SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Another dominant outing from Kansas sophomore center Udoka Azubuike helped the No. 14/13 Jayhawks speed past the Stanford Cardinal, 75-54, Thursday night at Golden1 Center. Azubuike led all scorers with 24 points, his fourth 20-point outing of the season.
The win gave Kansas its 10th nonconference win of the year, now sitting at 10-2. Stanford’s loss moved the Cardinal to 6-7 in 2017-18.
Azubuike seemed to be destined for a big night from the tip-off. The 7-0 foot center couldn’t be stopped in the early minutes after scoring each of the Jayhawks’ first 10 points, which included three rim-rattling dunks. Despite the sophomore big man’s early heroics the Cardinal stayed close and even held a one-point advantage after Michael Humphrey’s 3-pointer at the 15:32 mark, 11-10.
But the Jayhawks quickly put the pedal to the medal on the other end, exploding on an 18-2 run to put Stanford in the rear view mirror for good. Devonte’ Graham hit a pair of three’s during that stretch and capped the spirt with an alley-oop feed to Azubuike that gave Kansas a 15-point edge just short of midway through the opening half, 28-13.
The KU lead hit 20 points with seconds remaining in the opening stanza when Graham found Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk for an alley-oop with a half-court pass. Stanford’s Reid Travis connected on a jumper on the final possession of the half to cut the KU lead to 47-29 as the squads headed into the intermission.
The Jayhawks, who shot better than 62 percent from the field in the first half, got out to a relatively cold start in the second frame. Hitting just two of its first seven shots, Kansas allowed Stanford to shorten the deficit to 14 points with Travis’ 3-pointer less than four minutes into the half.
The slow start didn’t cool down the Kansas defense though, who put a strangle hold on the Stanford shooters. After Travis’ three, the Jayhawks held the Cardinal without a field goal for nearly seven minutes. That stretch helped KU get the lead back up to 19 points with Mykhailiuk’s lay-up at the 10-minute mark putting his team up 58-39.
The Jayhawks went on to allow just nine Stanford field goals over the final 20 minutes, with Travis’ 3-pointer in the early minutes of the half, the only Cardinal trey of the half.
Both squads traded blows the rest of the way, but Kansas never let Stanford make a charge. Azuibuke closed out his night with two more dunks over the final two minutes to close out his fourth 20-point outing of the season and the 75-54 Kansas win.
As he has been all season, Azubuike was once again efficient from the field, hitting 12 of his 15 attempts (80 percent) . He also tied Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman for the team lead in rebounds with seven boards. Graham and Mykhailiuk also scored in double figures, netting 14 apiece with Graham going 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Lagerald Vick rounded out the Jayhawks in double figures with his 13 points, 10 of which came in the first half.
Kansas opens Big 12 play at Texas on Friday, Dec. 29, at 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2. The Jayhawks lead the overall series with the Longhorns, 29-8, including a 9-6 record in Austin. KU has won the last three games at the Erwin Center.
Kansas has won a mindboggling 26-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season with 10 of those in Allen Fieldhouse and 16 on the road. The last time KU lost a conference opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991.