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Moments That Popped: No. 2 Kansas vs. TCU

A quick look at some of the key aspects and memorable moments of Saturday’s wild conference opener

5 min read
Kansas big man Hunter Dickinson celebrates after a bucket during Saturday's 83-81 home win over TCU at Allen Fieldhouse. [Chance Parker photo]

They’ve said for weeks — years, really — that there are no easy games in the Big 12 Conference.

No. 2 Kansas yet again found that to be true in a big way on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, but the Jayhawks found a way to grind out a victory, 83-81 over TCU.





The win moved KU to 13-1 overall and 1-0 in Big 12 play. Kansas has now won 33 consecutive conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season.

Hunter Dickinson led the way with a 30-point double-double and KJ Adams added 18 points and 10 rebounds himself on 7-of-8 shooting.

Dickinson’s two free throws after a flagrant foul in the final minute tied the game and his bucket with 3.4 seconds to play proved to be the game-winner.

Kansas will get right back at it on Wednesday night during their first trip to Orlando to take on UCF at 6 p.m. on ESPN+.

Here’s a quick look back at some of the key aspects and memorable moments of Saturday’s wild conference opener.


• Finishers: Kansas turned it over 20 times and allowed TCU to shoot 46.2% and score 22 points off of those turnovers yet still found a way to win. Just like they have all season. Dickinson said after the game that it’s a lot of fun to go out there and play with guys who know how to win and lay it all on the line to do so. Kansas coach Bill Self agreed and said after this one that he thinks he has a team of guys who believe they're always gonna figure it out. That's what Dickinson meant, and his team did exactly that on Saturday.

• Timberlake 3-pointer: Until he starts doing it with more regularity and consistency, every 3-point shot Timberlake attempts is going to be examined under a microscope. He missed one from the corner in front of the KU bench earlier in the 2nd half, but then buried one — wide open at that — from the opposite wing to put Kansas up 53-52 with 14:30 to play in the game. After the make, Timberlake spun in a circle and yelled with passion. It was a big shot, in a big game and much more important than any of the makes he had against Yale in what people had hoped was his breakout game back on Dec. 22. Now, we need to see if it puts him on a streak of solid outings.

Nick Timberlake after the big 3-pointer he hit against TCU. [Chance Parker photo]

• KJ power: It doesn’t take more than a single look at him to know that KJ Adams is one strong-ass dude. But there’s being strong, looking strong and then playing strong. And Adams has started to really embrace using that physicality whenever he can. That means on defense, on the glass and even posting up and setting screens on offense. But it shows up best when he attacks the rim. And boy does he love doing it. Adams is so violent when he gets his head above the rim. You saw that clearly in this one, when TCU guards went running for cover when Adams came down the lane with the ball in his hands ready to throw it behind his head and throw it down. Adams made it clear that he could keep up with TCU’s athletes and the Jayhawks probably could’ve played through him a little more to make sure they stayed in step with the Frogs. Adams finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds on 7-of-8 shooting in 38 minutes.

• Final Four reunion: At halftime of Saturday’s game, several members of KU’s Final Four team from the 1973-74 season were honored on the court. That included 94-year-old head coach Ted Owens, who always has so much life, light and joy in his eyes when he’s at these types of events. That team, which was led by Danny Knight, Roger Morningstar, Dale Greenlee, Norm Cook, Rick Suttle and Tom Kivisto, finished 23-7 overall and won the Big 8 with a 15-2 conference record. They lost to Marquette in the Final Four in North Carolina.

• Udeh ovation: A lot of people were curious how former KU center Ernest Udeh Jr. would be treated in his return to Allen Fieldhouse since transferring to TCU following the 2022-23 season. The answer? A mixture of boos and cheers during the starting lineup introductions, with neither emotion being too loud or too dominant.


• 3-point defense & what it led to: TCU was willing to make the Jayhawks work for a full 30 seconds on several possessions and that occasionally led to breakdowns that created wide-open 3-point looks for the Frogs. TCU also had success getting to the rim — especially in the first half — and that, too, was somewhat a product of KU overcompensating to cover the 3-point line and giving up easy drives to the basket. At one point, TCU was 5-for-11 from 3-point range and they finished 8-for-21 (38.1%) overall from behind the arc.

• Harris/KU turnovers: Kansas struggled to take care of the ball throughout the day. Credit to TCU for a lot of that. The Horned Frogs are terrific in that area, ranking 11th nationally in forced turnover rate, and even the No. 2 team in the country was no match for that. Long, athletic, fast and tenacious, TCU’s ball pressure leads to problems at all five positions and all over the court. If you’re the veteran Jayhawks, you’d like to think you’d be better than falling victim to that. But they weren’t. 13 of KU’s 18 turnovers — which led to 22 TCU points — came from the core four of KJ Adams, Kevin McCullar Jr., Hunter Dickinson and Dajuan Harris. Harris was responsible for five of those, marking the first time in more than 100 career college games that he reached that number. While the turnovers were no doubt frustrating and made TCU a much more effective team on the offensive end, the Jayhawks can at least leave Allen Fieldhouse with their heads up after having found a way to survive despite their sloppy play.


• Hunter Dickinson’s legend grows: Say what you want about his defense or lack of intensity on that end. It doesn’t matter. Could he be better? Yep. Would KU love for him to make more of an impact down there? You bet. But does he make up for what he lacks as a defender with his production on the offensive end. Absolutely. Over and over again. Dickinson’s a scorer. That’s what he does. And he does it really, really well and at a really high level. He scores inside. He scores outside. He keeps plays alive and scores on put-backs. And he attracts so much attention and effort from the opponent that you just kind of have to live with what he gives you — or doesn’t — on the defensive end. Because there aren’t many players who do what he does on offense anywhere in the country and without that Kansas would really labor to score at times and be in a world of hurt. Look no further than the end of this wild game for proof of that. Two clutch free throws. The game-winning basket. And talk of how he considers himself to be “clutch” after the victory.

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