No. 8 Kansas dismantles No. 4 Houston's vaunted defense in statement win at Allen Fieldhouse

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. dunks on Houston in the first half. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

No. 4 Houston entered Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday armed with the nation's best defense.

No. 8 Kansas carved it to pieces. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 23-11 lead and didn't let up en route to a 43-28 edge at halftime. When it was over, Kansas had secured a 78-65 win to reset the landscape in the Big 12 and at the top of college basketball.

While Kansas ran roughshod on offense, Houston struggled to find the bottom of the net against a relentless Jayhawks defense in front of a hostile crowd that showed up ready for the top-10 clash.

It added up to a complete effort from Kansas that will demand notice when the NCAA tournament selection committee hands out seeding assignments in March.

Nation's No. 1 defense no match for Kansas

Houston started Saturday as the nation's top-ranked defense in traditional and advanced metrics. The Cougars allowed an NCAA-low 52.9 points per game en route to a 19-2 start. They ranked first by a healthy margin over second-place Tennessee in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing 84.7 points per 100 possessions.

The Cougars have held eight opponents under 50 points this season, including three below 40. Kansas had 43 at halftime.

The Jayhawks connected on 68% of their first-half field goals while hitting half (4 of 8) of their 3-point attempts. Freshman forward Johnny Furphy paced the Jayhawks at halftime with 14 points while hitting all five of his first-half field-goal attempts. He connected from inside and out.

L.J. Cryer did his best to get the Cougars back into the game, sparking a 10-2 second-half run with eight straight points of his own to cut the Kansas lead to 60-48. But it was too little, too late. Houston never got within single digits.

When it was over, the Jayhawks had shot 68.9% from the field and 46.2% (6 of 13) from 3-point distance. They recorded 20 assists on 31 made field goals and dominated the rebounding margin, 40-24. Only 18 Kansas turnovers made the score as close as it was.

Four KU players scored in double digits, led by 20 points and eight rebounds from Hunter Dickinson. Furphy finished with 17 points and eight rebounds while Kevin McCullar Jr. tallied 17 points and seven rebounds on a 7-of-8 shooting effort.

Houston, meanwhile, shot 36.2% from the field and 31% (9 of 30) from 3-point distance on a rough day from the floor. The Cougars maintained control of the ball while committing just three turnovers and secured 24 more field-goal attempts (69-45) than Kansas. But the Jayhawks secured a 31-25 edge in made field goals. Cryer led the Houston effort with 24 points and three assists while shooting 9 of 20 from the field.

The Jayhawks and Cougars will meet again in Houston on March 9.