After weeks of most Kansas basketball discussions centering more on potential trial outcomes than lineups, the Jayhawks got to lose themselves inside a packed Allen Fieldhouse on Thursday night.
While withholding sophomore big man Silvio De Sousa from competition as KU continues to evaluate his status, in wake of what was described as “new information” that emerged during the college basketball corruption trial in New York, Kansas easily handled Emporia State, 93-55, in its exhibition opener.
A preseason All-American making his unofficial KU debut after sitting out the 2017-18 season as a transfer from Memphis, junior forward Dedric Lawson wasted no time in looking like a natural focal point for the Jayhawks’ offense.
The 2018-19 Jayhawks made their preseason debut at Allen Fieldhouse against Emporia State.
Lawson put up a double-double in the preseason opener, finishing with 31 points and 15 rebounds.
He was one of 11 Jayhawks to play double-figure minutes, but by far and away the leading scorer.
None of Lawson’s Kansas teammates joined him in double figures until the game’s final minutes, when freshman guard Quentin Grimes reached 10 on a 3-pointer with 3:40 to go.
Senior guard Lagerald Vick led the team in assists, with five, and scored seven points in 25 minutes.
Freshman point guard Devon Dotson provided eight points, four boards and three assists.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: As many buckets as the Jayhawks’ various lineups produced, Lawson set the tone early by scoring the first 10 points of the exhibition for the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
Smooth, first at the foul line, then scoring both inside and from beyond the 3-point arc, Lawson had KU up 10-3 before the first media timeout.
Not long after that, KU’s bench unit got invoiced, too, with forward Mitch Lightfoot and guard Charlie Moore draining a triple apiece, pushing KU’s lead to 21-6 by the 13:00 mark of the first half.
The Hornets never really stood a chance, and the Jayhawks reminded them of that quickly.
• Offensive highlight: It didn’t come until a little more than eight minutes into the second half and in his 13th minute of action, but starting center Udoka Azubuike finally looked like his imposing self on his first basket of the night.
Senior guard Vick whipped a pass toward the middle of the paint as Azubuike came off a screen.
Perhaps channeling the frustration of being scoreless in the second half of an exhibition, Azubuike didn’t put the ball on the floor — a move that had cost him and other KU bigs earlier on — and thew down a two-handed jam over Emporia State’s Justin Washington. The slam not only had the ferocity of a typical Azubuike dunk but also came with some extra sauce, in the form of the ball (unintentionally) hitting Washington in the face after KU’s 7-footer threw it down.
• Defensive highlight: Sawyer Glick didn’t know what he was about to get himself into.
Just trying to provide Emporia State’s struggling offense with some kind of a boost as the shot cock was winding down midway through the first half, Glick rose up for a 3-point try on the left wing.
The problem was KU freshman Grimes knew exactly what Glick had in mind.
The 6-foot-5 guard timed his contest of the 3 perfectly, allowing him to not only block the shot, but retrieve it and push the ball up the floor for a layup and a 25-6 Kansas lead.
• Key stat: Field goal percentage defense. The Jayhawks really could attribute burying Emporia State early more to their defensive play than their offensive prowess.
The Hornets began the game misfiring on 18 of their first 20 field goal attempts. Those struggles were the direct result of KU hitting the court locked in on both ends, despite obvious mismatches all over the floor.
The Hornets only made eight of 38 shots in the first half (21.1 percent), setting up a massive KU lead of 42-22 at the break.
ESU shot 27.8 percent from the field in defeat.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse in a week for another Thursday night exhibition, this one against Washburn to close the preseason schedule.