NCAA Basketball

No. 3 Kansas faces Texas Southern with improving Azubuike

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The progression of Kansas center Udoka Azubuike continues to accelerate.

With it comes detailed critiques from Jayhawks coach Bill Self, although Azubuike has missed just 2 of 21 shots in helping No. 3 Kansas to a 3-0 start entering a home game Tuesday against Texas Southern (0-4).

The 7-foot sophomore even showed a nifty up-and-under move in a Nov. 17 rout of South Dakota State.

"I kind of just have it in my game," Azubuike said. "Coach doesn't want me to do a lot of that stuff in games because he'd rather see me go straight up or do a hook shot."

Self elaborated on his preference over shot selection from the only true big man currently available to the thin Jayhawks.

"Doke is a guy who needs not to fake. He needs to go score," Self said. "If he does that, then he can fake after that. He's one of those guys, if he lifts a guy and (the defender) doesn't go for it, he's got no move he can come back to yet."

A learning curve still exists for Azubuike, who missed all but 11 games last season after suffering a season-ending wrist injury. Self would prefer his center develop more gradually and become even more proficient overpowering opponents.

"The two (up-and-under baskets) he made were really good moves," said Self, "but I don't want that to be his go-to at all."

If anything, Self is most concerned with Azubuike remaining out of foul trouble after he missed much of the first half against South Dakota State with two fouls.

A suspension that has prevented 6-foot-10 freshman Billy Preston from making his Kansas debut greatly limits the Jayhawks' options inside. The only other player with frontline capabilities, 6-8 sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot, fouled out after playing just seven minutes against South Dakota State.

Also, the defensive intensity of junior guard Lagerald Vick, arguably the Jayhawks' most athletic player, irritated Self.

"People sometimes play to the score some and guys who really have that (defensive) mindset don't do that," Self said. "There's a lot of things (Vick) can do.

"He can slide. He can jump. He's quick. He's smart. He's strong. He can fake a screen. He can do a lot of things. But I don't think he plays to where it's his mindset, like it should be moving forward playing against a really good perimeter player."

Those comments happened to come after a 60 percent shooting performance by the Jayhawks, who feature four starters averaging double figures in scoring and are led by senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk (19.7).

The only Kansas starter who is not scoring in double figures is senior point guard Devonte' Graham, but the preseason All-American is averaging 9.3 assists.

"He's a point guard, but he's a scoring point guard," said Self, "and he hasn't seen the ball go in the hole during our regular-season games so far."

The stop for Texas Southern is part of an ambitious stretch of 13 non-conference road games to begin the season. The Tigers have already played at Gonzaga, Washington State, Ohio State and Syracuse. The tightest loss was to Washington State, 86-84 in overtime.

Mike Davis, who is in his fifth season at Texas Southern after previously coaching at Indiana and UAB, convinced the school's athletic administration to play all nonconference games on the road, mostly against high-majors, to boost finances.

The Tigers are coming off their third NCAA Tournament appearance under Davis and were picked to repeat as Southwestern Athletic Conference champions after going 23-12 last season.

They are led by 6-4 senior guard Donte Clark, who averages 18 points. Demontrae Jefferson, a 5-7 sophomore guard, averages 21 points but missed the last two games while serving a suspension. His status is uncertain.

Updated November 20, 2017

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2018 by STATS.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.