Dickinson draws late flagrant foul, hits game-winner as KU slips past TCU

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

One of Kansas men’s basketball’s most impressive streaks is still alive.

KU’s Hunter Dickinson laid the ball up and in from between two defenders with 3.4 seconds left, TCU’s Jameer Nelson Jr. came up short on a wild shot from beyond the arc as time expired and the Jayhawks won their conference opener, for the 33rd consecutive season, by a score of 83-81.

Thus KU opened its latest Big 12 Conference campaign with a win Saturday afternoon, but not before weathering 26 lead changes and 11 ties against a feisty Horned Frogs squad that was looking for its second straight victory at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks trailed 79-77 with a minute to go when former KU center Ernest Udeh Jr., now wearing purple and white, knocked down an errant entry pass by Kevin McCullar Jr. However, Udeh hit Dickinson with his elbow in the process of securing the ball, and Dickinson fell onto the court. The referees stopped the game moments later and called the contact a flagrant foul upon review.

“We can’t say anything,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said postgame, asked about the foul call. “We’re not allowed to … They said it to us the other day in a meeting to say nothing.”

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

“I thought Hunter sold it well, because if he hadn’t sold it, 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 and break a dry spell of nearly six minutes without a field goal. Micah Peavy got a game-tying putback, but Dickinson answered it with his final shot in the paint.

“Hopefully I don’t always have to get elbowed to try to win us a game,” Dickinson said. “But yeah, if that’s what it takes to win, I’m all for the team, whatever it takes.”

He finished with a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds as KJ Adams added 18 points and 10 boards for his first career double-double.

Both were almost outshone by TCU’s Texas A&M-Corpus Christi transfer Trevian Tennyson, who got 19 of his season-high 24 points, including five 3-pointers, in the second half.

“Trying to slow down a guy like that that’s hot like that is nearly impossible,” Adams said, “but we still won the game so that (is) all that really matters.”

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

TCU did get outrebounded 40-28 to essentially offset that advantage; Dixon said of the Jayhawks, “They knocked us all over the place the entire game.”

The Horned Frogs got off to a flying start, playing at their desired pace on the break and scoring a couple of transition layups, one resulting in an and-1 for Avery Anderson III. They also countered KU’s early success on the offensive glass with a pair of early 3s and led 11-9 at the first timeout.

The teams traded leads as the midway point of the first half approached, but McCullar (16 points on the day) led a 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 with 11:48 to go.

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

Two more dunks by Adams and a 3 from Dickinson answered a hot stretch by TCU’s Nelson on a frenetic series of possessions ahead of the half. But Chuck O’Bannon Jr. blocked a layup from McCullar in between back-to-back baskets by Xavier Cork and the Horned Frogs went up 38-37 to force a timeout by Self.

McCullar drained a deep jumper with 21 seconds left in the period and Harris took a charge from Nelson to ensure KU would enter the break ahead, but the red-hot Dickinson, who had just missed the front end of a one-and-one, hit the back rim on a last-second 3. Still, KU led by one point at the interval.

TCU took its largest lead of the game almost immediately in the second half on a 3 by Tennyson and a pair of Miller free throws, as Self rapidly cycled through his ineffective bench by subbing out all three freshmen in the span of one minute and 26 seconds.

“We’re all for somebody else stepping up,” Self said. “We’re not going to win all our games with four guys doing all the scoring.”

Nick Timberlake looked more effective than all three freshmen and put KU back ahead briefly on a transition layup before making a 3 from the wing. But Tennyson became practically unstoppable, hitting thrice more from beyond the arc and once on a baseline jumper to nearly singlehandedly sustain TCU midway through the half.

KU briefly led 70-67 and even had a chance to extend its advantage before Peavy cut inside for a layup, took a foul from Harris underneath and completed a three-point play.

Harris made two free throws before Tennyson drained yet another 3 from the left wing, falling away, to give TCU a one-point lead once again.

The teams continued to trade fouls and successful efforts at the line. Nelson rattled in a fadeaway jumper in the final moments of the shot clock to give TCU its final lead of the afternoon 79-77 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.

Box score

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