Kansas’ basketball players didn’t respond well to the news junior center Udoka Azubuike would be unavailable for Saturday’s game at Iowa State.
“He definitely was a big part of our game plan,” KU forward Dedric Lawson said after the Azubuike-less Jayhawks’ 77-60 loss to the Cyclones at Hilton Coliseum. “We didn’t know until shootaround he wasn’t going to play. We had to go small. I was playing at the 5. I guess it did play a little into the scout today,”
Lawson wasn’t trying to use Azubuike’s absence as an excuse. Lawson, in fact, described his own play as “terrible.”
Yet the Jayhawks did make a ton of mistakes — as in 24 turnovers — while playing without Azubuike, the 7-foot junior from Nigeria who was held out Saturday as a precautionary measure after he sustained a wrist injury at practice on Friday.
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X-rays on Azubuike’s wrist proved negative, and he’ll have an MRI on Sunday to make sure nothing’s torn.
“Well I had no idea this was going to happen until we got on the bus this morning to come over to shootaround,” KU coach Bill Self said of Azubuike not playing. “The thing is Doke broke his hand his freshman year, and it cost him his season. It was his left wrist. This is his right. He didn’t fall on it, didn’t do anything like that, but he did get it hit in practice.
“I think that the X-ray and the doctors looking at it and specialists looking at it felt comfortable where it was. They said, ‘Doke it’s going to be sore. You sprained your wrist. You bruised your wrist,’ but I still think in Doke’s mind, which actually I don’t disagree … the way we played today it’s probably better he didn’t play … is get an MRI just to make sure we are square.
“It could be a one-game deal or season-ending deal, but there are no indications it will be the latter based on the early diagnosis,” Self added.
KU (12-2, 1-1) had a rough day against the Cyclones (12-2, 2-0) without Azubuike, that’s for sure.
“I don’t know if you guys noticed,” Self said, addressing the media more than 30 minutes after his squad’s 17-point loss, “but we really struggled with passing, dribbling and shooting. To me that was probably the key reason why all our individuals didn’t look real good offensively.”
Self hadn’t lost his sense of humor after watching his team commit an unsightly 24 turnovers — that’s five off the school record of 29 committed against Colorado on Feb 15, 1992. Turnover records go back to 1988-89.
Lagerald Vick had seven turnovers on Saturday, Lawson six and Devon Dotson five.
“It’s one game but now the sky is falling,” Self said in response to a reporter asking what Self told his team in his extended postgame talk. “It’s an 18-game season. The sky is not falling even though we (stunk),” Self quickly added.
“We’ve got to correct some stuff,” Self said.
“The thing that is good about getting beat rather than being edged ... we were beat today, is the fact it’s very evident we have deficiencies and they need to be worked (on). Nobody is going to leave out of here thinking, ‘Hey it wasn’t that bad.’ Everybody will leave here knowing how bad it actually was. Sometimes that’s not an awful thing to get your team’s attention, at least my experiences in the past. We’ve had many games unfortunately like this over time. I shouldn’t say many, one a year let’s say. We got this one hopefully out of the way early in the year so that means the rest of the season should be smooth sailing,” he added, smiling.
Iowa State sizzled, hitting 13 of 25 threes to KU’s 6 of 20. Marial Shayok scored 24 points, Tyrese Haliburton 14 and Nick Weiler-Babb 12, while Michael Jacobson grabbed 11 rebounds. Weiler-Babb and Haliburton each had four steals.
Quentin Grimes was the one KU bright spot with 19 points and six rebounds.
As far as the KU bigs: Lawson scored 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting (with 12 rebounds), while Mitch Lightfoot and David McCormack combined for two points and one rebound in 17 minutes.
“We were awful, but they were good,” Self said. The Jayhawks hit 42.9 percent from the field to Iowa State’s 45.9 percent.
“Definitely they are long,” added Self. “Our advantage obviously would be to play through our bigs offensively. That didn’t have a chance to materialize at all. Give them credit. They manhandled us.”
KU trailed 36-32 at the break but was outscored 41-28 the final half. KU was 2 of 9 from three in the second half.
“Their best offense was our offense,” Self said. “I thought the vast majority of the first half we guarded them well. We didn’t guard them at all the second half.”
Iowa State was 9 of 13 on three-pointers in the second half.”
KU will next meet TCU at 8 p.m., Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse.