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Kansas defeats Stanford, 75-54

  • 10 p.m., Dec. 21, 2017
  • Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA,

Friday, December 22, 2017

Balanced beat down: Jayhawks’ stellar offense, defense in first half lead to easy win vs. Stanford

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk before the Stanford defense during the first half, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk before the Stanford defense during the first half, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California.

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Sacramento — The first half of 14th-ranked Kansas' 75-54 victory over Stanford at Golden 1 Center, home of the NBA's Sacramento Kings, provided KU coach Bill Self one of those rare moments where he actually could be pleased with both his team's offense and defense.

After grinding out the first eight or so minutes of their final nonconference game before the start of Big 12 play next week, the Jayhawks (10-2) pulled away with an 18-2 run that turned an 11-10 deficit into a 28-13 lead and, for all intents and purposes, could have been the moment the game was stopped and the fans were sent home.

Playing in front of an energetic, pro-KU crowd, the Jayhawks shot 62.5 percent in the first half — 46.2 percent from 3-point range — and rocked and roared their way to a 47-29 halftime lead on the strength of good team basketball.

The ball moved easily and effortlessly up and down the floor and the Jayhawks all seemed to be on the same page as they steamrolled the Cardinal into submission.

“Unbelievable how well we moved the ball in the first half against the zone," Self said. "When you look back a couple of games and we didn't move the ball very well at all against a couple of zones.”

No one player personified the Jayhawks' attacking mentality better than KU big man Udoka Azubuike, who turned in his third straight impressive outing after being challenged by Self heading into the Nebraska victory last weekend, this one to the tune of 24 points and seven rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting in just 26 minutes.

Azubuike scored KU's first 10 points of the game — all coming in the paint — and proved to be a major challenge for the Cardinal from start to finish.

Thursday's exclamation point came right where Kansas got this one started, with a monster slam by Azubuike, this one all over Stanford junior Reid Travis, who was helpless to stop the momentum and movement of the KU big man who was, somehow, left all alone in the paint and went up without a challenge for the big finish of a missed floater by Svi Mykhailiuk. The rim rocker put Kansas up 64-47 with just over five minutes to play and ended any slim hopes Stanford may have had of a late comeback.

“I don't get on to him for scoring, I get onto him for not rebounding the ball,” Self said of his sophomore center. “And I still don't think he does very well for his size. But he played pretty athletic tonight, offensively, and he got a block or two, defensively. I thought he played really well.”

Asked if Azubuike's solid three-game stretch was an indication that the powerful center, who recorded nine dunks during Thursday's victory — and is now up to 51 for the season — was starting to make moves toward permanently becoming the aggressive force inside that the Jayhawks need him to be, Self tilted his head and stopped short of praising the ever-improving post player too much.

“Clicking may be too strong,” Self said. “But he's gone 26 (points) and then he had a good game and then 24. So, yeah, he's getting (there) and I think zero free throws made.”

Azubuike's made one free throw earlier this week against Omaha, but recorded zero points from the line in his 50-point combined outburst in road victories over Nebraska and Stanford.

“He doesn't shoot many but he hasn't made a free throw and (scored) 50 points,” Self marveled. “You're not going to see that very often, especially with big guys. He's got to get to the point where he can get to the line and make a free throw too.”

One guy who had no trouble doing that in the last meeting between these two teams was Stanford's Travis, who set Allen Fieldhouse opponent records with 19 makes and 22 attempts from the free throw line in last year's matchup.

Thursday night, Travis went to the line just three times — making one of them — and was limited to 12 points and four rebounds in 39 minutes, a far cry from the 29 and nine he hit KU with last season.

A big reason for that was the defense the Jayhawks chose to use against him. Rather than letting Azubuike body up on him and challenge him with size, the Jayhawks threw smaller, quicker players at Travis, over and over and over, and guys like Svi Mykhailiuk, Sam Cunliffe and Marcus Garrett, used their lateral movement and good anticipation to thwart any attempts Travis made toward the basket in the paint during the first half.

After scoring on Stanford's first offensive possession, Travis did not record another point or field goal until the 1:28 mark of the first half. And by that time, the game was well on its way to being decided.

“We knew they like to post Reid a lot,” KU point guard Devonte' Graham said of the Stanford big man. “So we were trying to do stuff like not let the ball go to the corner and give them easy angles. I think our defense was pretty good. We ain't really got that many big people except for Dok. We were switching four and trying to front him and whenever he caught the ball we were coming to trap him. But we did a good job of not letting him get going early.”

Added Self: “I thought we did a great job defensively on him.”

KU's second half — 41 percent shooting, 0-of-5 from 3-point range, a 28-25 edge on the scoreboard — left more than a little to be desired, but the Jayhawks showed that, when they play together and pay attention to the scouting report, they are capable of putting some serious distance between themselves and good opponents.

Stanford, led by former Jayhawk Jerod Haase, now in his second season leading the Cardinal, was missing some key players and is off to a 6-7 start, but they still had enough athletes and talent to give Kansas a game if the Jayhawks were not at their best.

The Jayhawks were in the first half and that was all she wrote.

“I don't think that we played very well offensively at all (in the second half) but they didn't score either,” Self said. “I think they shot it poorly and they didn't get a lot of easy baskets. I mean, the game wasn't going our way (early in the second half). Dok's in foul trouble (with three at the 18:21 mark), they're already in the bonus (at 11:49), so you would think that would be a time (they might make a run), but I don't think it got closer than 15. Even though we didn't play well, we didn't allow them to play well. That was probably the key.”

By the Numbers: Kansas 75, Stanford 54

By the Numbers: Kansas 75, Stanford 54

Comments

Philip Atkinson 10 months ago

It might be time to contact Rick Barry to teach Dok how to shoot free throws underhanded. .900 NBA free throw shoot percentage. We need Azubuike in games in the last few minutes of close Big 12 contests. Consider it. I know it appears "sissy" but who is going to make fun of Dok. 7', 280 lbs. I'm not calling him a "sissy".

Bryce Landon 10 months ago

My favorite part of the game last night was probably the stretch between the Under-16 and Under-12 timeouts in the second half. We didn't allow Stanford to score a single point between those two commercial breaks. That might have been our best defensive stretch of the entire season.

I said back on Monday night after the Omaha game that this game would be a gauge of how prepared we truly are for Big 12 play. I'd say we're fairly well prepared. We appear to have learned out lessons about playing defense after our pitiful showings against UW and ASU, and if we put our minds to it and play the kind of defense we played against Stanford last night, we should be able to win the Big 12 again.

Also nice to see such a large contingent of Kansas fans in Sacramento and to hear the Rock Chalk chant as the game wound down. You'd think the Cardinal would have the homecourt advantage, but KU fans outnumbered SU fans by a large ratio, from the looks of things.

But I'm still waiting for someone to answer the question - why was this game played in Sacramento instead of on the Stanford campus after we played them in our own gym last year?

Marcia Parsons 10 months ago

That's the way they set it up--one KU home, one neutral location, and one Stanford home. That way neither got the advantage of two at home for a three-game deal.

Matt Tait 10 months ago

It's actually a four-game series and both games will be played on campus in 2018 (Allen Fieldhouse) and 2019 (Palo Alto, CA).

KU was actually supposed to play Cal at this venue but then when laws were changed and KU no longer could schedule public schools in California, they had to approach Stanford about taking the game and then set up another two-game series so that the Cardinal would get at least one game on campus vs. Kansas.

Dirk Medema 10 months ago

It is essentially the same arrangement that we had with IU in the 90's. Both homes plus Indy and KC. Bigger arenas and non-season tickets = bigger revenue.

Clarence Haynes 10 months ago

Perhaps Doke can get some free throw tips from Embiid.

Harlan Hobbs 10 months ago

Good observation, Clarence. Every time I watch Joel in the pros, he is knocking down his free throws at an impressive clip. He is doing a great job in Philly.

Mike Kendall 10 months ago

Hearing Frank Mason talk during the game with the two announcers was awesome! Can't you tell that Frank has it all together now? Very confident young man who can ball--living his dream in California---LIFE IS GOOD!

Dirk Medema 10 months ago

Assuming that was momma with his daughter. Good to see him succeed.

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