LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas endured yet another slow start — plus the loss of a player with NBA aspirations — before finally pulling away from a small-conference opponent.
Dedric Lawson had 20 points and eight rebounds, and the No. 2 Jayhawks ran off 27 consecutive points during the second half beat Wofford 72-47 on Tuesday night after center Udoka Azubuike left with a right ankle injury.
Azubuike went down after landing awkwardly on a block attempt and rolling his ankle midway through the first half. Coach Bill Self said X-rays came back negative, but the 7-footer will be out indefinitely.
The Jayhawks (7-0) came out slow, as they have many times this year, leading by just three at halftime. A second-half surge in which they outscored the Terriers 43-21 — including a 27-0 run — carried them to victory.
It wasn’t a laser-hot offensive performance that sparked the shift, as has often been the case with the Jayhawks under Self. Instead, it was a buckled-down defensive performance led by Marcus Garrett, who came in to play the four after Azubuike exited and Lawson shifted to the five.
“Player of the game, without question, was Marcus Garrett,” Self said. “Without question. The whole game changed when he started guarding their big. … Soon after he checked in is when we went on a run.”
That defense was pivotal to overcoming an unconventional, pedestrian performance offensively. In addition to Azubuike’s departure, leading scorer Lagerald Vick went scoreless, and Kansas shot just 13 percent from deep.
“Who would’ve thought (Azubuike) would get a goose egg because of injury, Lagerald would get a goose egg, and we’d go 3 of 23 from 3 and win by 25 against that team,” Self said. “So there were a lot of good things that happened tonight defensively for us.”
With Azubuike out, Kansas went to a guard-heavy lineup — a familiar look to fans from recent years, perhaps, but not something that Wofford was ready for.
“That’s a different offense to prepare for without (Azubuike) down there,” Terriers coach Mike Young said. “They spread us out. They spread us out with the dribble weave, and we didn’t guard obviously nearly as well in the second half as we did in the first.”
With no Azubuike to deal with, the Terriers won the rebounding battle 45-36, including 19 on the offensive glass. Cameron Jackson led the way with 15 points and 10 boards, eight coming on offense. Matt Pegram added 11 points and eight rebounds down low as well.
Neither team shot the 3-ball well, as they connected on just a combined 8 for 49. This came as a surprise, as Wofford entered tied for No. 12 in the nation in 3-pointers per game with 11 and Kansas’ struggles have often correlated with allowing the deep ball.
This was the first time Kansas and Wofford have ever played. The Jayhawks are now 12-0 all-time against opponents from the Southern Conference.
MORE ON AZUBUIKE
Self initially said he hoped to get Azubuike back before Christmas, but stressed the timetable can only be defined as “indefinite” for now.
While he’s out, Garrett will continue to start at the four. Freshman David McCormack will also get more playing time after getting six points in five minutes Tuesday. McCormack has played sparingly, but that will change at least for the immediate future.
NO THREE MAGEE
Wofford’s leading scorer and star senior Fletcher Magee had just seven points and was an uncharacteristic 0 for 9 from behind the arc. Magee entered the game averaging over four 3s per game on 11 attempts, and No. 24 in career 3-pointers made in NCAA history (384).
Wofford dropped its third of four games against Power Five schools. The Terriers beat South Carolina and hung with No. 14 North Carolina and Oklahoma.
Kansas stays undefeated, but the Jayhawks are still chasing that first consistent, convincing victory while playing one of the country’s toughest nonconference schedules.
Wofford returns home to an easier test as it hosts Kentucky Christian on Thursday.
Kansas faces New Mexico State on Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, an arena the Jayhawks have struggled in.
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