Hunter Dickinson, No. 1 Kansas fend off No. 17 Kentucky to grab tight win in Chicago

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Nov 14, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Kansas Jayhawks center Hunter Dickinson (1) dunks against the Kentucky Wildcats during the first half at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While John Calipari’s group had a few incredible runs on Tuesday night in Chicago, they just couldn’t get past Hunter Dickinson and the top-ranked Jayhawks down the stretch.

No. 1 Kansas, despite falling into a 14-point hole in the second half, came storming back late at the United Center to beat No. 17 Kentucky 89-84 in the second game of the State Farm Champions Classic.

Dickinson, who transferred into Lawrence from Michigan last season, dropped 27 points and had 21 rebounds in the win. There was seemingly nothing that the Wildcats could do to stop him inside. He hit a huge contested layup in the final minute to push the Jayhawks ahead by three, and then Kansas came up with one last defensive stand in the final seconds to grab the five-point win.

“That’s why they brought me here, to try to dominate the game .. .This is Kansas basketball,” Dickinson said on ESPN after the win. “When you’ve got the most wins in NCAA history, you find ways to win. That’s what we did tonight.”

Kentucky, after opening the game in an 11-3 hole, came storming back behind an incredible performance from Rob Dillingham. The freshman guard came in and dropped 16 of his 18 points in the first 20 minutes off the bench. He made four 3-pointers in a row late in the second half and then assisted on a fifth, which helped push them to an 11-point lead.

Dickinson, however, limited the damage in the final 20 seconds of the first half. After hitting a pair of free throws, he drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer from the top of the key after a bad Dillingham turnover to cut the Wildcats’ lead to just seven points. Dickinson had a double-double entering the locker room.

While Kentucky pushed its lead to 14 briefly in the second half, the Jayhawks finally turned it on after Dickinson powered through a huge and-one putback in the paint. That sparked a 7-0 run, which was capped by a wild dunk from K.J. Adams after a perfect pass from Kevin McCullar on the break. That suddenly brought the Jayhawks within just four points, and completely swung the momentum their way.

Just moments later, McCullar converted an and-one to give Kansas a 3-point lead in what had become a 16-2 run.

Yet Kentucky never went away. They built up a five-point lead once again, but Dajuan Harris hit a pair of wide open 3-pointers, and then he and Dickinson hit a pair of free throws each for a 7-0 run to grab the lead right back. That’s what led to Dickinson’s last bucket and the Jayhawks’ final stop.

Harris finished with a career-high 23 points and seven rebounds for Kansas, and McCullar had a triple-double with 12 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. Dickinson is the first player with 20 points and 20 rebounds against Kentucky over the last 25 seasons, according to ESPN. He’s also the first player in Champions Classic history with such a statline.

Antonio Reaves led Kentucky with 24 points and eight rebounds, and Adou Thiero added 16 points and 13 rebounds. Reed Sehppard put up 13 points off the bench, too. While they made nine 3-pointers in the first half, the Wildcats added just three in the second 20 minutes.

This post will be updated with more information shortly.

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