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A stat stuffer, a surging freshman & another Dickinson double-double

6 min read

Every week we take a look back at the performances by KU athletes that were above and beyond.

From football to volleyball, cross-country, and all across the athletic department, we'll break down the best of the best in the world of Kansas athletics.

Performance #1: Graduate guard Kevin McCullar Jr.

Background: Dec. 5 against Kansas City

What happened: After coming up with a narrow four-point victory against the No. 4 UConn Huskies, the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks took on the Kansas City Roos, and Kevin McCullar Jr stole the show in a 88-69 victory over the Roos.

McCullar got on the scoreboard quickly, making the opening jumper just 38 seconds in the game. He wouldn’t stop there as he drained a three-point shot to put Kansas up three points just 2:11 minutes into the game.

In fact, McCullar scored 10 of the Jayhawks’ first 12 points in the game, converting both of his three-point attempts early in the game. McCullar finished with a new career-high 25 points on a very efficient 9-13 shooting from the floor, splashing both of his threes in the game.

As he does night-in-night-out, McCullar stuffed the stat sheet with five assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block while also shooting 100% from the free throw line. The San Antonio, Texas native gave it his all in a career-high scoring night, leading KU to victory in Allen Fieldhouse.

Why it’s so great: This wasn’t the first time McCullar had a career night this season, however. McCullar tied his previous career-high of 24 points in one of KU’s biggest games of the season against the Marquette Golden Eagles in the Maui Invitational back on Nov. 21.

He finished shooting 64.3% from the floor, draining two three-pointers and adding eight rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal on the night in the eventual 73-59 loss to Marquette.

The Texas Tech transfer finished with back-to-back triple-doubles the previous two games prior, becoming the first Kansas Jayhawk to record consecutive triple-doubles in program history. McCullar has continued to write his name in the record books with both personal records and program records all season long.

McCullar is second on the team in points per game, assists per game and rebounds per game, doing it all for KU each and every game. Kansas will hit the road to take on the Indiana Hoosiers in its next game on Dec. 16 at 11:30 a.m.

Kansas guard Kevin McCullar Jr. fires away from the outside in the Jayhawks' win over Kansas City at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

Performance #2: Freshman guard S’Mya Nichols

Background: Dec. 6 against Houston Christian and Dec. 10 against Wichita State

What happened: After losing to Texas A&M back on Dec. 3, the Jayhawks picked themselves back up with two straight wins against the Houston Christian Huskies and the Wichita State Shockers. S’Mya Nichols proved to be a difference maker in both of those games as she led the charge to improve KU’s record to 5-4 on the year.

On Dec. 6, Nichols made her impact felt all game long. Nichols finished with a career-high 20 points and a team-high four assists in the game, leading Kansas to the 79-57 victory to put the Jayhawks back to 4-4.

She shot a very efficient 8-14 from the floor and 2-5 from the three-point line, grabbed four boards and ended with a +/- of +16 in her 24 minutes on the floor in a memorable night for the freshman guard. However, Nichols' game against the Huskies quickly went into the rear view as she had yet another career night against the Shockers.

Kansas traveled on the road to take on the in-state rival Shockers on Dec. 10, and Nichols’ performance didn’t disappoint. She ended the game with a career-high 23 points on a career-high 10 field goals made, making 83.3% of her shots on the day.

Nichols four assists, a steal and a rebound in 33 minutes of play in the Jayhawks’ 76-56 win. The Overland Park native made 10 shots in the game, accounting for 33.3% of Kansas’ made baskets in the entire game.

Why it’s so great: Nichols has been balling for the Jayhawks all season long. She’s averaging 14.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, shooting 50% from the field and 44.4% from behind the arc in 28.8 minutes per game so in nine games played.

Nichols has been huge for Kansas so far this season, with the Jayhawks record sitting at just 5-4 on the year, with tough losses to teams such as Virginia Tech and UConn both ranked inside the AP Top-10. Nichols has played and started in all nine of KU’s games this season and leads the entire team in scoring and free throws made on a team with multiple five-year veterans.

Nichols has quickly made a name for herself, and her teammates have taken notice already. Super-senior center Taiyanna Jackson talked about just how special Nichols has proven to be so early in her career as a Jayhawk.

“I love playing with S’Mya," Jackson said. "She plays with so much poise, she's so comfortable. It's just like not your normal freshman that you see. She adjusted to playing with us and Brandon’s (Schneider) system real fast.”

Nichols and the Jayhawks will look to pick up another win against the Central Arkansas Bears at home on Dec. 16 at 4 p.m.

Kansas big man Hunter Dickinson defends a Missouri player during the Border War clash at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 9, 2023. [Chance Parker photo]

Performance #3: Senior center Hunter Dickinson

Background: Dec. 9 against Missouri

What happened: The Missouri Tigers got off to a hot start against Kansas during the Border Showdown, jumping out to a 15-6 scoring run in Allen Fieldhouse. That lead was short lived as Hunter Dickinson and the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks quickly turned the tide to retake the lead.

Kansas went on a 35-14 run to end the first half up 12 points, and the Jayhawks never looked back. KU led by as much as 18 points midway through the second half and took down the Tigers 73-64 for its ninth win of the season.

Despite only shooting nine shots in the game, Dickinson dominated the interior all night long. He ended his night with yet another double-double with 13 points and 16 rebounds, converting 66.6% of his shot attempts.

With McCullar and junior forward KJ Adams’ 17-point scoring performances, the Jayhawks overcame an early nine-point deficit and fought back to take down Mizzou.

Why it’s so great: The Michigan transfer has already had a tremendous impact on the KU roster. Dickinson recorded his sixth double-double of the season in 10 games played, coming up clutch when the team needed it most.

Dickinson already has four games this season scoring over 20 points, with two games pulling down 20 or more rebounds as well. This season marked the only games of Dickinson’s career that he’s ever recorded 20 or more rebounds in a game, doing it twice in just ten games with the Jayhawks.

Dickinson played in his first ever Border Showdown against Missouri, and he knew just how much the rivalry meant to the Kansas fans in the crowd, playing in his own rivalry games back at Michigan.

“It was definitely a little different coming in having this be my first time," Dickinson said of the KU-MU rivalry. "I just tried to treat it like the Michigan State rivalry with Michigan when I was there. I tried to just get my mind in that mindset because the people here really don't like the people in Missouri. So it was fun. I thought it made for a great atmosphere and a really competitive basketball game.”

Dickinson and the Jayhawks take on the Indiana Hoosiers in their next contest on Dec. 16 at 11:30 a.m.

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