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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Jayhawks want to get sophomore center Udoka Azubuike more shots

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) gets up for a lob jam against Kentucky during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at United Center.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) gets up for a lob jam against Kentucky during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at United Center.

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On a night when the Kansas men's basketball team shot 35 percent from the floor and won, the one Jayhawk who finished with a field goal percentage above 50 percent had just five attempts.

“(We shot) 7-of-18, 4-of-14, 4-of-13, 3-of-14 and he's 5-for-5 and we got him five shots,” said Kansas coach Bill Self lamenting the limited offensive involvement of sophomore center Udoka Azubuike. “So we've gotta do a much better job of throwing the ball to him on the post.”

When the Jayhawks did that Tuesday night, during a 65-61 Champions Classic victory over No. 7 Kentucky, Azubuike at times looked unstoppable.

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Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) roars after a foul by Kentucky late in the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017 at United Center.

As has become common, all five of his buckets came right at the rim, with the 7-foot sophomore finishing 4-for-4 on dunk attempts and 1-for-1 on layups.

There were, of course, other times when he caught the ball in the post. But those touches either led to Azubuike getting fouled or him kicking the ball back out and resetting the offense.

Neither did KU (2-0) much good, as the Kansas guards struggled to find room and rhythm against Kentucky's length and Azubuike struggled at the free throw line.

A 38 percent free throw shooter in 11 games a season ago (11 of 29), Azubuike made just 3-of-8 attempts from the free throw line on Tuesday, costing Kansas points and failing to capitalize on the front end of several one-and-one situations that could have delivered more points.

Where he lacked in putting points on the board, Azubuike more than made up for in other areas. His five offensive rebounds were a game high and he delivered two blocks, altered a handful of other shots and dished a nifty assist to Malik Newman on a backdoor cut for a key second-half basket.

“I do think he played pretty well,” Self said. “That was the first time that we really had to have him to win and I thought he played pretty well.”

Whether fully pleased with his performance or not, Azubuike agreed with his coach in one key area — he felt good while playing a career-high 34 minutes, a number that was as important as ever given the fact that freshman forward Billy Preston missed his second straight game because of an off-the-court issue.

“I feel great,” Azubuike said after the game. “This is a big game and I love big games so I just came out there and tried to do whatever to make my team win. I wasn't tired. I was telling coach, 'I'm not tired, I'm not tired.' He was the one that wanted to get me a little break. I was hyped up for this game and I was ready to go.”

Azubuike's ability to not only play 34 minutes but to impact the game at such a high level when he was out there, played a huge role in Kansas surviving.

The goal now, he said, was to find things he could do to make it easier for his teammates to get him the ball in the right spots.

All five of Azubuike's buckets came off of assists, with two coming from Devonte' Graham, two from Svi Mykhailiuk and the other coming from Lagerald Vick. Those three have combined to play 261 games at Kansas, providing evidence for the claim that the Jayhawks' experience advantage helped push them past the Wildcats.

“Once you pass the ball to me on the post, it's really hard for opponents to guard me and all that stuff so I just used that to my advantage,” said Azubuike before elaborating on what he thought he could do better. “Maybe coach wants me to be a little more vocal, demand the ball more. (Tuesday), when they got me the ball inside, positive stuff happened.”

By the Numbers: Kansas 65, Kentucky 61

By the Numbers: Kansas 65, Kentucky 61


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Kentucky

Comments

Pius Waldman 2 years, 7 months ago

Would it be better if Udoka set up more distant from the goal and then received bounce passes and then work to shoot the ball. Distant over passes have a tendency to be intercepted. Yes he needs more touches but ones that can not be intercepted. Guess what he needs to figure out how to shoot free throws.

Shannon Gustafson 2 years, 7 months ago

The best post position is as close to the basket as possible, especially for a guy with a skill set like Udoka has (no jump shot). Posting farther from the basket would force him to shoot longer shots (lower % will be made) and/or dribble the ball as he backs down his defender (which is illegal in college basketball, and the dribbling will result in steals by smaller defenders).

So he did what is best for his game, he posted up as close to the rim as possible and dunked it whenever possible. We don't need him shooting 5-8 ft jumpers.

Steve Zimmerman 2 years, 7 months ago

Good one, Shannon. If I may add, I'm all for pick and roll, but guards have to understand and communicate with Dok instead of driving to the basket after getting screened. I'm also not sure how effective HCBS guards play to weave and weave and weave. Seriously, I would rather have those players set screens and lobs or pops. So prone to TOs. When 3s aren't falling, spreading those guards doesn't help either. Tons of improvement needed if we want #14.

Bryce Landon 2 years, 7 months ago

What about #15 - as in, our 15th Final Four?

Or #4 - as in, our fourth NCAA national title?

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 7 months ago

I would agree with you Pius except that he doesn't have the footwork yet and limited post positioning. I'm willing to bet that come March or even before he will be ready to expand his range. One other thing is that Dok doesn't yet need any bounce passes the will only increase the number of turnovers.

Right idea but maybe not the right guy, as of now.

Dale Rogers 2 years, 7 months ago

Free throws. Dok did much better on free throws awhile back in a game when he just bounced the ball a time or two and then shot, all without stopping his motion and without taking time to think about it. Also, if that doesn't help maybe he should start shooting underhanded free throws like Wilt and Rick Barry did.

W Keith Swinehart II 2 years, 7 months ago

Doke much better than I remembered. He has good court awareness and great footwork. He will be an everpresent force whenever he's on the floor. Afraid he'll be gone end of March.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 7 months ago

Dok will be gone in April but hopefully still the first week.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 7 months ago

I think it is still in the realm of possibilities that Dok will stay another year. Does he want to be a first round pick or a lottery pick?

Joe Joseph 2 years, 7 months ago

I don't see Dok as a skilled enough big man to warrant much NBA hype this season. It won't shock me if he leaves, but I'm of the opinion he returns because there won't be enough interest early in the draft.

Robert Brock 2 years, 7 months ago

Azubuike is a four-year player. He has size but lacks basic skills. He needs a lot of time and practice.

Marius Rowlanski 2 years, 7 months ago

I would say that Azubuike has the basic skills but not anything near where he will need to be to play in the NBA. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Dok sticking around another year or so.

Lawrence McGlinn 2 years, 7 months ago

I would say that the poor shooting of the perimeter players contributed to not getting Azubuike the ball. Kentucky packed it in defensively without paying a price because we were not hitting outside shots. Reminds me of the Villanova game in the Elite Eight a couple of years ago. Ellis only got 5 shots in that game as Selden and Mason went 1-12 on 3's. If a guy on the block is a big part of your offense, you'd better find a way to get him the ball no matter what. That's on the coaches. That said, I was impressed by the grit of the team, especially Newman's two free throws at the end.

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