LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — 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 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 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.”
Oklahoma State finished the game on an 11-0 run to make the final score appear more respectable. But in reality the Cowboys were never in the game after the first few minutes of the second half, when the Jayhawks heated up on offense.
Kansas committed just 10 turnovers and shot 44% from the field, despite Dotson and Garrett struggling from the field. The duo compensated by piling up 11 assists, eight rebounds and making plenty of plays on defense.
Oklahoma State begins a final homestand against Iowa State on Saturday.
Kansas heads down Interstate 70 to face Kansas State on Saturday.
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