Kansas defeats Baylor, 64-61

  • 11 a.m., Feb. 22, 2020
  • The Ferrell Center, Waco, TX

Saturday, February 22, 2020

He was feeling it’: Udoka Azubuike, No. 3 Kansas get revenge with 64-61 win over No. 1 Baylor

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, right, low fives guard Marcus Garrett, left, after a made basket against Baylor during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Waco, Texas.  (AP Photo/Ray Carlin)

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, right, low fives guard Marcus Garrett, left, after a made basket against Baylor during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Ray Carlin)


Waco, Texas — Stifled during a Kansas loss to Baylor in January in Lawrence, Kansas senior Udoka Azubuike refused to be taken out of Saturday’s rematch at BU’s Ferrell Center.

And he never was.

Behind Azubuike’s 23 points and 19 rebounds in 36 minutes that dominated Saturday’s game, third-ranked Kansas knocked off No. 1 Baylor, 64-61, in what Kansas coach Bill Self called the best atmosphere the Jayhawks have played in this season.

“That’s about as well, overall, as I’ve seen him play,” said Self of Azubuike, whose 19 rebounds were a career-high. “He was terrific. They did such a great job on him the first time because we had nothing, from a scheme standpoint, to help him. And today we were able to throw the ball to him over the top quite a bit. But he was great. He controlled the paint and certainly rebounded the ball at a high level.”

Throwing the ball inside to their biggest player is nothing new for the Jayhawks. But in order to make it happen on Saturday, Kansas had to tweak its game plan.

Instead of entry passes to the post from the wing, which was the plan in their January loss to Baylor, KU kept the ball in the middle of the floor as much as possible and threw it over the top from there.

Sometimes it worked, particularly when junior guard Marcus Garrett (9 points, 7 assists in 33 minutes) was involved.

Other times it opened up driving lanes for Garrett and KU point guard Devon Dotson (13 points in 37 minutes), who either finished tough shots at the rim to help Kansas maintain control or missed but left a clear path for Azubuike to go get the rebounds.

“That’s an easy clean-up for Dok,” said Dotson between sips of Gatorade.

Eight of Azubuike’s 11 made field goals on Saturday were dunks, either off of lobs or offensive rebounds.

“(We were) just trying to get more ways to free him up,” Dotson added.

Azubuike made sure the efforts of his teammates and coaches paid off, and no one seemed to grow tired of talking about his performance in the aftermath of Saturday’s victory, the fourth over a top-ranked team in the Self era.

“Unbelievable,” said Garrett. “Protecting the rim, catching lobs, scoring when he got it down low, offensive rebounds. Everything.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” said senior Isaiah Moss, when asked what it was like to watch Azubuike dominate like that. “Some of the things he does are still surprising to me, and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, this is great right here.’”

“He was feeling it,” Dotson said of Azubuike, who he connected with on a picturesque, come-fly-with me lob in the first half that set the tone for the rest of the game. “In the first game they kind of took him out, and we just wanted to have the emphasis of feeding him and getting him touches. He was phenomenal.”

Azubuike’s presence and was key throughout the game because it never allowed Baylor to gain control. In order to stay out there, the 7-footer had to both tap into his improved conditioning and find a way to stay out of foul trouble, things that have plagued him throughout his Kansas career.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this my freshman year,” Azubuike admitted after the victory. “I put in a lot of hard work in the offseason, working on my footwork and being able to run the floor, and it paid off.”

So, too, did his mindset. Instead of allowing himself to be beaten down by comments about what his game lacks, Azubuike stayed positive, remained focused on what his team needed from him and used the slights as motivation.

“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘He can’t do this, he can’t do that,’” an emotional Azubuike said at the postgame podium. “All my life I have been looked down on on everything. So coming out here and playing the way I played and giving it all to my team just made me emotional.”

Said Self of his senior center’s monster effort and four-year path: “He’s a better player than his numbers show because he’s so good defensively. But tonight he was equally as good on offense.”

After jumping out to a 5-0 lead, Baylor (24-2, 13-1) saw their early lead and control of the game disappear when the Jayhawks ripped off a 9-0 run to take command.

Other than one instance, when BU tied the game at 18 on a 3-pointer by Matthew Mayer, the Jayhawks led the rest of the half, with a 30-21 edge representing the biggest gap of the first half.

KU pushed its largest lead to 11 points (48-37) midway through the second half and the Jayhawks led for 35:46 of Saturday’s game. Given the fact that Baylor had led for 97.4% of the time in their 12 home games leading up to Saturday’s showdown, KU grabbing and keeping control was a significant part of Saturday’s story.

“If we kind of get the crowd out of it and (are) in the driver’s seat most of the game, that can help ease some nerves and calm everybody down,” Dotson said. “I felt like we did a great job. There were some hiccups, but I’m glad we got to close it out.”

Those hiccups came in the final minute and made KU’s ability to close out the victory much tougher than it looked like it might be.

Dotson missed the front-end of a one-and-one trip to the free throw line. And sophomore Ochai Agbaji threw away an inbounds pass with Kansas leading 62-58. Baylor’s Jared Butler (19 point) and MaCio Teague (8 points) made the Jayhawks pay with back-to-back 3-pointers that cut the KU lead to one.

But Moss calmly knocked in two free throws on the possession after Teague’s triple. And KU’s defense got the stop it needed in the final seconds, when Butler’s 3-point try from the top of the key to tie it came up just short.

“We said let’s guard them,” Self said, when asked if he thought about fouling Baylor with KU leading by three instead of letting them attempt a game-tying 3-pointer. “Fortunately, for us, he missed the shot. But it was guarded.”

Dotson was the KU player who switched onto Butler during that last possession, and his goal the entire time was to make whatever shot Butler took as contested as it possibly could be.

“I just wanted to make it tough and keep a hand in his face,” Dotson said. “... I was just hoping it (didn’t) go in. It was a big win. They beat us at our place and we wanted to get them back. Everybody did their part in this one, and it was exciting.”

Next up, Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night for an 8 p.m. Big Monday battle with Oklahoma State.


Bryce Landon 1 year, 9 months ago

I didn't get to see the game, but what a great day for Kansas basketball! How long has it been since we beat a #1-ranked team in its own gym?

Now let's finish the job and beat our last four opponents!


Dane Pratt 1 year, 9 months ago

According to Matt it was 1958 against K-State. The opportunity does not present itself very often.

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't understand how a KU fan wouldn't find a way to watch this game. Must've been a sabbath issue...

Barry Weiss 1 year, 9 months ago

Super win and effort! Every time Baylor would creep back within 3-4 points, we would answer with a basket. Great defense too.

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 9 months ago

It's about freakin' time we use Dok - the RIGHT WAY. Please no more those entry passes into the middle (NOTE TO OCHAI & DOTSON)!!! Learn to lob like Marcus, ocassionally from Dotson, too. Everyone in the team, I mean everyone, should look out for Dok when he's ready to launch and stuff the rim. It's a very very high percentage move. Been saying this all along. No one can stop SuperDok when he's flying high. No one would dare to get in his way. Pick and roll is the only way to super charge our offense. Dotson can benefit from Dok clearing the way to the basket, too. I'm so glad we didn't see much of the usual stinky 4-motion offense. It's about time, coach!! Great win!!! I didn't expect we would win. Now I think, IF McCormack and Ochai can also tune in on offense, rest assure the path to championship is obvious.

Brian Wilson 1 year, 9 months ago

You say that but nobody fouled and sent Dok to the line. Dok was 1 for 3 from the line. When is the last time Dok only went to the line 3 times. Had Baylor hacked Dok a half dozen more times after the one and one he may have scored less.

Interesting addition note. How the heck does Mac get 5 fouls in 4 minutes, LOL. I can only guess Mac was in as "Hatchet Man" and he was busy trolling Baylor big men into foul trouble.....Baylor was in poor postion to foul Dok with both Vital and Gillespie having 4 fouls. Great win for us though. RCJHKU!!!

Dirk Medema 1 year, 9 months ago

How many fouls did McDonald draw in his 4 minutes? Maybe that was one of those subplots that we have no clue about that make Coach so exceptional.

To some extent though I think that after the first OU game there was the politicking behind the scenes and appropriately so that hacking Dok away from the ball is an intentional foul, which foils that strategy - hopefully forever.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 9 months ago

McCormack - 4 point in 4 minutes (excellent) and 5 fouls (wow). Shortly before his first foul, I told my wife, he will pick up an offensive foul on a moving screen and lo and behold on KU's next offensive position - foul. Self is a master at his player rotation; however, due to David's in ability to play without fouling Self had to use a timeout to give Udoka a rest. Self tried to play David for a minute or so before a scheduled TV timeout to extend the rest time for Udoka. However, twice David fouled a few seconds before the scheduled time out cutting Udoka's rest short. Both David and Ochai need to play complete games to have a chance for a "great season".

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 9 months ago

Couldn't agree more, Andy. Ochai allowed 2 lobs by BU by not getting back or not being aware. Offense-wise, he's a waste. I'd like to see Enaruna got a chance of PT. McC needs to play like BigDok. McC moves waaaay too much.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 9 months ago

This was a great team win and the best effort I have seen from Udoka from start to finish. However, these end of the game meltdowns need to stop. They had a nine-point lead going into half, which was quickly reduced to 3. Then they looked to be in control with less than 2 minutes left, yet the game could have gone into overtime if Baylor's last shot was mere inches further. You heard Self's explanation of why he did not foul leading by 3 with 7 seconds, but I can't remember when Self has ever told his players to foul intentionally when up by 3 at the end of the game. He is stubborn that way. He is great no doubt making moves during a game, but that ending turned out to be more lucky than good coaching (yes, the shot was well guarded but the shot was online and KU was in serious foul trouble if game had gone into OT). Big time Rock Chalk and now no letdowns the rest of the way.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 9 months ago

The ending was worrisome. Thankfully Isaiah made his free throws but it never should have gone down to the wire. They were in control of this game mid way through the first half and nearly blew it in the final 30 seconds. And this is not the first time we've seen this ending.

Shannon Gustafson 1 year, 9 months ago

2012 OSU in the final 4, we intentionally fouled Aaron Craft up 3 at the end.

As for which is the right call against Baylor, ultimately we won so it was the right call. If you believe there is a large statistical difference in success whether you choose to foul or play it out, check this out:

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 9 months ago

Whether it's the right call or not, as Shannon said, the result was we won. This move says a lot about trust that coach BS has put in this year's team on D. He knows that DDot or Garrett on front end should be able to neutralize their 3-pt shooter. It's a calculated move or gamble, as some might put it. But it's effective. DDot was able to deny Butler's red-hot 3-pt shooting, not by a blocked shot, but by blocking his vision, which is a smart way.

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