Lawrence, Kan. — When shots aren’t falling early, Kansas can always rely on defense and Doke.
Udoka Azubuike had 19 points and 16 rebounds, the Jayhawks shut down Oklahoma State long enough for their offense to come alive in the second half, and coach Bill Self’s team rolled to an 83-58 victory over Oklahoma State on Monday night to celebrate its return to the No. 1 ranking.
Devon Dotson added 11 points and Christian Braun and David McCormack had 10 apiece for the Jayhawks (25-3, 14-1), whose victory over No. 2 Baylor over the weekend allowed them to retake the top spot in the AP poll. And the win over the Cowboys (14-14, 4-11) gave Kansas a half-game lead over Bears in the race for the Big 12 title.
“It was kind of rough at first, you know, starting to get going,” Agbaji said, “but the coaches, they did a good job of getting us pumped up for the game. We just had to come into this game with a lot more focus, because you have to finish out the rest of this conference season.”
Dotson and fellow backcourt mate Marcus Garrett were a combined 5 of 20 from the field, but Azubuike and the rest of the Jayhawks picked them up. They now have won five straight against the Cowboys and 22 of the last 24 games played against them in Allen Fieldhouse as they burnish their credentials for the No. 1 overall NCAA Tournament seeding.
“Damn, they’re good,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “They have a really good team.”
Cameron McGriff led the Cowboys with 16 points, though most came with the game well out of reach. Isaac Likekele and Lindy Waters added 11 apiece as Oklahoma State was held to 39% shooting from the field.
“We’re not a national championship contender. They are,” Boynton said. “And the reason they are is not only because they have (Azubuike) but because they have as dynamic a point guard there is in college basketball. And their ancillary pieces all contribute as well. We just played against a really good team.”
Early on, the Cowboys’ game plan was obvious: They were going to switch between man-to-man and zone defenses and continually collapse into the paint, trying their best to take away Azubuike’s vast array of rim-rattling dunks.
As a result, eight of the first 11 shots Kansas hoisted up came from beyond the 3-point line.
The plan worked for a bit, but the Jayhawks methodically pushed the lead toward double digits. It finally hit that mark when McCormack swatted Likekele’s layup attempt to create a run-out, and Dotson finished it by tossing up a lob that Agbaji hammered down to give Kansas a 27-17 lead with just under 6 minutes left in the first half.
Oklahoma State kept the deficit from growing into the early stages of the second half, in part because of the way it kept Dotson from getting to the bucket. The sprightly guard had just about every shot contested or blocked, and his frustration was visible when another shot was swatted just before the under-16 media timeout.
The Cowboys simply couldn’t find enough offense to capitalize.
The Jayhawks eventually embarked on a 16-2 run that included 11 straight points. Two came at the foul line when Dotson was whacked in the chin by McGriff’s elbow and Oklahoma State’s forward was given a technical foul, and the run ended when Dotson stripped Likekele and converted a three-point play at the other end to make it 51-30 with 14:17 to go.
The Jayhawks cruised the rest of the way, allowing Self to empty his bench in the closing minutes.
“After the game started, you know, we weren’t good early and we were ahead 12-10 because we made four 3s,” Self said. “After that we guarded them really well, holding them to 25 at the half, and they made two 3s off silly mistakes. So I thought we did a good job defensively in the first half. The second half was pretty good.”
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(At) No. 6 Florida State 82, No. 11 Louisville 67: Trent Forrest scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime, and Florida State rallied from a double-digit deficit to beat Louisville.
The Seminoles (24-4, 14-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) moved past the Cardinals into first place in the ACC. They lead Louisville (23-6, 14-4) and No. 7 Duke by a half-game.
Patrick Williams’ thunderous dunk put an exclamation point to a 15-0 run that put the Seminoles ahead for good. Florida State outscored Louisville 50-27 in the second half and extended its home winning streak to 22 games.
Devin Vassell and M.J. Walker each scored 12 points for FSU, which set a school record for ACC regular-season wins with three remaining in the 20-game schedule.
Ryan McMahon scored 14 points and Jordan Nwora had 13 points and eight rebounds for Louisville.
(At) Texas 67, No. 20 West Virginia 57: Andrew Jones scored 22 points to lead Texas past West Virginia as the injury-depleted Longhorns continued a late-season surge.
Courtney Ramey added 21 points for Texas (17-11, 7-8 Big 12), which has won three in a row. The Mountaineers (19-9, 7-8) have lost six straight on the road in conference play.
West Virginia beat Texas by 38 points back on Jan. 20, the worst loss of coach Shaka Smart’s five years with the Longhorns. But the Mountaineers came limping into the rematch and Texas did not resemble the timid team that got pushed around in Morgantown.
Oscar Tshiebwe scored 14 points to lead West Virginia.
(At) Illinois 71, Nebraska 59: Ayo Dosunmu scored 18 points and freshman center Kofi Cockburn added 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead Illinois past Nebraska.
Trent Frazier and Andres Feliz added 11 points each for Illinois (18-9, 10-6). Illinois moved into a five-way tie for second place in the Big Ten Conference.
Haanif Cheatham led Nebraska (7-20, 2-14) with 14 points. Dachon Burke Jr. scored 13 points and Yvan Ouedraogo and Thorir Thorbjarnarson had 11 each.
Nebraska was playing without second-leading scorer Cam Mack (12 points per game average), who missed the trip to Champaign with the flu.
Monday’s loss was a school-record 12th consecutive loss for the Cornhuskers.
The first half was close, but Illinois went on a 6-0 run capped by a 70-foot shot at the buzzer by Frazier that was all net. The Illini led 37-31 at the break.
Nebraska outscored Illinois 15-9 to open the second half and tied the game at 46 with 15:11 left. But Illinois used its athleticism and size to put together a 21-9 run to create a 10-point cushion the Cornhuskers couldn’t overcome.
Illinois was 28 of 71 from the field (29%), while Nebraska was 24 of 57 (42%).