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'What does KU feed them boys?' Gorillas gobbled up by Jayhawks in exhibition finale

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Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) defends against Pittsburg State forward Dejon Waters, Jr. (12) during the first half, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) defends against Pittsburg State forward Dejon Waters, Jr. (12) during the first half, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

Pitt State coach Kim Anderson needed just one word to sum up his feelings.

“Gosh,” the former Missouri player and coach who is all too familiar with Kansas said following Thursday’s 102-42 KU victory at Allen Fieldhouse.

The astonishment didn’t stop there.

R.J. Lawrence, a sophomore guard from Blue Springs (Mo.) High had his own dose of oh-my-goodness for the Jayhawks, who out-rebounded the Gorillas 52-30 and outscored them in the paint, 44-10, numbers that were expected given the size discrepancy between the Division I powerhouse and Division II opponent.

Rarely was that more apparent than at one point during the second half Thursday, when Lawrence, at 5-foot-11, 145 pounds, stood between KU’s Silvio De Sousa (6-9, 245) and Christian Braun (6-6, 215) at the edge of the paint on a free throw.

As the trio waited for the shot, Lawrence and De Sousa could be seen smiling during a quick conversation.

“I was just asking him, ‘What does KU feed them boys?’ ” Lawrence recalled. “They’re all just swole, they’re all tall.”

Lawrence, who grew up in the same high school basketball scene as Braun and Ochai Agbaji (19 points on 7-of-8 shooting) said it was surreal to be out there on the Allen Fieldhouse floor with guys he had known for a while.

He also said he never got an answer to his question.

“I think it’s a secret,” he said of the food that fuels that Jayhawks. “Y’all got some secret agency here that’s just feeding you boys hormones. I don’t know.”

It certainly looked that way on Thursday night, as the third-ranked Jayhawks raced out to a 24-4 lead, built a 27-point halftime advantage and then opened the second half with a 13-0 run to spur on the onslaught that included a 53-20 advantage in the second half.

After hearing questions all offseason about whether they had enough 3-point shooting to survive the season, the Jayhawks connected on 17 of 37 from 3-point range in this one, with nine different Kansas players hitting at least one triple.

Although none of them will count on their season stat lines, the Jayhawks, in two exhibition games this month, hit 28 of 70 shots from distance, good for a 40% clip.

And that was with senior grad transfer Isaiah Moss, who is widely regarded to be the Jayhawks’ best perimeter shooter, playing just five of a possible 80 minutes because of a hamstring injury.

“It was good to see the ball go in the basket and everybody shot it well, except for Dot,” said KU coach Bill Self, referencing point guard Devon Dotson, who finished 4-of-13 from the floor but saw the Jayhawks shoot 54% anyway. “Dot’s been shooting it pretty consistently well for us day in and day out so that’s not a major concern. But it’s good to see the ball go in and I did think the ball moved a little better and we played better than we did last week so it’s good to see improvement.”

Kansas wasn’t the only blue blood program that showed improvement over its two exhibition tilts.

Fourth-ranked Duke, which opened preseason play with a 6-point win over Northwest Missouri State last week, drubbed Fort Valley State, 126-57 on Wednesday night.

The Blue Devils hit 13 of 28 shots from 3-point range and connected on 61% of their field goals in the runaway victory that featured the same level of improvement and increased intensity as Kansas displayed in its final tune-up.

That sets the stage perfectly for the clash of the titans on Tuesday night in New York, where Kansas and Duke will square off on the undercard of the Champions Classic that will feature No. 1 Michigan State against No. 2 Kentucky in the nightcap.

Talk about a quartet of teams that eat the same meals.

The Jayhawks will not practice on Friday and will get back to work Saturday and Sunday before traveling to the Big Apple on Monday for the season opener at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s such a good event to be a part of, tipping off the season and having a lot of interest and all eyes on Madison Square Garden,” said Self, who is 4-4 overall and riding three consecutive victories in the first eight years of the event. “We’re going to be one of four teams soaking in the exposure that night, so I wouldn’t want to be not in the game even though I bet all four coaches wish they had a little bit more time.”

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