The No. 1-ranked Kansas men's basketball team opened the 2023-24 season with a convincing win over visiting North Carolina Central, 99-56 at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night.
The game was never in doubt, from the opening minutes on, and KU led by as many as 55 before the walk-ons played out the final 4-5 minutes, which allowed NC Central to trim the margin a little before the final buzzer sounded.
Kevin McCullar Jr. led KU with 22 points and big man Hunter Dickinson added 21 to lead the Jayhawks (1-0).
Kansas recorded 33 assists on 39 field goals in the win and made 13 of 23 from 3-point range.
Here's a closer look back at some of the game's highlights and memorable moments.
Next up, the Jayhawks will return to Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night for a 7 p.m. matchup with Manhattan before heading to Chicago next week to take on Kentucky in The Champions Classic.
More from Monday night's win...
• Pretty much anything Hunter Dickinson did early: In what will go down as his long-awaited official KU debut, the 7-foot-2 center went nuts to open the game. He scored the first 7 points of the game on buckets inside and out and had 15 points — including three 3-pointers — before he ever checked out midway through the first half. After each triple, Dickinson roared with excitement, holding up 3 fingers, waving his arms to get the crowd into it and screaming loudly after the third one that put the Jayhawks up 27-9 with 12:40 to play in the half.
• KU’s 3-point shooting: The Jayhawks struggled with their outside shooting in exhibition games at Illinois and at home against Fort Hays State. But that was a distant memory during Monday’s first half. KU hit 7 of its first 9 3-pointers — three by Dickinson and two each by Kevin McCullar Jr. and Nicolas Timberlake — and 9 of 12 in the first half. Things didn’t slow down there. McCullar drilled his fourth triple of the night early in the 2nd half to move Kansas to 10 of 13 on the night at the time. KU finished 13 of 23 from behind the arc, with several of the misses coming in the final moments as the walk-ons feverishly pursued the century mark.
• Another oop from Harris to Braun: I’ll try to remember to do this, but if anyone else wants to, too, that would be great: Keep track of how many games Dajuan Harris Jr. connects with Parker Braun on an alley-oop lob. The two longtime friends delivered one in the win over Fort Hays State last week — arguably the prettiest play of the game — and did it again on Monday night, with Braun twisting his body in mid-air in the lane to turn the catch into a dunk. There’ve been plenty of those in their lives — in driveways and pick-up games alike — and it appears as if there’ll be many more during their year together with the Jayhawks.
• McLendon Classic love: KU’s warm-up shirts for this one featured the words “McLendon Classic” in bold, crimson & blue letters on a red and blue basketball. The game was part of the McLendon Classic, named to honor former Jayhawk and two-time Naismith Hall of Famer John McLendon, who coached at Monday night’s foe — North Carolina Central — and studied under the legendary James Naismith at KU. A native of Hiawatha, McLendon was the first Black person to graduate from Kansas with a degree in physical education in 1936 and also was credited as the inventor of the fast break.
• Elmarko foul trouble: It’s not so much the three fouls in the first half that were the problem. Sometimes fouls aren’t an indication of poor play. The problem with Jackson picking up three fouls in the game’s first 8 minutes was that it limited his time on the floor and therefore kept him from taking a step forward in feeling comfortable and getting out of his head a little bit during KU’s opener. Self remarked earlier this season that Jackson had been thinking a little too much and picking up three fouls in 8 minutes guarantees one thing — you’ll have plenty of time to think when you’re sitting on the bench. Jackson caught another bad break early in the second half, when he got his feet tangled with an official and tweaked his right ankle. He stayed in the game, but talk about it not being your night. All of that after he was inserted back into the starting lineup, too.
• No shots for Juando: Living up to his nickname as a pass-first-do-everything-but-score point guard, it’s still not the greatest thing to see zeros in makes and attempts for one of your starters. This is probably nit-picking a little. Dajuan and the KU offense were really good and really efficient and he finished with 10 assists in 25 minutes. Still, you don’t want to risk seeing him get into the habit of not shooting the ball. There are going to be far too many games when he’s going to need to.
• That’s not a record?: KU led 59-18 at halftime, which might’ve led one to think they were well on their way to setting a record for largest margin of victory. Technically, they were on pace for it, but the pace cooled a little in the second half and the Jayhawks didn’t even come close. According to the media guide, KU’s all-time record for largest win in school history came in 1989 with a 115-45, 70-point win over Brown. KU has won games by 60 or more six more times during the program’s rich history. Believe it or not, Monday’s win didn't even land on the list of the 33 largest wins in program history.
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