KU’s Kevin McCullar scored 20 points in return from injury. Here’s how he felt after

It was a simple decision for Kansas senior guard Kevin McCullar to return to action for just the second time in six games Saturday at Baylor.

“It’s just (me) feeling better overall. I’ve been busting my butt in treatment every day — five or six hours a day — just being in there grinding,” McCullar said after scoring 20 points on 9-of-19 shooting in the Jayhawks’ 82-74 men’s basketball loss to the Bears at Foster Pavilion.

“It’s just a blessing to be back with my brothers,” McCullar added after grabbing five rebounds with two assists, two steals and three turnovers in 31 minutes.

A bone bruise in his left knee kept him from playing in a recent home win over Baylor, a road loss to Texas Tech, a home win over Texas and home loss to BYU.

“It felt good,” McCullar said of his knee, reiterating his joy at being “back out there with my brothers. It was fun to get out there and compete with them.”

KU coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks fell to 2-6 in Big 12 road games with one road game left Saturday at Houston, explained the reasoning behind McCullar’s return.

“He’s been practicing the last two days. He’s felt good. I don’t think he had much pain obviously,” Self said. “His explosiveness and rhythm were a little bit off.

“I thought he did great considering he missed that amount of time. He had two blowouts on layups that certainly would have been two more baskets. I thought he did very well.”

McCullar missed an inside shot with 3:26 left and KU down 72-65. He also scored four points sandwiched around a Baylor bucket, cutting a game high deficit of 13 points to 75-69 at 2:12.

“It was a game of runs,” McCullar said.

A 16-4 BU run in fact turned a 44-44 tie into a 60-48 lead for the Bears.

“When you get on the road you have to limit runs for the home team,” McCullar continued. “We gave them some easy buckets. We’ve definitely got to guard better. I thought we did a good job the first half being aggressive (in trailing 35-34 at the break). The second half we let our guard down a bit (being outscored 47-40).”

KU guard Dajuan Harris, who scored 12 points with nine assists and three steals, pointed to that BU surge as being the difference.

“You need to get stops,” Harris said after a game in which the Bears hit 55.6% of their shots to KU’s similar 55.2% mark. Baylor was 7-of-17 from 3; KU 4-of-13 with McCullar going 0-for-5 and Elmarko Jackson 2-of-2.

Jackson, a freshman, scored eight points.

“At their home court they are a very good team. We’ve got to get better this week coming up. We’ve got to be better on defense, keep that intensity up,” Harris stated.

Of the 3-point discrepancy (BU hit three more than KU), McCullar said: “They shot the ball very well. It wasn’t a big difference but we’ve definitely got to guard the ball better. Today we let a couple guys get going for easy shots off good looks. We’ve got to eliminate those.”

BU’s RayJ Dennis scored 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting. He hit 4-of-5 free throws and his only 3. Jayden Nunn hit three 3s in three tries and scored 18 points. Big man Yves Missi had 17 points and five rebounds.

The Jayhawks, who trailed by just four with two minutes left, gave up four quick points ending any hope of a wild comeback win.

“Got to learn from it,” McCullar said, indicating the focus was on the next two games, against Kansas State on Tuesday at home (8 p.m.) and at Houston Saturday in a 3 p.m. tip.

KU did suffer an injury Saturday. Reserve Parker Braun suffered an ankle injury late in the first half.

“He turned his ankle and I wasn’t going to play him (after that). They told me he got it pretty good. Hopefully he’ll be ready for Tuesday,” Self said.

The No. 7-ranked Jayhawks fell to 21-8 overall and 9-7 in the league (No. 15 BU is 21-8, 10-6).

“Our goal hasn’t changed at all,” McCullar said. “We’re just trying to win the next game down the line, get ready for every game we go out there, play harder with a little more energy, just come together.”