No. 4 Kansas meets Dayton for Maui title

Kansas Jayhawks

Wednesday night’s championship game in the Maui Invitational may not feature the anticipated matchup, but No. 4 Kansas and Dayton square off with both having dominated in their first two tournament games.

Kansas (5-1) on Tuesday won its fifth straight since dropping the season opener on Nov. 5 to Duke. And against BYU — as they had the previous four opponents, including against Chaminade in Monday’s opening round — the Jayhawks cruised by double-digits.

Doubling up on the interior against a smaller BYU bunch served Kansas well Tuesday. The duo of 6-foot-10 David McCormack and 7-foot Udeka Azubuike combined for 27 points, and Azubuike recorded his second double-double of the season with 10 rebounds.

Leaning on the inside game for a second straight night goes beyond the offensive end for Kansas.

Dayton (5-0) rolled its way to 80-61 and 89-62 blowouts in their first two Maui games, against Georgia and Virginia Tech. The Flyers went inside to Obi Toppin in both, and Toppin delivered with the two best individual games of the tournament thus far.

He scored 25 points against Georgia and 24 against Virginia Tech.

“Before the game, we talked about throwing the ball in the post and working out of there because our offense is based off that,” Toppin told the Dayton Daily News of the Flyers’ offensive strategy heading into the tournament. “When we got the ball in the post, a lot of things got opened up, and I was able to get buckets off of there.”

Dayton is off to an undefeated start in coach Anthony Grant’s third season. Kansas coach Bill Self said in his postgame press conference on Tuesday that he knows the challenge that awaits the Jayhawks, in part because of the caliber of coach the Flyers have in Grant.

“He’s got a terrific team. It will be a fun, competitive, big-boy game tomorrow from a physicality standpoint,” Self said. “The key to these three-game tournaments (is) you’ve got to get two (wins). So tomorrow, I bet that both teams play a little bit more relaxed.”

If either of Dayton or Kansas played uptight through their first two wins, it did not show. The Flyers jumped to big leads in the first half of both of its wins, albeit in a different fashion in each.

Dayton generated 23 turnovers against Georgia to set up transitional scoring opportunities. Against Virginia Tech, the Flyers pushed the pace through a dominant showing on the glass, outrebounding the Hokies, 38-21.

Toppin’s supporting cast adds scoring punch from the perimeter with guards Jalen Crutcher and Rodney Chatman, and veteran forward Ryan Mikesell adding another presence who can go inside.

Kansas’ leading scorer this season has been Devon Dotson at 18.1 points per game. He struggled through his worst shooting performance of the season in the BYU win at 5-of-16 from the floor.

However, Dotson can impact the offense when his shots are not falling, evident in his eight-assist game against the Cougars.

The ultimate direction of Wednesday’s championship may come down to a Kansas defense that ranks fifth in the nation in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom.com, matching up with Dayton’s offense. The Flyers rank sixth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency.

–Field Level Media

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