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KU basketball survives major upset scare vs. Eastern Illinois. Here are 3 takeaways

The Kansas men’s basketball team will have two tasks after its play on Tuesday against Eastern Illinois.

First, watch the game tape and learn from the numerous mistakes.

Second, burn the tapes.

Despite being 35-point favorites against KenPom’s No. 344-ranked team (out of 362), Kansas let the game get much too close for comfort. Still, the No. 5-ranked Jayhawks led wire-to-wire in a 71-63 victory over Eastern Illinois at Allen Fieldhouse.

Hunter Dickinson scored 25 points and Kevin McCullar added 18 for the Jayhawks, leading Kansas to the program’s first victory over EIU (in their first meeting, of course).

Kansas is now 6-1 or better for the 12th straight season, dating back to 2012-13

Leading by three points with 3:28 to play, the Jayhawks closed out the win with a 7-2 run. At various points, Kansas appeared to be in greater control of things, including when the Jayhawks led 38-25 at halftime despite allowing a banked-in prayer from 3 shortly before the buzzer.

In the second half, EIU cut KU’s lead to one but could never take the lead.

The Jayhawks will host No. 4 UConn on Friday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Here are some takeaways from Tuesday evening’s game:

Sharing the love

The Jayhawks have a knack for finding the open man. Coming into Tuesday’s game, Kansas led the nation in assist rate (75.3%) — meaning around 3/4 of their baskets came on assists.

On Tuesday, KU continued its unselfish ways. Players often passed up a good shot for a great one or made the extra pass when needed. KU’s offense seemed at its best when the ball movement was constant.

The Jayhawks had 14 assists in the first half, with point guard Dajuan Harris leading the way with five.

KU finished with 24 assists for the game on 28 made field goals.

Scoring wasn’t always easy for KU, though, as the Jayhawks shot 50% from the field but went just 3-for-14 from 3.

Hunter Dickinson carries the offense

One Jayhawk seemed to score at will against the Panthers’ defense: Hunter Dickinson.

The big man showcased a variety of post moves that EIU’s defense had no answer to. On top of that, he hit timely buckets to quell the Panthers’ scoring runs.

For example, when KU led by only one point (59-58) with less than five minutes to go, Dickinson hit a tough bucket and got fouled. He hit the free throw to convert the and-one.

He scored 25 points on 11-for-15 shooting from the field and had 13 rebounds.

KU shot 28-for-56 (50%). Outside of Dickinson, the rest of the team shot 41.4%.

Kansas’ perimeter defense struggles

On Monday, Kansas coach Bill Self warned about the Panthers’ shooting ability.

Well, Eastern Illinois put on a shooting clinic. EIU shot 9-for-22 from deep (40.9%).

In their first game since returning from the Maui Invitational, the Jayhawks lacked energy on defense. They looked a step slow on rotations and didn’t get back on fast-break opportunities to defend shooters. Eastern Illinois took advantage.

The Panthers had shot 31.6% from 3-point range before Tuesday but obliterated that mark against the Jayhawks. KU, by comparison, only made three 3-pointers (21.4%), meaning EIU scored 18 more points from deep than KU did.

That type of defensive effort won’t fly on Friday against reigning champs UConn.