Lawrence, Kan. — Kansas coach Bill Self knew he would need his toughest bunch on the floor to muscle up against West Virginia.
All three of them showed up.
Udoka Azubuike had 17 points and 11 rebounds while outplaying Mountaineers big man Oscar Tshiebwe in the second half, Devon Dotson and Marcus Garrett made crucial plays down the stretch, and the third-ranked Jayhawks rallied from a slow start to beat No. 16 West Virginia 60-53 in the Big 12 opener for both teams Saturday.
Dotson added 16 points and Garrett finished with 12 points and six assists for the Jayhawks (11-2), who won their 28th straight conference opener by overcoming a sluggish first half. Kansas trailed by as many as 10 before leaning on defense and dunks to beat the Mountaineers (11-2) for the seventh time in their last eight meetings.
“I’d be honest, I didn’t think we played very tough at all the first half. I didn’t think Doke was that tough. Oscar just dominated,” Self said. “The key the second half was Dot’s conditioning – I think he played 40 minutes and never came out against pressure like that. And you know, Doke was the best player in the game the second half.”
In the first half, that was Tshiebwe who had the bulk of his 17 points and 17 rebounds. Fellow freshman Miles McBride added 13 points, most of that coming as the Mountaineers tried to close the gap in the final minutes of their eighth consecutive loss in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I think we were a little shell-shocked,” Self said. “As much as we told them how physical it would be, that’s a whole different ballgame. And it helps us to play them here first to give us a better chance going to Morgantown.”
Kansas won despite shooting 3 of 17 from beyond the arc – mostly because West Virginia wasn’t any better. The Big 12’s best defensive team couldn’t solve the Jayhawks’ own defense in the second half when the Mountaineers shot 28 percent from the field and missed all of their 3-point attempts.
It was a much different story from the first half when Kansas was fortunate to get within 30-24 into the locker room.
It wasn’t so much that West Virginia had dominated, either. It was that Tshiebwe had done it.
The bruising McDonald’s All-American was 6 of 8 from the field, scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, all while flexing and strutting to the jeering of a sold-out field house. On the defensive end, the 260-pound Tshiebwe proved to be one of the few players in the Big 12 who could match the Jayhawks’ own big man with brute strength.
Azubuike had 10 points and seven rebounds, but he wasn’t the game-changer the Jayhawks have come to expect.
“Beautiful thing about Oscar is Oscar is Oscar. He doesn’t try to be anything else,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “He’s really good at what he does. You don’t have to worry about him going out and dribbling it between his legs and losing it, or jacking up 3s. Oscar knows who he is. He is happy with who he is. He’s pretty damn good at who he is.”
He just wasn’t quite as good in the second half.
The Jayhawks began denying him the ball and on defense Tshiebwe suddenly looked like a first-year player. He committed a foul when Azubuike slammed an alley-oop dunk, then committed another foul on the next possession, when freshman guard Christian Braun finished over Tshiebwe for another three-point play.
Azubuike slammed a second alley-oop over Tshiebwe to cap an 8-0 run later in the half, giving the Jayhawks a 45-38 lead and sending a once-subdued crowd inside the Phog into a frenzy. Then, the Jayhawks’ senior center rattled the rim with a third and final alley-oop dunk on Tshiebwe to make it 49-42 as the game approached the final media timeout.
“Oscar, he’s a grown man. I’ve never played against somebody like that,” Azubuike said. “He’s hard to move in the paint. Really physical, really strong. I told him, first time playing him, I tried to box him out and he wasn’t moving.”
The Mountaineers got within 52-49 on a jumper by Taz Sherman with 90 seconds left, but Garrett answered with a scooping layup. And when McBride made two foul shots for West Virginia, the Jayhawks’ junior guard added his own.
Dotson took care of the rest with a series of foul shots that put the game away.
“We didn’t stick to the game plan,” Huggins said. “We got a bunch of young guys, and we were trying to play a bunch of guys, and I think we had some (bad) combinations out there at both ends.”
More Top 25
(At) No. 1 Gonzaga 75, Pepperdine 70: Killie Tillie scored 20 points and blocked a potential tying shot in the closing seconds to help top-ranked Gonzaga beat Pepperdine for its 32nd consecutive home win.
Filip Petrusev scored 16 points and Joel Ayayi had 12 for Gonzaga (16-1, 2-0 West Coast). The Bulldogs have the longest home winning streak in the country. They have won eight consecutive overall since losing to Michigan.
Colbey Ross scored 24 points for Pepperdine (7-9, 0-2). The Waves have has lost 38 straight games to Gonzaga since their last win in 2002.
No. 2 Duke 95, (at) Miami 62: Vernon Carey Jr. scored 24 points in 25 minutes playing against his hometown team for the first time, and Duke shot a season-high 60% to beat Miami.
It was Miami’s most lopsided home loss in Jim Larranaga’s nine seasons as coach.
Carey shot 11 for 14, and every basket drew cheers from a substantial portion of the less-than-capacity crowd. The Blue Devils freshman starred in high school in nearby Broward County, and his father played football for the Hurricanes.
Duke (13-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its seventh game in a row. Miami (9-4, 1-2) had a five-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time since November.
Duke put the clamps on Chris Lykes, Miami’s leading scorer this season. He shot 2 for 15 and totaled eight points.
Kameron McGusty led the Hurricanes with 12 points but had six turnovers.
No. 4 Oregon 69, (at) Utah 64: Payton Pritchard scored 19 points for Oregon, and Will Richardson and Chris Duarte each had 14.
Pritchard drew most of the defensive attention as usual so the Ducks ended up moving the ball to Shakur Juiston and Chandler Lawson. They each had a pair of layups to erase Utah’s late lead and clinch the game for Oregon (12-3, 1-1 Pac-12).
Both Gach scored a career-high 24 points for the Utes (10-4, 1-1). Timmy Allen had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
(At) No. 6 Baylor 59, Texas 44: MaCio Teague matched his season high with 21 points, and Baylor earned its 10th straight win.
After building a 36-23 halftime lead, the Bears (11-1, 1-0 Big 12) missed 18 of their first 20 shots in the second half before Matthew Mayer’s short jumper that made it 47-37 with 71/2 minutes left.
The Bears shot 22.6% (7 of 31) after halftime, and 31.3% (20 of 64) overall.
Jericho Sims had 13 points and 15 rebounds for Texas (10-3, 0-1), while Courtney Ramey had 11 points.
No. 8 Auburn 80, (at) Mississippi State 68: J’Von McCormick scored a career-high 28 points to help Auburn beat Mississippi State in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Samir Doughty had 15 points for the Tigers (13-0, 1-0), and Isaac Okoro finished with 14. McCormick went 9 for 17 from the field and 8 for 11 at the line.
Reggie Perry had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Mississippi State (9-4, 0-1) in his 16th career double-double. Nick Weatherspoon scored 18 points, and Robert Woodard finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
No. 18 Florida State 78, (at) No. 7 Louisville 65: M.J. Walker scored 23 points to help Florida State to the road win.
The Seminoles (13-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) also got a strong performance from Trent Forrest, who had 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Devin Vassell scored 14, and Malik Osborne finished with seven points and nine rebounds.
Louisville’s Jordan Nwora scored 32 points, matching a career high. But Nwora and the Cardinals (11-3, 2-1) were unable to overcome a 55.2% shooting performance by the Seminoles.
Georgia 65, (at) No. 9 Memphis 62: Rayshaun Hammonds scored 15 points, Anthony Edwards had 13 and Georgia stopped Memphis’ 10-game winning streak.
Hammonds was 7 for 18 from the field, and Edwards went 4 for 17. But Donnell Gresham Jr. scored 12 points for the Bulldogs (10-3), and Sahvir Wheeler added 10 points and seven assists.
Precious Achiuwa led Memphis (12-2) with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Alex Lomax had 11 points and Boogie Ellis scored 10 for the Tigers, who lost for the first time since Nov. 12 against Oregon.
(At) Marquette 71, No. 10 Villanova 60: Markus Howard scored 29 points, Koby McEwen had 22 and Marquette snapped Villanova’s six-game win streak.
Howard was 7 for 20 from the field and 12 for 12 at the line. He also had eight rebounds for the Golden Eagles (10-3, 1-1 Big East).
Marquette made 26 of 30 free throws, and Villanova went 3 for 5 at the line.
Cole Swider and Justin Moore each had 14 points for Villanova (10-2, 1-1).
(At) No. 11 Butler 71, Creighton 57: Kamar Baldwin scored each of his 20 points in the second half, and Butler earned its fifth straight win.
Sean McDermott had 18 points and a career-high 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs (14-1, 2-0 Big East).
Marcus Zegarowski finished with 15 points and Damien Jefferson had 12 for Creighton (12-3, 1-1), which had won eight in a row.
No. 13 San Diego State 77, (at) Utah State 68: Malachi Flynn scored 22 points, Matt Mitchell added 19 and No. 13 San Diego State beat Utah State to improve to 15-0.
The Aztecs snapped the Aggies’ 15-game home winning streak and beat them for the 12th time in the last 14 games. They shot 51% from the field and scored 13 points off 11 Utah State turnovers.
San Diego State (15-0, 4-0 Mountain West) has the longest winning streak in the country. Auburn is the only other undefeated Division I team.
Sam Merrill scored 26 points and Neemias Queta added 15 points and 14 rebounds for the Aggies. Utah State (13-4, 2-2) lost back-to-back games for the first time since coach Craig Smith took over the program before the start of the 2018-19 season.
(At) No. 17 Kentucky 71, Missouri 59: Immanuel Quickley scored a career-high 23 points, Nick Richards had 21 and Kentucky beat Missouri in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools.
Richards went 9 for 13 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. The junior forward also blocked four shots before fouling out with 3:52 left.
Kentucky (10-3, 1-0) posted its second straight victory since consecutive losses to Utah and Ohio State.
Dru Smith had 11 points for Missouri (8-5, 0-1), which had won four in a row.
Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans left in the final minutes with a left ankle injury that coach John Calipari said was a low sprain.
(At) No. 19 Virginia 65, Virginia Tech 39: Kihei Clark scored a career-best 18 points, Braxton Key also had 18 and Virginia dominated with its defense.
The Cavaliers (11-2, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) led 30-17 by halftime and built their lead to as many as 23 in the second half. Key scored 11 in the first half and Clark had 10 after halftime.
Landers Nolley II scored 18 points for the Hokies (10-4, 1-2). He had their last 15 in the first half but did not score again until a 3-pointer with 3:49 remaining.
The Hokies shot 27.1% overall (13 for 48).
(At) No. 22 Texas Tech 85, Oklahoma State 50: Freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey made four 3-pointers and scored 18 points, helping Texas Tech pull away for the win in its Big 12 opener.
The Red Raiders (10-3, 1-0) went ahead to stay with 11 points in a row late in the first half. After Lindy Waters III made a jumper for Oklahoma State right after halftime, Texas Tech scored 15 in a row.
TJ Holyfield added 17 points for the Red Raiders. Davide Moriette and Terrence Shannon each had 13.
Waters had 13 points for the Cowboys (9-4, 0-1), who shot 29 percent (15 of 52) from the field.
(At) No. 24 Wichita State 74, Mississippi 54: Erik Stevenson scored a career-high 29 points to help Wichita State to the victory.
Stevenson had 19 points in the first half, leading the Shockers (13-1) to a 39-24 halftime lead.
Jamarius Burton scored 16 points for Wichita State, and Grant Sherfield finished with 10.
Khadim Sy and Devontae Shuler each scored 12 points for Ole Miss (9-4), which shot 30.8% (16 for 52) from the field.
(At) No. 25 Arizona 75, Arizona State 47: Zeke Nnaji had 17 points and 11 rebounds, helping Arizona open the Pac-12 season with an overpowering win over rival Arizona State.
The Wildcats (11-3) had a size advantage inside and used it, outscoring Arizona State 50-18 in the paint.
Arizona State (9-5) generated almost no inside game against Arizona’s length and struggled to get anything to fall from anywhere.
Remy Martin led Arizona State with 20 points.