Skip to content

Moments That Popped: No. 1 KU 73, Fort Hays State 55

Memorable moments from KU's exhibition victory over Fort Hays State at Allen Fieldhouse

4 min read
KU senior Kevin McCullar Jr. (15) boxes out his man on a missed shot during the Jayhawks' 73-55 win over Fort Hays State on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023 at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

Wednesday marked the exhibition finale for the No. 1-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team, which defeated Fort Hays State 73-55.

It also marked the debut of our basketball version of “Moments That Popped,” Wave the Wheat’s postgame feature that highlights some of the most memorable and noteworthy moments from the game that just was.

We’ve done several of these for the 22nd-ranked KU football team — and will be in Ames, Iowa this weekend to do another — but we wanted to carry the fun over to the hardwood, too.

So, without further ado, here’s a little of what stood out during KU’s final tune-up for the 2023-24 season, which will officially get going next Monday night when North Carolina Central comes to Lawrence for the season opener.

Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. on ESPN+.

Now, back to the game that was on Wednesday night:

• Welcome to Kansas basketball, starring Kevin McCullar Jr. – For the second exhibition game in a row (the first came in a loss at Illinois last weekend) the KU super-senior led the Jayhawks in scoring and looked damn good doing it. McCullar certainly looks comfortable as an aggressive offensive player and his shots are falling as a result of both his comfort and his confidence. He finished this one with 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range. To get 21 points on just 10 shots is big-time efficiency. McCullar also grabbed 6 rebounds and 3 steals in his 29 minutes of action. We might be looking at the new version of Kevin McCullar and that might be just what this team needs. Instead of being a jack-of-all-trades who can fill up the stat sheet with assists and steals as easily as points, he may need to think score-first and do everything else second. Clearly, he’s comfortable doing it and it’s working for him so far.

PHOTO GALLERY: KU 73, Fort Hays State 55

• No surprise at all – On the game’s first possession, the Kansas offense went right into big man Hunter Dickinson, who sealed his smaller defender perfectly up the lane and delivered an uncontested, two-handed dunk for the game’s first points. You’ll see a lot of that from Dickinson and the Jayhawks throughout the season, both with smaller defenders and guys closer to his 7-foot-2 size. KU’s not going to adjust to the way other teams want them to play. They’re going to try to dictate it. Dickinson scored the first three KU baskets in this one, en route to a 17 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 assists in 26 minutes of action. And the Jayhawks’ first 10 points of the game all came in the paint.

• Like another brother – With a little more than 13 minutes to play in Wednesday’s first half, Dajuan Harris Jr. connected with Parker Braun for an alley-oop that probably looked like one the two had done dozens of times before in driveways and pick-up runs. It’s been well documented how close Harris and Christian Braun have always been, but Parker’s right there with them and Harris grew up around him nearly just as much. You could see that in the high-five the two exchanged after the flush that put the Jayhawks up 16-8 midway through the first half.

• OK, Elmarko – Twice during Wednesday’s first half, the KU freshman showed off his play-making ability, not by scoring but by creating easy buckets for his teammates. The first was a nice pass to Kevin McCullar for a 3-pointer that came after Jackson put his head down, got his shoulders past his defender, his feet into the paint and dished after collapsing the defense. Later, with just over 5 minutes to play in the first half, Jackson drove to the paint along the baseline from the left corner and skipped a pass to McCullar in the right corner. McCullar caught the pass in stride, went right up with it and drilled the shot to put Kansas up 34-15. McCullar’s going to have to make a bunch of those this season for this KU team, which is not an obviously great 3-point shooting team, and if Jackson can make plays like that to make those shots easier, it’ll help a whole bunch.

• Thanks, I’ll pass – So much will be made about how many points Hunter Dickinson can and will score this season in the Bill Self offense. And there’s been a little made about him as a passer, but probably not enough. He has such good vision, touch, feel and fundamentals with the ball in his hands and he’s capable of making plays for others as easily as he can get to the bucket and score points for himself. We swa plenty of that in Puerto Rico, when he and KJ Adams hooked up on all kinds of lobs. But the best example on Wednesday night came on one of KU’s best ball movement possessions. With Dickinson at the high post as an option to work the ball from one side of the floor to the other, he received a pass on the right elbow and, almost just as quickly, got rid of it out to Zach Clemence on the left wing. Clemence was wide open and stepped into a rhythm 3-point shot as a result. The shot missed, but that hardly mattered. Those types of plays and passes from the KU big man will lead to a lot of points for Kansas this season.

— For tickets to all KU athletic events, visit