Azubuike leads No. 5 Kansas past Eastern Michigan, 87-63
LAWRENCE, Kan. – After a 25-day hiatus, junior center Udoka Azubuike showed little signs of rust as his game-high 23 points helped lead No. 5 Kansas to an 87-63 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse. Azubuike was joined by freshman guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson to score in double-figures, tallying 16 and 15 points, respectively.
The Jayhawks moved to 11-1 on the year, while Eastern Michigan dropped to 6-7 in its 2018-19 campaign.
Seeing his first action in three weeks following an ankle injury on Dec. 4, Azubuike wasted little time in making his presence known. The 7-0 foot center scored 14 of his 23 points in his 11 minutes on the court during the opening frame. He was joined by six of his teammates to enter the stat sheet during the first half, which helped Kansas jump out to a 21-point halftime advantage, 46-25, its largest lead at an intermission this season. The Jayhawks connected on over 65 percent (17-of-26) of their shots in the opening 20 minutes of action, while their defense limited the Eagles to just a 23.5 percent clip (8-of-34).
As sharp as the Jayhawks were on both ends in the first half, there were some dull minutes for KU to start the second half. Kansas went without a field goal for the first 4:30 after the restart and the Eagles managed to cut the Jayhawk lead down to 16, 46-30. But KU’s freshman point guard, Dotson, ignited the Kansas attack with a fastbreak lay-up and followed that with a 3-pointer. Dotson’s five-point spurt began a 12-4 Jayhawk run that got their lead back to over 20 points at 59-34, with just over 11 minutes to play.
From there, the two sides traded baskets the rest of the way. KU closed out the contest on an 11-4 run thanks to a lay-up from Grimes and a trio of 3-pointers from KU’s redshirt sophomores, one from Charlie Moore and a pair from K.J. Lawson.
Azubuike ended the contest with another efficient shooting day, hitting 10 of his 13 tries from the field as he tied his season-high with 23 points. The junior was also a rebound shy of posting his ninth-career double-double, pulling down nine boards. Grimes hit a pair of 3-pointers and connected on all six of his free throw attempts to total 16 points, his highest output since the season opener. Dotson was the only other Jayhawk to score in double figures, notching 15 points to go along with four assists and three steals.
The Jayhawks’ connected on a season-high 55.4 percent (31-56) from the field and held the Eagles to 30 percent (21-70), including an 18.8 percent clip from beyond the 3-point line. Kansas also pulled down 33 defensive rebounds, the most by the Jayhawks in a game this season.
QUOTES – Full QuotesKansas head coach Bill Self
“A little less energy, no energy in the second half, but we did some good things in the first half and played everybody and actually attacked their zone pretty well. Of course, it helps when you have a big guy (junior F Udoka Azubuike) you can just throw it up to and he can dunk it. I don’t know that we’ve made shots. Obviously, we were 7-of-21 (from the 3-point line) and we probably made three of our last four, so that’s not very good. It’s nice to see Q (Quentin Grimes) see the ball go into the basket. I thought Devon (Dotson) was terrific and it’s also good to have the big fella (Azubuike) back – what a difference he makes.”
On Udoka Azubuike’s performance:
“He was good. We decided to start Doke instead of David (McCormack). David has actually earned the right to start, but Doke is going to be our starter once we start league play and we didn’t want him to get cold after warming up, so they shared minutes. I thought Doke got us off to a good start. He shot a high percentage, which he should with so many close shots, but it was nice to see him step up to the line and make some free throws too.”
Junior center Udoka Azubuike
On if he expected to start and be as effective as he was today:
“I kind of knew, (because) right before Christmas break Coach (Self) and I had a conversation about everything and he kind of asked me where am I (was) at right now. So I told him like, ‘Yeah, I’ll probably be ready to go after the break.'”
On how his ankle feels:
“It is getting better. I mean, I’m not 100 percent yet, but it’s getting better.”
On the hardest thing about getting back out there to play; if he had to just put the injury just completely out of his mind:
“That was part of it. Like I said, my coaches, my teammates — they all told me to trust my feet, my legs and go out there and play. I spoke to Coach Rob (assistant coach Norm Roberts) and my trainer, (Billy Cowgill) the athletic trainer. That’s all I had to (do was) go out there and trust my feet and my legs and take it one play at a time.”
NOTABLES – Full Notes
- The win gave Kansas its 11th-straight win in Allen Fieldhouse
- It also made the Jayhawks 779-113 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 241-13 under head coach Bill Self
- Kansas recorded season highs in field goal percentage (55.4), defensive rebounds (33), assists (25) and turnovers (17).
- The Jayhawks’ 25 assists were their most since also dishing 25 dimes against Omaha on Dec. 18, 2017.
- Kansas’ 46-25 advantage at halftime marked its largest lead at an intermission this season. It also marked KU’s largest halftime edge since holding a 55-29 lead over Omaha on Dec. 18, 2017.
- The Jayhawks hit 65.4 percent (17-26) from the field in the first half, their highest field goal percentage in a half this season and the best since KU shot 65.7 percent (23-35) in the second half against Omaha last season.
- Kansas did not have a field goal for the first 4:28 of the second half.
- Despite a negative 10 margin in offensive rebounds (9-19), the Jayhawks managed to outscore the Eagles in second chance points, 12-7.
- The Eagles’ 19 offensive rebounds tied the most by a Kansas opponent this season.
- Eastern Michigan’s 18.8 percent from 3-point range was the lowest 3-point field goal percentage by a Kansas opponent this season.
- The Eagle bench scored 30 points, marking the third-straight game an opponent bench has tallied 26 or more points. This in the three games after KU held Villanova’s bench scoreless on Dec. 15.
- EMU’s James Thompson IV and Ty Groce both pulled down double figure rebounds at 14 and 10, respectively. The last team to do this against the Jayhawks was Iowa State on January 9, 2018.
- Junior center Udoka Azubuike saw first action since exiting KU’s game vs. Wofford on Dec. 4 with an ankle sprain, scoring a season-high 23 points.
- Azubuike’s 10-of-13 clip from the field marked the sixth time in his 55-career outings that he has posted 10 or more field goals in a game.
- Azubuike also tallied two blocks to hit 90 for his career. He is eight rejections from tying Paul Pierce at 20th on KU’s all-time blocks list.
- RS-Junior forward Dedric Lawson was 4-for-4 shooting from the free throw line and has now connected on 14-straight charities dating back to the closing moments of KU’s win over Villanova (12/15).
- Freshman guard Quentin Grimes tallied 16 points, his highest scoring output since turning in 21 points in the season-opener against Michigan State (11/6).
- Grimes’ 6-for-6 from the charity stripe was a season-best and marked the second perfect night for a Jayhawk from the free throw line with a minimum of five attempts (D. Lawson, 5-for-5 vs. Arizona State).
- Freshman guard Devon Dotson’s 15 points marked the eighth time he has hit double figures this season, a figure that ties him for second on the team.
Kansas opens Big 12 play by hosting Oklahoma on Wednesday, Jan. 2, at 8 p.m. (Central). The game will be televised on ESPN2. Kansas is 147-67 all-time against Oklahoma, including a 75-16 record in Lawrence (48-7 in Allen Fieldhouse). KU has won the last 17 clashes with OU in Allen Fieldhouse dating back to Jan. 10, 1994. Kansas has been 1-0 in conference play for each of the last 27 seasons, a streak which started in 1991-92.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.