Published on March 22, 2024 by Joey Mullins  
Shooting Three

The 13th-seeded Samford men's basketball team nearly erased a 22-point second-half deficit before eventually falling to fourth-seeded Kansas, 93-89, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday evening in the Delta Center.

"This was a great game," Samford head coach Bucky McMillan said. "We kind of knew what it would be. They'd be trying to impose their will on the inside, and we'd obviously try to space and play fast and make threes. I had no doubt if we could get it to single digits, in my mind, under the 10-minute mark, I thought we would win. We've kind of been in these spots before where we'd have big come backs and we have the juice at the end of the game, and I thought we had it. A play here, a play there, it could be different."

The NCAA Tournament appearance was just the third in school history and the first since 2000. Samford ended its season with a record of 29-6, setting a school record for most wins in a season. The Bulldogs also won the program's first outright Southern Conference regular season championship and first SoCon Tournament title. Kansas improved to 23-10 with the win, and advanced to take on Gonzaga in Saturday's second round.

Samford was led in the loss by Achor Achor with 23 points and eight rebounds. Jaden Campbell scored 18 points, while Riley Allenspach added 15 points. Rylan Jones, while playing in his hometown, scored nine points and tied a career high with nine assists.

Kansas was led in scoring by K.J. Adams with 20 points. Hunter Dickinson tallied 19 points and 20 rebounds. Nicolas Timberlake had 19 points, Johnny Furphy had 16 points and Dajuan Harris added 13 points for the Jayhwawks.

After trailing by 22 points in the second half, Samford cut the lead to just one point at 79-78 and again at 90-89. Timberlake, however, made two late free throws with 14 seconds left and Furphy made one with one second to go to help Kansas pull put the 93-89 win.

With Kansas leading, 8-7 early, the Jayhawks went on an 8-0 run to push their lead to 16-7 with 15:45 left in the first half following a free throw by Dickinson. Kansas extended its lead to 11 points at 24-13 at the 12:47 mark in the first half after a layup by Dickinson. Samford closed to within seven points at 28-21 with 10:17 to go in the first half after a free throw by Josh Holloway.

Kansas then went on a 10-1 run to push its lead to 16 points at 38-22 with 7:32 to go in the first half after a pair of free throws by Harris. Samford answered with a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 10 points at 38-28 with 4:40 left in the opening half following a dunk by Achor. The Bulldogs closed to within eight points 44-36 with 1:23 to go in the half after a three-pointer by Garrett Hicks. Kansas took a 48-38 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Kansas opened the second half with a 15-3 run to push its lead to 22 points at 63-41 with 16:55 to go after a dunk by Adams. Samford fought back to cut the lead to 13 points at 67-54 with 13:25 remaining following a three-pointer by Allenspach.

The Bulldogs closed to within single digits for the first time in the second half at eight points at 75-67 with 9:04 left after a driving layup by A.J. Staton-McCray. Samford cut the lead to one point at 79-78 with 5:14 to go on a layup by Jones. Kansas pushed the lead back out to seven points at 86-79 with 2:52 left.

With Kansas leading, 88-81, Samford went on an 8-2 run to cut the lead to one point again at 90-89 with 20 seconds to go on a three-pointer by Campbell. Samford, however, could not convert the rest of the way and the late Kansas free throws allowed the Jayhawks to hold on for the 93-89 win.

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Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.