LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Hunter Dickinson had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Kevin McCullar Jr. overcame a tough shooting night to score 18, and fifth-ranked Kansas had to fight all the way to the end to beat Eastern Illinois 71-63 on Tuesday night.
The Jayhawks (6-1) led by a point with about five minutes left, and the Panthers (3-5) were still within 65-61 a couple of minutes later. But Dickinson's bucket in the paint, a run-out dunk by McCullar and some clutch defense finally put the game away.
It wasn't exactly the tune-up the Jayhawks were hoping to have with defending national champion and fourth-ranked UConn due to visit Allen Fieldhouse for a Big East-Big 12 Battle on Friday night.
Tiger Booker led Eastern Illinois with 20 points. Naykel Shelton and Kooper Jacobi scored 14 apiece.
The Jayhawks lost for the first time this season at last week's Maui Invitational, where No. 3 Marquette controlled them most of the way, but were able to bounce back against No. 10 Tennessee with a strong effort in the third-place game.
They looked jetlagged — or still in paradise — against the Panthers on Tuesday night.
Eastern Illinois, which played Division III Eureka College its last time out, held the mighty Jayhawks to just one field goal over a five-minute stretch of the first half. The Panthers were still within 38-25 at halftime, thanks in part to Shelton's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, then used a 15-4 run out of the locker room to get within 42-40 with 15 minutes to go.
Dickinson had 18 of the Jayhawks' first 46 points. At that point, nobody else had more than six.
Every time Kansas tried to get the crowd into it, Eastern Illinois answered, and it the Panthers surely began eyeing their first win over a Top 25 foe in 24 tries when they closed to within 59-58 five minutes left in the game.
Dickinson came to the rescue again, scoring in the post to make it 66-61. And after the teams traded empty possessions, Dajuan Harris Jr. picked off the Panthers' Sincere Malone, threw it ahead to McCullar and his dunk essentially put the game away.
Eastern Illinois will have another chance to knock off a Big 12 foe when it plays Iowa State in late December.
Kansas had not played in Allen Fieldhouse since beating Manhattan on Nov. 10. Now, the Jayhawks won't leave until they visit Indiana on Dec. 16. Along with UConn, they have games coming up against Kansas City and bitter rival Missouri.
Eastern Illinois plays University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy, an NAIA school, on Saturday.
Kansas welcomes the Huskies on Friday night.
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