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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Tom Keegan: Kansas takes more than a victory home from Nebraska

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) puts up a shot over Nebraska center Jordy Tshimanga (32) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) puts up a shot over Nebraska center Jordy Tshimanga (32) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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Lincoln, Neb. — Beating Nebraska in basketball by one point doesn’t look like much of a step forward on paper, but the way Kansas stopped its two-game losing streak spoke more to progress than the 73-72 margin.

The Jayhawks showed a willingness and ability to get the ball into the big man’s hands and Udoka Azubuike showed as much offensive skill and determination as he has at any point in a Kansas uniform.

Plenty of schools, Kansas among them, can spread the floor and get hot from 3-point range, but for the Jayhawks to perform at a typical level, they must establish an inside game.

Azubuike, who now shoots hooks with both hands, has to be enough of an offensive force for opponents to have a difficult decision as to which poison to pick: Either crowd the big man and run the risk of leaving a 3-point shooter open or guard Azubuike with one man and take your chances that he won’t make you pay.

The 7-foot sophomore center from Nigeria gave future opponents something about which to think by producing 26 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes Saturday.

Not coincidentally, his big game came after he was pushed harder by Self than the coach ever has pushed him during the week in practice.

Azubuike said that in the practices and film sessions leading up to the game Self was, “really on me, like, like really bad.”

When Self said that he didn’t expect to receive a Christmas card or gift from his biggest player, he wasn’t smiling. His expression suggested that he didn’t feel good about what he put him through, but knew he had to do it.

Coaches hung up on being liked at all times by their players don't get the most out of them. In the end, they don’t earn players’ respect because the players figure out they aren't getting better. Sometimes, the best play for a coach is to make the player so mad at him that he embraces an “I’ll show him he’s wrong,” mentality.

It worked, and Azubuike’s confidence, which might have taken hits at times during the week, took a big step forward with Saturday’s career-best effort.

Omaha, which played a home game Sunday night, doesn’t have the talent to hang with Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. That makes it a nice night for KU to use the game as a practice and hammer home the pound-the-ball-inside theme from start to finish.

If KU stays disciplined in doing that, senior point guard Devonte’ Graham might find himself repeating his words from after the Nebraska thriller: “Dok, MVP of the game. Played amazing.”

Comments

Dale Rogers 6 months ago

"Coaches hung up on being liked at all times by their players don't get the most out of them. In the end, they don’t earn players’ respect because the players figure out they aren't getting better. Sometimes, the best play for a coach is to make the player so mad at him that he embraces an “I’ll show him he’s wrong,” mentality."

Somehow, I think that's something Coach Beaty needs to embrace.

Mike Nicco 6 months ago

Somehow, I think that's why Keegan wrote that line.

Michael Leiker 6 months ago

Recurring theme for every Bill Self post game this year...why doesn't our football coach sound like this?

Steve Zimmerman 6 months ago

Dok is getting better at sealing his opponent ; getting deeper under the rim. Great job big fella! He’s great at catching lobs too, when ball is moving quick. Our guards need to think of bounce passing ball, too. There were lots of opportunities to bounce pass the ball that we missed. Garrett is good defensively, but seems to have no clues in 2 on 1 fast break - that needs to be addressed for the whole team. We suck in closing fb. No matter how good defensively - it’s useless if we can’t finish fb. Coaching staff needs to think of using bounce pass, it’s very powerful. Watch more NBA, guys!!!

Joe Black 6 months ago

For the love of God please don't watch the NBA. It is the worst basketball ever. Greatest athletes for sure and if you like selfish play then it is the game for you. I much rather watch games where all 5 players participate on both ends of the court.

Anthony Steen 6 months ago

Agree, watch the NBA. Wrong in the suggestion of bounce passes to bigs...I can't believe I'm writing this to a KU BBall fan

Bill Kackley 6 months ago

If you are talking bounce pass to post, wrong. As a former post player, we like the ball up. If thinking perimeter, I agree with you.

Steve Zimmerman 6 months ago

Yes, Garrett to Svi. But sometimes Graham to Mitch, seems Mitch doesnt seem to be able to catch ball directly!

Douglas L. Boehr 6 months ago

As long as you don't bounce it below my knees!

Joe Joseph 6 months ago

Kansas weathered what will most likely end up being one of Nebraska's best outings for the year on a night when Kansas was average at best. Add to the fact that that was easily the most hostile place Kansas has played in this season and a one-point victory isn't so bad.

Certainly better than a one-point loss.

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