Kansas reclaims its Big 12 crown with win over TCU
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Udoka Azubuike walked gingerly into Allen Fieldhouse on his sore ankle and proceeded to score a career-high 31 points with 14 rebounds, leading top-ranked Kansas to a 75-66 victory over TCU on Wednesday night to clinch at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title.
Azubuike was 13 of 14 from the field and also had five blocks just four days after hurting his ankle in a win over Kansas State. Devon Dotson added 18 points and he also gave coach Bill Self and about 16,000 fans a scare when he left briefly midway through the second with what appeared to be an ankle injury of his own.
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Dotson returned a few minutes later, allowing Kansas (27-3, 16-1 Big 12) to begin the celebrations on Senior Night.
It was the 62nd regular-season conference title for the Jayhawks and it came one year after a third-place finish ended a run of 14 straight crowns. They can win outright with a win at Texas Tech on Saturday or with a Baylor loss at West Virginia.
The win was No. 500 for Self win at Kansas, ranking second the school behind only building namesake Phog Allen.
Desmond Bane had 24 points for TCU (16-14, 7-10), sending him pass Dick O’Neal and Carven Holcombe and into third place in school history with 1,744 career points. Edric Dennis Jr. hit six 3-pointers and finished with 18 points.
Azubuike dominated the opening minutes of the game, scoring the first 10 points for Kansas. And when the Horned Frogs finally triple-teamed him down low, he deftly fed Marcus Garrett underneath a defender for an easy layup.
Compounding problems for TCU coach Jamie Dixon: His team hit just one of its first 10 field-goal attempts.
Dennis later made five 3-pointers in a flurry of a few minutes. The Horned Frogs finished the half by making nine of their last 10 shots and they had a 37-35 advantage at halftime.
TCU continued to fire away in the second half from beyond the 3-point line, where the Big 12’s best team from the perimeter at one point hit nearly as many triples as it had attempted 2-point field goals.
Trailing 46-42 with 14:18 to go, Azubuike caught a pass inside and dunked. He added back-to-back blocks a few minutes later, each turning into buckets at the other end. By the time Christian Braun gathered a loose ball and converted a teardrop floater, the Jayhawks had put together a 15-1 run and built a 58-46 lead with 10:34 left.
The festive feel that suddenly swept through the Phog was quickly quelled when Dotson went down.
The All-America candidate was guarding the ball along the sideline when he took an awkward step and landed on his backside. He remained there until a dead ball and then hobbled straight to the bench, where he buried his face in a towel as one of the team’s physicians checked on his left shin and ankle.
Dotson wound up sitting for just a few minutes, then returned to help Azubuike lead the Jayhawks to the finish line.
TCU: The team was coming off a win over then-No. 2 Baylor that buoyed the Horned Frogs’ hopes of slipping into the NCAA Tournament. But after hanging with the Jayhawks for a while, their second chance at springing a big upset in the span of a week came crashing down. They were done in by 14 turnovers and far too many foul troubles.
Kansas: Self’s squad struggled to find much offense outside Azubuike until late in the game. The health of the 7-footer, along with that of Dotson and Garrett, will be crucial to watch as the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments approach.
TCU: Hosts Senior Night against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Kansas: Wraps up regular season Saturday at Texas Tech.