Kansas vs. Illinois Basketball Recap: The Jayhawks take on the Fighting Illini

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Kansas basketball team’s preparation for the 2023-24 season continued Sunday with an exhibition game against Illinois.

The Jayhawks entered the preseason as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation and the favorite to win the Big 12 Conference. The Fighting Illini entered a position to contend for the Big Ten Conference title. It was a return to Champaign for Kansas head coach Bill Self, who was the head coach at Illinois before taking over in Lawrence prior to 2003-04.

Who started for the Jayhawks? What did the rotation look like? It was a charity exhibition game, but also an opportunity for Kansas to test itself before the season begins.

Here’s what happened at the State Farm Center:

Kansas game time, TV channel for today’s game against Illinois

Advice: 5 in the afternoon

television: Big Ten Network

Kansas vs. Illinois basketball recap

FINAL: Illinois 82, Kansas 75

Illinois leads 73-70 with 4:45 left in the second half

Hunter Dickinson is very close to a 20-10 game as he has 20 points and eight rebounds at this break. It’s a testament to how talented he is that he can start from scratch like he did and then come out with stats like that. But he’d certainly like that to come with a win, too.

Kansas has only led for one total minute in this game and hasn’t led since leading 17-16 in the first half. Illinois led by about 31 1/2 minutes. But the Jayhawks could still cruise to victory.

Illinois leads 65-60 with 7:53 left in the second half

Kansas has foul trouble right now – although no one can foul in this exhibition game. Both KJ Adams Jr. and Kevin McCullar Jr. they have four fouls each. Hunter Dickinson has three.

For a team that doesn’t have the depth it has had in the past, that’s a problem the Jayhawks will need to avoid as the season continues. It can’t afford to have to sit one or more beginners for the time it can sometimes require. Look for opponents to make this part of their game plan.

Illinois led 56-51 with 11:39 left in the second half

Illinois regained some control in that game, but it was without some of Kansas’ key starters in the game. The Jayhawks have every opportunity to take back the momentum and go on. Zach Clemons was in a stretch condition and will be redshirting this season.

Although this is an exhibition game, both benches are clearly interested in winning. KJ Adams Jr. was one player who stood out in that regard on the Kansas side. And he is not alone.

Illinois led 49-48 with 15:30 left in the second half

Kansas has some life now and is on a 7-0 run. Was much better defensively in the second half. Hunter Dickinson also looks much more comfortable and confident on the floor.

Offensively, these sides employ completely different philosophies. Kansas had 30 points in the paint, compared to Illinois’ 16. Illinois made 20 3s from 40 field goals, while Kansas made 6 3s from 35 field goals.

HALFTIME: Illinois 43, Kansas 37

Illinois led 31-23 with 4:39 left in the first half

Bill Self had just called a timeout as Kansas’ deficit grew to eight points with about four and a half minutes left in the first half. He wasn’t very lively in the huddle at the break, but the Jayhawks certainly needed a little reset. Illinois is on a 7-0 run and Kansas hasn’t scored in more than three and a half minutes.

Dajuan Harris Jr. will need to be more aggressive for the Jayhawks. While the final score of this game doesn’t matter, if Harris plays like this during the regular season, Kansas can’t be at its best. Especially if other key players are struggling.

Illinois led 26-23 with 7:47 left in the first half

If there was any doubt, it looks like Elmarco Jackson will be the point guard when he’s in the game, and DaJuan Harris Jr. won’t be. This game hasn’t gone so well for Kansas so far, but if Jackson can continue to develop over the season in that role, the Jayhawks won’t have to rely on Harris as much. Both have had relatively quiet nights.

The second-chance point advantage for Illinois is only 7-3, but the margin feels much larger. Kansas should rebound better than before. The Fighting Illini are shooting 50% from the field and the Jayhawks are 55.6%, so neither should help the other out for more opportunities.

Illinois led 14-13 with 11:42 left in the first half

Kevin McCullar Jr. has been incredibly aggressive so far tonight, something he will need to be all season long for Kansas to enjoy the success it wants to experience. He now has nine points on 4-for-6 shooting from the game — including a 1-for-1 mark on 3s. He leads all scorers.

Illinois was eager to get 3s of its own early. However, the Fighting Illini are just 1-for-5 from the arc so far. Allows Kansas to stick with him despite its own offensive issues.

Illinois led 13-11 with 13:29 left in the first half

Hunter Dickinson’s game against Illinois didn’t get off to the best start. Bill Self spoke with him regularly and appeared frustrated several times with Dickinson’s decisions. But Kansas trailed just 13-11 about six and a half minutes into the first half.

Parker Brown is the Jayhawks’ first substitution, coming in for Dickinson. Elmarco Jackson looked like he belonged, a good sign for the freshman. Kansas certainly makes an effort to get the ball inside and attack offensively that way.


Kansas won the first tip and this game is underway.


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Jordan Gusky covers University of Kansas athletics for The Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the 2022 National Sports Media Association Athlete of the Year for the state of Kansas. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.

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