Dickinson draws late fouls, hits game-winner as KU rolls past TCU

Kansas center Hunter Dickinson (1) at Allen Fieldhouse, Jan. 6, 2024 delivers a dunk in the second half against TCU on Saturday. Photo by Nick Crook

One of Kansas men's basketball's most impressive streaks is still alive and well.

KU's Hunter Dickinson put the ball up between two defenders with 3.4 seconds left, TCU's Jameer Nelson Jr. got in a wild shot from beyond the arc as time expired, and the Jayhawks won their conference opener for the 33rd straight season. 83-81 score.

So KU opened its latest Big 12 Conference campaign with a win Saturday afternoon, but not before facing 26 lead changes and 11 ties against a fearsome Horned Frogs team looking for its second win at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks trailed 79-77 with a minute to go when former KU center Ernest Uday Jr., now wearing purple and white, knocked down Kevin McCuller Jr.'s errant inbounds pass. However, Ude hit Dickinson with his elbow in the act of defending. Ball, and Dickinson fell to the court. The umpires stopped the game after a few minutes and called the contact a flagrant foul on review.

“We can't say anything,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said, asked about the foul call. “We're not allowed … they said it the other day in a meeting without telling us anything.”

KU coach Bill Self, for his part, said it was “an obvious call, but it's unfortunate because it's accidental.”

“I thought Hunter sold it really well because if he hadn't, they wouldn't have stopped the play,” Self said.

Dickinson made two free throws and Dajuan Harris Jr. hit an off-balance shot on the ensuing possession to put KU ahead. Micah Peavy got a game-tying layup, but Dickinson answered with his final shot in the paint.

“I don't always have to brace my elbow to win a game for us,” Dickinson said. “But yeah, if that's what it takes to win, I'm all for the team, whatever that is.”

KJ Adams added 18 points and 10 boards as he finished with a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds.

Both were nearly outscored by TCU's Texas A&M-Corpus Christi transfer Trevian Dennison, who scored 19 of his season-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers in the second half.

“Trying to slow down a guy that hot like that is almost impossible,” Adams said, “but we still won the game, and that's all that matters.”

The ever-reliable Emanuel Miller added 20 for TCU, which forced 18 turnovers by the Jayhawks. As Self said, “Their best offense is our offense.”

“I think with athletic teams like TCU, they speed us up a lot, so not trying to slow down and force things, that's what's going to help it,” Adams said.

TCU outshot 40-28; Dixon said of the Jayhawks, “They beat us the whole game.”

The Horned Frogs got off to a flying start, playing at their desired pace at halftime, scoring two transition layups that resulted in an and-1 to Avery Anderson III. They countered KU's early success on the offensive glass with a pair of early 3s and led 11-9 at halftime.

The teams traded leads near the midway point of the first half, but McCuller (16 points on the day) led the KU charge with a physical drive for a three-point play, then a pinpoint pass for an Adams dunk that put the Jayhawks up. 21-16 by 11:48.

However, they had trouble pushing their advantage further due to a series of turnovers and needed two quick jumpers from an exceptional Dickinson, who had 18 points and six rebounds at the break, to keep the Horned Frogs at arm's length.

Two more dunks by Adams and a Dickinson 3 answered a hot stretch by TCU's Nelson on frantic possessions before the half. But Chuck O'Bannon Jr. blocked a McCuller layup between back-to-back baskets by Xavier Cork, and The Horned Frogs went up 38-37 to force a timeout by themselves.

McCuller drained a deep jumper with 21 seconds left in the period and Harris took a layup from Nelson to ensure KU went into halftime, but the red-hot Dickinson just missed the front end of a one-and-one. Hit the back rim on a last-second 3. However, KU led by one point at the interval.

TCU immediately took its biggest lead of the game in the second half on a Tennyson 3 and a pair of Miller free throws before Self paced his ineffective bench by ejecting all three freshmen in a minute and 26 seconds.

“We're all for someone else to step up,” Self said. “We're not going to win every game, four guys do all the scoring.”

Nick Timberlake looked the most effective of the three freshmen and briefly pushed KU back in transition before hitting a 3 from the wing. But Tennyson became practically unstoppable.

KU briefly led 70-67 and had a chance to extend its advantage before Peavy cut inside for a layup, drawing a foul from Harris down low to complete the three-point play.

Harris made two free throws and Dennison knocked down another 3 from the left wing to give TCU a one-point lead again.

The teams continued to trade errors and successful attempts at the line. Nelson rattled in a fadeaway jumper in the final moments of the shot clock to put TCU up 79-77 on the afternoon with 1:38 left.

With one league win under its belt, KU will travel to Orlando, Florida to face UCF on Wednesday at 6 p.m. Central Time.

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Written by Henry Greenstein

Henry Lawrence is a sports editor at the Journal-World and KUsports.com and serves as a KU beat writer while managing daily sports coverage. He previously worked as a sports reporter for the Bakersfield Californian and holds degrees from Washington University in St. Louis (BA, Linguistics) and Arizona State University (MA, Sports Journalism). Although a native of Los Angeles, it has often been said that he does not give off “California vibes”.

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