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Kansas defeats Nebraska, 73-72

  • 7 p.m., Dec. 16, 2017
  • Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, NE,

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday Squeaker: Azubuike’s career night lifts Jayhawks past Nebraska

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk before Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby (15) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk before Nebraska forward Isaiah Roby (15) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Lincoln, Neb. — During the week leading up to Saturday's Nebraska game, one that followed back-to-back losses to Washington and Arizona State, Kansas coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks implored sophomore center Udoka Azubuike to do more.

By the end of Saturday's 73-72 squeaker over Nebraska at Pinnacle Bank Arena, the biggest thing on the minds of the 13th-ranked Jayhawks was whether Azubuike was better on offense or defense.

Sure, he tallied a career-high 26 points and added 10 rebounds in recording just the second double-double of his career, both coming this season. But had it not been for his first and only block of the night, which came in the game's final few seconds, none of that offensive muscle would've mattered much.

“Dok played great,” Self said after watching his team improve to 8-2 on the season. “That was the best game he's played since he's been here. I don't think Dok's going to send me any Christmas cards or a gift for sure. But he responded very well. He hasn't played to his size very well of late, but he did today.”

Sitting slouched at the postgame podium answering questions about his big night was the only time Azubuike looked anything but aggressive all night.

“These past few days, during practice, during film, it was really on me,” Azubuike said after the KU victory. "(Self) told Devonte' (Graham), and all them, he said, 'You got to throw the ball inside.' And he asked me to always call for the ball, I'm not aggressive enough. That was a big topic for this week.”

Throughout the game's first 20 minutes, KU (8-2) set up in its half-court offense and routinely looked down to Azubuike in the post. There were times when the Jayhawks were so intent to get the ball to the big fella that they even overpassed, which led to a mixed bag of results.

When it came down to it, though, there was very little Nebraska's big front line could do to slow down the biggest man in the game and everyone on the Kansas sideline knew it.

“Right before the game coach put the emphasis for me on just being aggressive in the paint,” Azubuike said. “My teammates, Devonte', they tell me pretty much nobody can stop me in the paint.”

The Jayhawks led most of the way in this one, but never really looked all that comfortable in front. Nebraska, which shot 49.2 percent from the floor and knocked in 8 of 22 3-pointers on the night, led for just 2:20 of the game and had it tied for another four minutes.

The Jayhawks appeared to be headed for a knockout blow late in the second half, when a seven-point lead nearly ballooned to 10 with 4:48 to play. But a missed 3-pointer by Graham (18 points, eights assists in 38 minutes) sparked a 9-0 Nebraska run and, from there, the two teams traded buckets and leads to the end.

Nebraska went up 68-66 with 2:26 to play but Kansas immediately tied it on an alley-oop to Lagerald Vick over the top of a 1-3-1 zone that gave Kansas fits. And the Cornhuskers (7-5) also led 70-68 and 72-70 in the final two minutes of the game.

The game-winning bucket for Kansas came on a perfectly executed drive-and-kick play from senior to senior, when Graham hit Svi Mykhailiuk in the corner and the KU guard who shot just 6-of-16 for the game drilled a 3-pointer right in front of the Kansas bench.

That set the stage for Azubuike's big block, which came after NU's James Palmer Jr. snagged an offensive rebound of a missed jumper by Anton Gill with seven seconds to play.

“Great timing on the most important block we've had yet this season,” said sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot of Azubuike's game-sealer.

Seeking a quick way to get to the rim, Palmer (14 points, eight rebounds) used his body to find Azubuike and then faded to shoot over him. One problem: He never got the shot off. Azubuike erased it from the air and then chased it down in the corner, throwing it ahead to Lagerald Vick all alone in the Kansas front court to seal the victory.

“As soon as I blocked it, I just had to go and get it,” said Azubuike of his thought process that followed. “I didn't know if my leg was on the line or what.”

Added a smiling Mykhailiuk of the moment when he saw Azubuike chase down the rebound: “I didn't know what he was going to do, but we had, like, three seconds so he just had to throw it up in the air.

“We needed something good in our last 10 days and it was a great win. This win was better than a 20-point blowout because we had to grind and we had to be focused the whole game.”

Kansas now will have just one day off before returning to action against another team from Nebraska. The Jayhawks will take on Omaha at 6 p.m. Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Nebraska


By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Nebraska 72.

By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Nebraska 72.

Comments

Bryce Landon 6 months, 1 week ago

Did anyone else have flashbacks to when Keith Langford broke Cornsucker hearts in 2001-02 with his game-winning 3-pointer in the old Devaney Center?

Tony Bandle 6 months, 1 week ago

Dok is still learning the game, is still working on getting into total shape, is still growing and has yet to meet his maximum strength and yet he dominates when he stays out of foul trouble.

I know it's a pipe dream but can you all imagine what he would be like as a four year player!!!!

Gary McCullough 6 months, 1 week ago

I'd take another year, but that ain't happenin', either.

Brianna Zaleski 6 months, 1 week ago

A game we were lucky to win. Ally-Oop or 3 pt. Nothing in between. Recipe for disaster.

Dave Miller 6 months, 1 week ago

This team seems stymied by the zone. I'm afraid this team is going to see an awful lot of zone this season.

Bryce Landon 6 months, 1 week ago

They didn't seem stymied by Syracuse's zone.

Eric Bernauer 6 months, 1 week ago

They really weren't stymied by Washington's zone either. Vick had shot after shot after shot within 5 ft of the basket. He made a lot and had a career night, but he missed quite a few bunnies too. Offense wasn't the problem. We forced some 3 pointers admittedly and shot miserably from the three, but Washington gave us Vick's 5 foot shots all night. Our defense allowed unranked and picked 10th in the Pac-whatever to come in and shoot 48% overall and 43% from the 3 line. That is where we lost.

Allan Olson 6 months, 1 week ago

Who, in the Land Of Oz, was that super stud playing center last night? I've been pretty critical of Dok of late, but he looked like an entirely reborn athlete. He seemed slimmer, lighter on his feet, and much quicker on both ends of the court. I hope whoever that fella was that he's here to stay for the rest of this season! My congrats on a terrific performance in this hard fought victory.

Andy Godwin 6 months, 1 week ago

As predicted, Cunliffe had little impact. Hard for players, after sitting out the first half of the season, to have much of a role on a Self team. Games like this, Self goes back to in whom he trusts and those would be the starters. Although an improvement compared to last game (6 points all by Lightfoot), the bench continues to provide little firepower. KU was lucky to survive that game. NU looked like the better team at times, but KU made the plays in crunch time and got a few favorable calls on the road. Hopefully, just a bad game for Newman, because your starting shooting guard has to contribute more in 31 minutes.

FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA Off Def Tot PF TP A TO Blk Stl Min 0-6 0-3 0-0 1 5 6 2 0 2 2 0 1 31

Gary McCullough 6 months, 1 week ago

The defense looked much better in Lincoln than it did the previous two games. But NU pretty much sucks, even in the B1G. The 'hawks have to get tougher if they want to reclaim the defensive prowess they showed the last few years by keeping opposing teams under 50% from the field. And they've got to find a way to better defend the 3-pt. shots.

Harlan Hobbs 6 months, 1 week ago

Completely agree, Andy, regarding Malik. Right now, he is the missing piece in the puzzle given KU's lack of depth. He simply has to be more of an impact player if KU is going to be fully successful, even if Preston returns to give us a little more depth.

I noticed that Malik was bringing the ball up the court more last night. Perhaps that is an attempt by Coach Self to "jump start" his participation in the offense. Clearly, Malik is not playing with any confidence, and he tries to force too many things.

Just like with Frank Mason, Malik needs to learn how to play around the defense rather than try to drive through it. Early in his career, Frank had that problem and was often blocked. By his junior and senior seasons, though, Frank learned to bypass the defense, and he became the National Player of the Year.

As a side note, Frank seems to be handling his progression to the NBA quite well. Shouldn't surprise any of us, as he is the ultimate competitor.

Thomas Harrison 6 months, 1 week ago

Unless Preston and De Sousa are cleared to play for the second semester, we will NOT win the Big 12 again. Our guard play has been marginal, and we don't have a forward in the current starting lineup. We cannot win the conference by shooting 3's 30 -40 feet from the basket. Dok can't carry all the load inside. We MUST have an infusion of good forwards,i.e., Preston and De Sousa..I sure miss Jackson and Mason!!

Jerry Walker 6 months, 1 week ago

"We cannot win the conference by shooting 3's 30 -40 feet from the basket." - Thomas Harrison

Exaggerate much? That pretty well shot your credibility.

J.L. Forge 6 months, 1 week ago

I would say the context with which he is making his personal opinion and comment, which he is entitled to, is fairly accurate IMHO and one I would agree with. We will not win our 14th living and dying by the 3. Unless depth shows up down low, it's gonna be an up and down adventure trying to stay in the top 3 of the league.

Allan Olson 6 months, 1 week ago

Jerry, you have that guy's number for sure. And, Thomas and J.L., go have some more cocktails.

J.L. Forge 6 months, 1 week ago

Sharp....you and Jerry must be family.

Jerry Walker 6 months, 1 week ago

Nah...claiming that the Hawks woes are because they take "30-40 foot" jump shots trumps any context...making it a whiny exaggeration.

Mallory Briggans 6 months, 1 week ago

Just think Joel Embiid would be a senior ......

Allan Olson 6 months, 1 week ago

Sorry Mallory, but wrong, Joel was in same recruiting year as Frank Mason.

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