January 25, 2020 / 11:38 PM / 24 days ago

Azubuike carries load as No. 3 Kansas tops Tennessee

EditorsNote: Fixed name of event to Big 12/SEC Challenge in 6th graf; other fixes throughout

Jan 25, 2020; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Jordan Bowden (23) warms up before the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Senior center Udoka Azubuike, the lone big man available Saturday for No. 3 Kansas, posted 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks while overcoming foul trouble as the Jayhawks nipped Tennessee 74-68 at Lawrence, Kan.

Suspensions handed to forwards Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack for their roles in a brawl Tuesday with players from Kansas State left Azubuike to fill all needs in the post.

Azubuike logged 27 minutes as the Jayhawks (16-3) adapted to a small lineup behind sophomores Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji, who contributed 22 and 16 points, respectively, before the 300th consecutive sellout crowd in Allen Fieldhouse.

Playing on the road against an opponent with the best strength of schedule in the country, Tennessee (12-7) prompted Kansas coach Bill Self to call timeouts at the 4:30 and 2:04 marks in the second half.

Each came after the Volunteers drew within three points, but two blocks by Azubuike on the same possession contributed to four empty trips by Tennessee inside the final two minutes. The game was part of the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Forward Yves Pons scored a career-high 24 points to lead the Vols. Guard Jordan Bowden added 19 points, all in the second half. Forward John Fulkerson generated a double-double with 15 points and 12 boards.

Azubuike drew his second foul with 10:46 left in the first half, which helped Tennessee go on a 14-2 run to gain a 20-13 lead.

Eventually, Self reinserted Azubuike and the Jayhawks enjoyed a first-half scoring differential of plus-17 with their center in the game.

Kansas led 37-30 at halftime, closing with an 18-4 run. Azubuike, who entered as one of three Division I players averaging a double-double and three-plus blocks in conference play, posted nine points and five rebounds in the half.

Only three Tennessee players scored in the first half. Pons led with 12 points, though the last points the Vols scored came off his drive with 2:32 left.

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