The Jayhawks could not have asked for a better way to close out 2018.
No. 5 Kansas (11-1) responded from its first loss of the season by dominating Eastern Michigan from the jump during an 87-63 victory Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse. KU, which led for over 37 minutes of its last game before the start of Big 12 play, never trailed by more than three points.
Junior center Udoka Azubuike, who had been out the previous four games with an ankle injury, returned to the starting lineup in his first game back. Azubuike picked up right where he left off, throwing down powerful dunks as the focal point of KU’s offense.
Azubuike logged 20 minutes, scoring a team-high 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Azubuike recorded six of the team’s 10 dunks during the lopsided win. Freshman Quentin Grimes finished second on the team in scoring with 16 points, while freshman Devon Dotson added 15 points.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: No. 5 Kansas came out and executed from the opening tip.
It has been a week since KU suffered a road loss to Arizona State, which dropped the team from No. 1 to No. 5 in the AP poll. The Jayhawks, who had struggled out of the gate for much of the nonconference slate, responded by taking control from the start Saturday afternoon.
KU scored its first 10 points in the paint, including four layups and dunks, with the return of Azubuike. Kansas continued to dominate inside for the rest of the contest, as Eastern Michigan never led after the 17:03 mark in the first half.
• Offensive highlight: Devon Dotson is just a freshman, but he was incredibly consistent throughout nonconference play for Kansas.
Dotson has the ability to make plays on both ends the floor, and he uses his speed in transition. Late in the first half, Dotson did exactly that and added some flair at the end as well. In Frank Mason-esque fashion, Dotson handled contact in the air to finish off an acrobatic fastbreak layup.
The sequence was a part of a dominating stretch by the Jayhawks, who were in complete control during the final minutes of the first half.
• Defensive highlight: Azubuike had plenty of chances to test the ankle early in the 2018 finale.
Azubuike trapped an Eastern Michigan player on the baseline with Dedric Lawson. He was physical in the paint on both offense and defense, demonstrating the ability to leave the floor whenever he needed to.
The best defensive play by the big mam occurred within minutes of his first game action since Dec. 4. Azubuike got switched on a guard late in the shot clock along the perimeter, and was able to hold his own against a shifty Paul Jackson.
Since Jackson couldn’t get by KU’s center, he tried to jump higher than Azubuike to get a shot off. Azubuike had different plans, however, denying the attempt as it began to leave Jackson’s hands.
•Up next: Kansas plays host to Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Wednesday.