Junior center Udoka Azubuike returned to the Kansas lineup and provided 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting, while adding nine rebounds Saturday as the No. 5 Jayhawks stomped Eastern Michigan 87-63 at Lawrence, Kan.
Azubuike, who missed the previous four games recovering from a sprained ankle, returned as a starter as Kansas played its final tune-up before beginning Big 12 play Wednesday against No. 25 Oklahoma.
The Jayhawks (11-1) were coming off their first defeat, a week earlier at Arizona State, and improved to 86-11 when coming off a loss under coach Bill Self.
Freshman guard Devon Dotson added 15 points and primarily guarded Eastern Michigan’s leading scorer, Paul Jackson. The senior guard scored 15 points but started 1 for 9.
Another freshman guard, Quentin Grimes, added 16 points for Kansas. Junior Dedric Lawson managed 8 points, 4 boards and 5 assists, just the second time in nine games the 6-9 forward failed to record a double-double.
Senior center James Thompson generated a double-double with 15 points and 14 boards for the Eagles (6-7) in their last nonconference game before opening MAC play against No. 21 Buffalo on Friday.
Despite Thompson’s output, Eastern Michigan was outscored 46-20 in the paint. Senior guard Elijah Minnie added 13 points, but the Eagles shot just 30 percent.
The Jayhawks soared to a 46-25 halftime lead, shooting 65.4 percent while recording 14 assists on 17 field goals against the Eagles’ 2-3 zone defense.
Azubuike scored 14 first-half points on 6-for-8 shooting, leading a 28-6 edge off points in the paint. Dotson added 10 points and four assists. Kansas used a 10-0 run to gain a 35-19 advantage with 7:45 left.
Self reasoned during his pregame TV interview that starting Azubuike was better than “bringing him in cold off the bench” following pregame warmups.
Eastern Michigan went 1 of 14 during the latter part of the first half and finished 8 of 34. The Eagles, who came in shooting just 27 percent from behind the arc, settled for 32 treys overall and made just six.
—Field Level Media