Kansas basketball coach Bill Self was not particularly interested in discussing Mitch Lightfoot’s career-high four blocks and 15-foot swish from the corner, or Udoka Azubuike’s career-high tying 17 points after Friday night’s 98-64 victory over South Dakota State at Allen Fieldhouse.
Self was preoccupied with the flaws in the games of KU’s two scholarship bigs, who are vitally important to the success of his 15th KU team. The Jayhawks (3-0) are mighty thin up front with freshman forward Billy Preston unavailable as Kansas’ compliance department looks into the financial picture involving the vehicle Preston has been driving on campus.
“I’m disappointed in ‘Doke’ and Mitch, how they played defensively from an intellectual standpoint. They know they can’t foul, have to stay on the ground, can’t go for every fake. We just jumped around, went for every fake, had no discipline,” Self said.
Seven-foot sophomore Azubuike was able to play just six minutes and 6-8 sophomore Lightfoot two during the first half because of their two early fouls. Azubuike picked up his first foul 2 1/2 minutes into the game.
Never miss a local story.
“It should be easy,” Self said. “You can play Kentucky and don’t leave your feet once (in Tuesday’s 65-61 KU victory) until you get to the second half. Then you play South Dakota State and jump around like crazy. He (Azubuike) is bad at it, but he’s not near as bad as the other guy. Mitch jumps at everything.
“That’s what’s frustrating. When you need Mitch in the game he takes himself out of the game by not having a lot of discipline. It’s OK if you have four big guys, go after it. For the first half, at least, play with your head, your feet, stay down, make little guys score over you. The first time Mitch checks in, he gives Daum (Mike, 21 points) basically a layup. We’ve got to be more disciplined,” Self added.
For KU, it was walk-on guard/makeshift forward Clay Young to the rescue. The 6-5, 205-pound senior from Lansing, Kansas, hit a layup and dished two assists while playing 12 minutes the first half as KU opened a 57-28 lead. He garnered six minutes the final half and finished with two points, two assists, one steal, no rebounds and two fouls in 18 minutes.
“It’s never going to be part of our game plan to see how to get Clay in there to get us 12 minutes in a half,” Self said. “He was great, (but) that’s not part of our game plan. Even though I thought Clay played great, I’d probably rather have ‘Doke’ in there in most situations. He bailed us out.”
Azubuike scored 11 points in 17 minutes the final half. He finished with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting (1 of 3 from line) with two rebounds and two blocks. He had three dunks and five baskets off inside moves and did not commit a foul the final half. Azubuike finished with two fouls. Lightfoot fouled out with six minutes left.
“‘Doke’ is a guy that he needs not to fake,” Self said. “He needs to go score. If he does that he can fake after that.”
Azubuike said Self “doesn’t want me to do stuff like (up and under moves) in games. He wants me to go straight up, make a hook shot or try to dunk the ball.
“Right now we are really short on bigs,” Azubuike added. “Every night I’ve got to come in regardless and bring my best. We don’t have too much depth right now. I kind of got in foul trouble the first half. Fouls slowed me down a little bit. I don’t need to foul sometimes. Sometimes I need to let them go (and not try for block). I need to be in the game to help my team out.”
Self is hoping to get an additional front court player back in the rotation soon in Preston, who awaits a ruling from KU compliance. Also, 6-9, 245-pound signee Silvio De Sousa will be added to the roster in December if his standardized test score taken at IMG Academy matches favorably with his performance in core courses and he is declared immediately eligible by the NCAA.
“He’s a monster, a 6-8 prototypical 4-man who can give us 20 minutes inside,” Self said of De Sousa. “After two weeks (of practice) I think he can help us. He’ll give us a chance to have a good team in February, March. You can’t play this thin.
“I hope it doesn’t catch up to us. We’ve been fortunate so far. If you don’t make shots and the big guys play eight minutes combined (in the first half), that’s not very good.”
KU will next meet Texas Southern at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse.