CHICAGO, Ill. (AP) — Hunter Dickinson had a game-high 27 points and a career-high 21 rebounds as No. 1 Kansas overcame a 14-point second half deficit to beat No. 17 Kentucky 89-84 in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night at the United Center.
“What he does is he takes pressure off everybody else by having everybody else focused on him,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “So that’s a big bonus.”
Kevin McCullar Jr. finished with a triple-double of 12 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists for the third official triple-double in Kansas history and the first since Jeff Withey on Nov. 26, 2012.
Dajuan Harris Jr. added a career-high 23 points for the Jayhawks, while KJ Adams Jr. scored 16 points.
Kansas (3-0) closed the game on an 11-1 run. Harris opened the decisive stretch with a 3-pointer and two foul shots. Dickinson then put the Jayhawks in front for good with two free throws that made it 85-83 with 2:04 to go.
Kentucky (2-1) had a couple chances to tie the game in the final 1:02, but it came up empty each time. After Reed Sheppard missed a 3-point with 6 seconds left, Jamari McDowell made two foul shots to help close it out for the Jayhawks.
Antonio Reeves scored 24 points for Kentucky, but he went 3-of-17 from 3-point range. Adou Thiero finished with 16 points and 13 boards.
Rob Dillingham, a part of another stellar group of freshmen for the Wildcats, scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half. He was whistled for his fourth foul midway through the second half and eventually fouled out.
It was Kansas’ first game in Chicago since it stopped in the Windy City on its way to the 2022 NCAA championship. The Jayhawks beat Miami 76-50 in the Midwest Region final at the United Center that year.
Kansas had a 25-21 lead before Dillingham began to take over. The flashy freshman made 3-pointers on four straight Kentucky possessions and then dished to Reeves for another 3, giving the Wildcats a 36-30 lead with 4:37 left in the first half.
The Jayhawks were staring at a double-digit halftime deficit before Dickinson hit two foul shots and a 3, making it 48-41 at the break. Dickinson had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the first half.
BIG PICTUREKansas: While Dickinson had a big night, it’s clear the Jayhawks have some work to do when it comes to getting used to each other. They finished with 14 turnovers, and a couple of them occurred when they tried to force the ball inside to their new center.
Kentucky: It was the first big test for the new kids on the Wildcats, and there was a lot to like. They had just eight turnovers. If Calipari can teach them how to finish close games, they could be in line for a big season.
UP NEXTKansas: Plays Chaminade in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday night.
Kentucky: Hosts Stonehill on Friday night.