fieldhouse.

Adams returned to his hometown of Austin, Texas, for his mom’s funeral immediately after scoring 18 points and grabbing five rebounds with two assists, two blocks and a steal in Friday night’s 69-65 victory over UConn.

He returned to Lawrence on Monday and practiced one day before filling the stat sheet on Tuesday night versus Kansas City.

“Kevin was great,” Self said of senior guard Kevin McCullar, who had a career-high 25 points with six rebounds and five assists, “(but) there’s no doubt KJ was player of the game for us. His line is ridiculous, and that’s being scoreless with two minutes left in the first half.”

The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Adams scored two points with one rebound and four assists as KU led the Roos 44-30 after 20 minutes.

Adams obviously did most of his damage the final half, one in which he played 17 minutes after playing 16 minutes the initial half.

“He played to his strengths,” Self said. “He was physical. He played to his athletic ability. He was without question our best player in transition hands down. As far as bringing it and making plays for others, I thought he did a great job. That pass he made to Johnny (Furphy, 10 points, all the final half) late … that is pretty good for a 5-man last year making that play late in transition.”

Furphy scored a fast-break layup off an accurate pass from Adams to give KU an 83-67 lead with 2:10 left.

“Unbelievable, unbelievable. He’s been pretty good,” Self said of Adams. “The way they played Hunter (Dickinson, 14 points, 6-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds) KJ needed to score. They put a guy behind (Dickinson) and pushed him out which is a good strategy. (Adams) did stay connected with Hunter, That opened up KJ more.”

Of his 16 points in the second half, Adams said: “They started guarding Kevin and Hunter a little tighter. That opened a bunch of shots for me. When you have great players like that, a lot of openings come.”

Adams conceded that personally “of course I’ve been going through a lot, but just seeing all the happy faces around when I’m here, coach Self giving me love, my teammates and the support of Jayhawk nation, I feel I never get tired. When I go home and sleep I may pass out. Other than that, everybody keeps me uplifted and keeps me going.”

Of course he’s pleased KU won its eighth game against one loss Tuesday. No. 2-ranked KU survived strong shooting performances from Cameron Faas (5-of-7 from 3, 18 points), Khristion Courseault (2-for-4 on 3s, 18 points) and Anderson Kopp (15 points, six rebounds).

Kansas City (3-6) trailed by just eight points at the final TV timeout.

“Just calling it like it is, that’s a tired team out there playing,” Self said of the Jayhawks, who next meet Missouri at 4:15 p.m., Saturday, at Allen Fieldhouse.

“There’s four guys playing 37 minutes a game or 35 minutes a game. We have not developed five through eight or nine to the point where (they’re playing more),” Self said. “… The starters got us off to a great start. We had 22 points eight minutes into the game today. But you’ve got to sub. We lose momentum when we go to the bench right now.”

Freshman guard Furphy was great late, scoring seven points in the final 2:31.

“We did play well down the stretch,” Self added. “To me, Johnny looked like a player the second half.”