Coach Bill Self walked over to ESPN reporter Holly Rowe as the first-half buzzer sounded. The previous 20 minutes were not what he had hoped for, but nonetheless, it was a one possession game against the fourth-ranked team in the country. Despite coughing the ball up 18 times, Kansas men’s basketball found itself within three points entering the break.
Disgusted with the performance, Self readied for his nationally broadcasted interview.
“Yeah, we were awful,” Self said. “We're lucky we're only down three. We had poor guard play, poor big play. It's still a one-possession game, but that certainly wasn't what I thought we'd play like in the first half."
Not only were the Jayhawks struggling to keep possession, the forced errors and poor free-throw shooting prevented any kind of rhythm on the offensive side. However, Duke failed to make Kansas truly pay for it. Unable to capitalize off the Jayhawks’ barrage of miscues, the Blue Devils allowed Kansas to hang around.
To open the second half, the turnover troubles seemed to be behind them. As a result, the Jayhawks managed to open up a sizable lead on the back of a 14-0 run to boost the advantage to nine. During that stretch, Kansas did not commit a single turnover. But just as things were trending upwards, one possession reverted the offense back to its first-half ways.
Driving baseline, freshman forward Tristan Enaruna forced an off-balance pass to the opposite corner. That ball, however, was picked off and brought down on the other end for Duke. Enaruna’s turnover was followed up by two more Jayhawk turnovers from sophomore guards Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji, pushing the total to 21 in the game. The Kansas backcourt tallied 13 of the 28 turnovers on the evening.
The nine-point lead that was constructed in the opening minutes of the second half suddenly began dwindling. At the 9:09 mark, the Blue Devils reclaimed the lead at 53-52.
Surprisingly, as the turnovers continued to mount, the Jayhawks traded buckets with the Blue Devils in the final minutes of action. Trailing 64-63 with 46 seconds left to play, Kansas would have an opportunity to grind out a season-opening victory with all the issues that transpired.
Hoping to score in a two-for-one scenario, the ball was dumped inside to sophomore forward David McCormack, who had contributed six points on 13 rebounds already. As the 6-foot-10 forward pivoted towards the baseline, senior center Udoka Azubuike opened up under the goal. Attempting to hit the Nigeria native for the go-ahead bucket, McCormack's bounce pass was a second too late and Duke senior forward Jack White jumped in front for the steal.
The turnover would mark the 28th in the game. Though a staggering total, it would not break the record held at Kansas. In an 85-72 victory over Xavier in the opening round of the 1988 NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks committed 30 turnovers. Former Kansas forward Danny Manning had five of them. His front-court teammate, then-senior forward Chris Piper, had eight turnovers.
If there was any silver lining in Kansas’ 68-66 loss to No. 4 Duke, perhaps it's exactly that — the final score. In a game that the Jayhawks turned it over 28 times and shot 61.5% from the foul line, they still had the chance to erase it all with a win. Although, Kansas did manage to out-rebound Duke 40-30 and hold the Blue Devils to 35.9% shooting from the field in the loss.
Up next, the Jayhawks will host UNC Greensboro for its first regular-season game at Allen Fieldhouse in the 2019-20 season. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m on Friday.