🏀 Kansas Drops Maui Strong Exhibition Contest Versus Illinois

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – In an exhibition fundraiser to benefit the Maui Strong Fund, the Illinois Fighting Illini defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 82-75 at the State Farm Center. Redshirt senior Kevin McCullar Jr. scored 25 points and senior transfer Hunter Dickinson added 22 points to lead the Jayhawks on Sunday evening.

The two teams partnered together to make the game a fundraiser to provide financial resources for rapid response and recovery for the devastating wildfires in Maui.

“We raised well north of a million dollars, so it was good, said Head Coach Bill Self. They did a great job with selling as many tickets as possible. There were a lot of positive things that came from it and I do think it was much more uncomfortable of environment than our players thought it would be.” 

Kansas won the tip and traded back-and-forth buckets with Illinois for the first 10 minutes of regulation, with McCullar Jr. scoring 11 of Kansas’ first 15 points. Defense picked up as both teams struggled to find any momentum, until the Illini went on a 7-0 scoring run with five minutes left in the first half, stretching their lead to 31-23. The Jayhawks responded with back-to-back alley-oop dunks from Dickinson.

Illinois closed out the half with a pair of three-pointers as they went into the locker room with a 43-37 lead. Led by 18 first-half points from McCullar Jr., Kansas shot 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field and scored 26 points in the paint. Illinois shot 50.0 percent (17-of-34) from the field, which included seven three-pointers.

The second half opened with a layup and a mid-range jumper from Dickinson, followed by a dunk from KJ Adams Jr. An uncontested layup by redshirt senior Dajuan Harris Jr. tied the game up at 68 apiece with five minutes to play.

A battle of the big men commenced, as Illinois forward Coleman Hawkins drilled his fourth three-pointer of the game, which was answered by a hook-shot from Dickinson. With two minutes left in the contest, Illinois stretched its lead to six after a back-door layup from guard Justin Harmon.

As a team, Kansas shot 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the floor and 25.0 percent (3-of-12) from beyond the arc. Illinois shot 44.6 percent (25-of-56) from the floor and 40.7 percent (11-of-27) from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks were led by 25 points from McCullar Jr., 22 points from Dickinson and 14 points from Adams Jr. Harris Jr. dished out eight assists to go along with his six points, two steals and one blocked shot.

“I thought our mindset was okay,” added Self. “It exposed us and it did exactly what we wanted it to do. I didn’t think some of our newcomers responded like we hoped they would, but if you can only get three steals as a team on the road you aren’t going to win. We executed well in the second half so there were some good things that happened in that regard.” 

Kansas Athletics is partnering with the Maui Invitational Hoops for ‘Ohana online auction in conjunction with the Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund, which is dedicated to providing financial resources for rapid response and recovery for the devastating wildfires on Maui. Fans will have the opportunity to bid on the jerseys worn by the men’s basketball team today and additional experiences and merchandise donated by Kansas Athletics.  All proceeds will benefit the Maui Strong Fund. You can visit mauiinvitational.com/hoopsforohana and the auction will remain open now through Nov. 22, 2023.

Kansas will play its second and final exhibition game for the 2023-24 season when it hosts Fort Hays State on Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. (Central), in Allen Fieldhouse. The game will be televised on Big 12 Now via ESPN+. Kansas leads the series with Fort Hays State, 12-0, including a 10-0 record in exhibition contests.