Kansas’ seven scholarship players certainly displayed different ways to score — and win games — against mid-major opponents this past week.
The third-ranked Jayhawks (5-0), who cashed a school-record 19 three-pointers in Tuesday night’s 43-point rout of Texas Southern, returned to a more conventional inside-out attack in drubbing Oakland of the Horizon League 102-59 on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Center Udoka Azubuike scored nine points in the first four minutes. Then, after being relegated to the bench all but two minutes the rest of the half because of foul trouble, he saw reserve big man Mitch Lightfoot explode for a career-high 11 points the remainder of the half as the Jayhawks built a huge 29-point lead at 55-26.
Lightfoot finished with 11 points and a career-best eight rebounds.
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Azubuike was unstoppable again in the second half and finished with a career high 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting with 10 boards in 20 minutes.
“The ball could move more,” sophomore guard Malik Newman said after scoring 15 points with six rebounds and three assists. He and KU’s six other scholarship players all scored in double digits.
“Coach pointed out we had 14 assists and 12 turnovers. I think other than that, this shows we’re not just a three-point shooting team (KU hit 6 of 16 to Oakland’s 6 of 30). I think it’s good we’re able to make the three, but we also have these two big guys we can feed (Azubuike and Lightfoot) and as guards we can get to the goal off the dribble. I think it’s good we showed different things as a team.”
Lightfoot had five of his eight rebounds in the first half, while Svi Mykhailiuk, who scored 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting (1 of 3 threes), also had five boards in the initial half.
Devonté Graham, who had 14 points on 4-of-11 shooting — with 1 of 4 threes, seven assists and five turnovers — scored nine points with five assists and two rebounds in the first half as KU outrebounded the Golden Grizzlies 21-16 in the first 20 minutes and 45-34 for the contest.
Also for KU, Lagerald Vick had 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting with seven boards and three assists in 32 minutes. Newman scored 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting with six rebounds, and Marcus Garrett had 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting with five rebounds.
“I think the way they guarded us was pretty smart, to take it (the three) away and pressure out,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Pressuring out opens up driving. We got the ball in the paint off the bounce more consistently than any other game. I don’t think we’re settling much.
“Svi and Lagerald will throw one up that’s marginal. But you take 70 shots and six or seven are bad shots is not an alarming rate,” Self added after his team hit 39 of 70 shots for 55.7 percent to Oakland’s 23 of 70 for 32.9 percent. “We made more a conscious effort to throw it inside the second half.”
Big men Azubuike and Lightfoot combined for 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting with 18 rebounds.
“I thought Mitch was probably the best player we had in the game the first half,” Self said. “We needed him to play well since ‘Doke’ was out with two fouls. Maybe the game slowed down for him a little today.
“He seemed to be not as much on edge. I don’t do a great job of calming him when I probably should. He played a little more relaxed today,” Self added of soph forward Lightfoot.
Azubuike was playing with a wrap on his right wrist and thumb.
“It got hit in practice. It’s OK,” Azubuike said.
Of the 7-footer’s play, Self said: “I think he can play smarter. His first two fouls were mental mistakes (fouling over the back after missing a shot and on offense backing down in the lane). He did fine. He didn’t shoot as well. Some shots were outside his range on those jump hooks. I thought he played pretty strong. When he gets a little tired, it’s hard for him to get out of second gear.”
The Golden Grizzlies (2-3), who are favored to win the 10-team Horizon League, were led by guard Kendrick Nunn, who scored 23 points on 10-of-21 shooting. He had 13 points in the first half on 6-of-15 shooting.
Oakland — which was playing its highest-ranked opponent since December, 2015, when it lost in overtime at Michigan State — didn't play particularly well in any facet of the game.
“I think the first play of the game, that lob for a dunk (Vick to Azubuike) set the tone,” said Oakland coach Greg Kampe. “Some days you are the windshield. Some days you are the bug. We were the bug today.”
KU again played without freshman Billy Preston, who has not yet appeared in a regular-season game as KU looks into the financial picture of the car he’s been driving in Lawrence this school year. Self said there was no change in Preston’s status and there probably wouldn’t be a change until Monday at the earliest since the weekend is here.
KU will next meet Toledo (3-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse. It will be the return game for 5-10 sophomore guard Justin Roberts, son of KU assistant Norm Roberts and brother of former KU guard Niko Roberts.
Justin Roberts is Lawrence High’s all-time leading scorer with 1,549 points. He averaged 19.9 points a game his senior year at Lawrence High. He scored his first points of his sophomore season in Friday’s 80-77 loss at Cornell. Roberts hit a three, making the only shot he attempted, in his eight-minute stint.
▪ KU improved to 2-0 all-time versus Oakland. The Golden Grizzlies fell to 1-12 versus teams in the Big 12.
▪ The Jayhawks are now 3-0 against current members of the Horizon League. KU defeated Illinois-Chicago (UIC), 77-53, on March 19, 2004, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Kansas City, Bill Self’s first season at Kansas.
▪ KU has now won 23 straight nonconference games in Allen Fieldhouse.