One statistic provides overwhelming support that scoring production is the biggest boost Udoka Azubuike gives No. 3 Kansas.
In the senior center’s career, the Jayhawks are 25-1 in games he has scored 15 or more points as Kansas (19-3, 8-1 Big 12) takes a seven-game winning streak into Saturday’s game at TCU (13-9, 4-5).
It’s not as if the 7-footer is jacking up shots. Azubuike recognizes he must get in proper position underneath to make it difficult, if not impossible, to contain him when he shoots layups, dunks and hooks from short range.
“When I get the ball where I need to get the ball, I know that something positive is going to happen,” Azubuike told the Lawrence Journal-World. “I’m going to get a bucket or draw a foul. … It’s just about me getting in proper position.”
When opponents attempt to counter his brute force by concentrating more defenders underneath, openings are created off drives to the bucket and looks from 3-point range. Sometimes those tactics can test Azubuike’s patience.
A minor rift with his coach, Bill Self, led to the removal of Azubuike from the starting lineup in a 69-58 win Monday over Texas that kept Kansas a game behind No. 1 Baylor in the Big 12 race.
Azubuike still responded with his ninth double-double, recording 17 points and 12 rebounds while remaining the only Big 12 player to average a double-double in conference play.
“I won’t say it’s all been sugar sweet. There’ve been some rough edges,” Azubuike said. “But it’s my senior year and I’m just going to live in the moment.”
His 76.3 shooting percentage tops Division I, while his 75.0 career percentage ranks first ahead of record-holder Tacko Fall, the former Central Florida center (2016-19).
“His impacting the game is you have to game plan for him,” Self said. “And if you game plan for him, then hopefully other guys will be open.”
Among them is sophomore point guard Devon Dotson, who leads the Big 12 with an 18-points-per-game average. Junior guard Marcus Garrett continues to sparkle too, leading the Big 12 with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.88 (46-16) in conference play.
Both Azubuike and Dotson are on the late-season watch list for the John R. Wooden Award.
Though tied for fifth in the Big 12, TCU on Wednesday became the first team to lose in league play to Oklahoma State, 72-57.
The Horned Frogs struggled through a stretch of 10-plus minutes without a field goal in the second half and were outscored 32-14 over the final 14 minutes. Senior guard Desmond Bane still provided a game-high 16 points, team-high eight rebounds and career-high six assists.
“We’ve got to play better; we have played better. But certainly we’re on a run here where we’re not performing at a high level,” TCU coach Jamie Dixon said, referring to his team’s four-game losing streak.
–Field Level Media