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Bean's back, volleyball rolls on & big man Hunter Dickinson goes nuts

Two individual Jayhawks stuff the stat sheet & the KU volleyball team achieves a season-long goal

7 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.

Kansas QB Jason Bean takes the field for the Jayhawks' final home game of the 2023 season. [Chance Parker photo]

Performance #1: Jason Bean

Background: Redshirt-senior quarterback Jason Bean against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Nov. 25

What happened: The Kansas Jayhawks squared off with Cincinnati in their final regular season game on Nov. 25. Jason Bean started in his first game since leaving with an injury against the Texas Tech Red Raiders back on Nov. 11, and proved how important he is to the KU offense.

Down 3-0 after the Bearcats’ opening drive, Bean answered with a five-play, 77-yard touchdown drive to put Kansas in the lead. The score came after junior cornerback Cobee Bryant’s spectacular one-handed interception early in the second quarter, setting the Jayhawks up for a quick touchdown.

After a three-and-out from Cincinnati, Bean found junior tight end Jared Casey in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown reception, capping off another five-play scoring drive that took just 2:22 minutes of play. Kansas quickly saw itself up 14-3 with just over five minutes remaining in the first half.

The Bearcats responded with a touchdown drive of their own, leaving the Jayhawks with just 22 seconds left in the half with a four-point lead. 22 seconds proved to be too much time for Bean and the Jayhawks as Bean completed two passes for 56 yards, finishing with a 26-yard touchdown catch from senior tight end Mason Fairchild.

Kansas led 21-10 at halftime, and the offense didn’t slow down there.

The Jayhawks scored four more touchdowns in the second half, including two touchdown runs of 43 yards and 50 yards from Bean himself. KU capped off a 49-16 win over a Big 12 Conference opponent, pushing the Jayhawks to 8-4 for the season.

Why it’s so great: Bean showed out for the Jayhawks in his final regular season contest in a KU uniform.

Bean stuffed the stat sheet all night long, completing 13-17 pass attempts for 250 yards and two touchdown passes. The Mansfield, Texas native was effective with his legs as well, racking up 90 yards on the ground along with two rushing touchdowns, ending with four for the game.

Bean had just 169 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown before Saturday’s game, but after running wild against Cincinnati, Bean finished the season with 259 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

With KU’s win against the Bearcats, the Jayhawks secured an eight-win season, their first since 2008 and the 15th eight-win season in program history. Kansas cements itself with a bowl game in the postseason, its second bowl appearance in back-to-back seasons.

In his third and final season with Kansas, Bean finished the year with 1,681 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Despite the recent injury that kept him sidelined for over a game, Bean showed how impactful he can be to these bowl-bound Jayhawks.

This season marks the second time the Jayhawks had consecutive seasons with a bowl appearance, the other being the 2007-2008 seasons. Kansas looks ahead to the postseason and will hear its bowl destination on Dec. 3.

The Kansas volleyball team had a big week last week and faces an even bigger week ahead as one of the hosts of first- and second-round NCAA Tournament matches on Thursday and Friday at Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena. [Chance Parker photo]

Performance #2: Kansas Volleyball

Background: No. 15 Kansas against the UCF Golden Knights on Nov. 25

What happened: Kansas held a Senior Night celebration for its seniors on Nov. 25 against UCF, celebrating super-senior Kennedy Farris, seniors Molly Schultz and Kim Whetstone, graduates Reagan Cooper and Mykayla Myers, and redshirt-junior Kaiti Parks.

The Jayhawks’ final home game was played in front of a sold-out crowd, and Kansas did not disappoint. KU took down the Golden Knights 3-1 after four hard-fought sets, all decided by four points or fewer.

Cooper continued to impress on the offensive end in front of the home crowd, along with junior outside hitter Ayah Elnady. Cooper and Elnady combined for 44 kills, ending with hitting percentages of .462 and .392 respectively.

UCF managed to extend the match past three sets, becoming just the fourth team to do so in 15 matches inside Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena. Kansas improved to 14-1 at home to close out the regular season and finished with a 9-0 home record against Big 12 Conference opponents.

Why it’s so great: Kansas finished the match outhitting the Golden Knights with a .310 hitting percentage despite ending with eight fewer kills than UCF. The Jayhawks racked up 11 blocks as a team, with Myers totaling seven total blocks herself. Elnady finished with 24 kills to lead the match, while Cooper trailed right behind with 20 of her own. Junior opposite hitter London Davis added nine kills, with three other players recording two kills.

KU finished its regular season with a 23-5 record with a 14-4 in-conference record. Kansas finished second in the Big 12 standings, their best finish since winning the Big 12 title back in 2016.

The Jayhawks finished their season ranked No. 15 in the AVCA rankings after picking up five straight Big 12 victories, including a home sweep against the Baylor Bears and a road win against the BYU Cougars.

During Selection Sunday, Kansas received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the Jayhawks now will host the first two rounds of the tournament. KU takes on Omaha in the first round of the tournament on Thursday at 7 p.m.

“It will be a really competitive group of four teams and we are looking forward to it being on our home floor,” said head coach Ray Bechard.

The Jayhawks received a plethora of awards following Selection Sunday, as Bechard won Big 12 Coach of the Year, his fifth of his career with Kansas. Junior setter Camryn Turner won Big 12 Setter of the Year, as well as First Team All-Big 12, with Elnady and Cooper also being named to the First Team squad.

Cooper received a unanimous First Team selection, while Davis earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors, and freshman libero Raegan Burns was named to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team.

KU big man Hunter Dickinson dives to the basket during the Jayhawks' win over Eastern Illinois on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

Performance #3: Hunter Dickinson (x2)

Background: Senior center Hunter Dickinson against the Tennessee Volunteers and Eastern Illinois on Nov. 22 and Nov. 28

What happened: After a 73-59 loss to the Marquette Golden Eagles in the Maui Invitational, No. 5 Kansas faced a quick turnaround, playing then-No. 17 Tennessee the following day. The Jayhawks answered the call, finishing third in the tournament after defeating Tennessee 69-60.

KU capped off the tournament with a win in large part due to Hunter Dickinson’s dominant performance inside the painted area. Dickinson led the Jayhawks in scoring with 17 points while accounting for 44% of the team’s rebounds, pulling down 20 boards in the game.

The Michigan transfer finished with his second 20-rebound game of the young season while adding two assists, a steal and a block to his night. After a rather quiet 13-point, eight-rebound game against Marquette in the Jayhawks’ only loss of the season, Dickinson bounced back in one of Kansas’ biggest games of the season.

With KU on six days of rest, Kansas hosted Eastern Illinois in its third home game of the season. Dickinson proved vital in a sluggish offensive showing for the Jayhawks as Kansas pulled away for a 71-63 victory.

Once again, Dickinson led the team in scoring as well as rebounds, with no other Jayhawk grabbing more than three rebounds in the game. Dickinson finished with a 25-point, 13-rebound game with three blocks and a steal as he shot 11-15 from the floor, converting 73.3% of his shot attempts.

Why it’s so great: Kansas needed all the offensive help it could get against the Panthers, with Dickinson being the focal point on offense. Despite outscoring Eastern Illinois 44-14 in points in the paint, the Jayhawks found themselves up just one point with 5:04 remaining in the game.

KU’s bench was once again an area of concern, getting outscored 23-12, while the Jayhawks couldn’t get the three-ball going. Kansas made just three three-pointers and shot just 21.4% from downtown while the Panthers made nine three-pointers on 40.9%.

Even with a less-than-stellar offensive showcasing from the Jayhawks, Dickinson’s performance proved to be just enough to push Kansas to a narrow win over Eastern Illinois.

Before Tuesday’s game against the Panthers, Dickinson led the Jayhawks in points, steals, blocks, and rebounds, all while shooting over 65% from the field through six games. Dickinson has shown multiple times this season that he can be Kansas’ crutch on the offensive end of the floor while holding down the paint on the defensive end of the floor.

Dickinson picked up his fourth double-double of the season in the Jayhawks’ third-straight close battle, and his performance helped Kansas finish the job against the Panthers. KU entered the game as a 38.5-point favorite, but Eastern Illinois gave the Jayhawks all they could handle.

No. 5 Kansas improves to 6-1 thanks to two dominant double-doubles from the senior out of Alexandria, Virginia. The Jayhawks will face their toughest test yet: a matchup against last year’s champion No. 4 UConn on Dec. 1 at 8 p.m.

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