University of Kansas men’s basketball center Hunter Dickinson was more excited than usual when he arrived at Allen Fieldhouse for Friday night’s showdown against No. 4 UConn.
His matchup was fellow impact big man Donovan Clingan, a projected NBA lottery pick.
Dickinson limited Clingan to eight points on 3-for-8 shooting from the field, helping fifth-ranked Kansas secure a thrilling 69-65 victory over the Huskies at Allen Fieldhouse.
Dickinson did everything in his power to make things uncomfortable for Clingan. Although Clingan didn’t see the ball as much as he typically does, he finished tied for a team-worst -8 in a key statistic: box plus-minus.
“I knew he’s a great player — that’s what I play the game for …” Dickinson said. “I’m a competitor, so that’s why I love these kind of matchups. He’s obviously a very big human and they use him in a lot of good sets.
“They utilize his size a lot down there, so I tried to make his catches as far out as possible and try to make him a little bit less effective. But he’s a great player, so he’s going to get some touches down there for sure.”
Dickinson wasn’t too shabby on the offensive end, either. He scored 15 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the floor. He even went 3-for-4 from 3-point range and hit multiple big-time shots down the stretch to help KU ice the victory.
Dickinson couldn’t help but smirk when asked about his shooting later.
“I’m a sniper out there, so that’s what I do,” he said.
Sniper or not, Dickinson’s play against Clingan earned him the praise of Jayhawks coach Bill Self. According to KenPom, Clingan had a season-worst offensive rating of 95%.
“Well, I don’t think they played a lot through Clingan,” Self said. “Statistically, they do such a good job with ball-screens — he and (Samson) Johnson running to the rim, creating angles and stuff like that. We didn’t give them a lot in that. But when Clingan got within 3 feet, he scored. He’s so big. But I thought Hunt did an admirable job on him.”
Self praised Clingan’s ability to keep Dickinson away from the basket.
“I thought both big guys played pretty well, considering the other guy played him pretty tough,” Self said.
UConn coach Dan Hurley said Friday night’s battle with Dickinson provided Clingan a good preview of what awaits.
“I was really nervous about the matchup because Hunter is such a technician there,” Hurley said. “Donovan is still … a back-to-the-basket player. I think he probably learned a lot in that matchup, in terms of how Hunter posted up.
“We’ve got to get Donovan the ball more, but I think this was a really good learning experience ...”