No. 5 Kansas dunks its way past UNC Asheville

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham, left, hits the floor with UNC-Asheville guard Kevin Vannatta, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Kansas guard Devonte' Graham, left, hits the floor with UNC-Asheville guard Kevin Vannatta, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Courtesy: KU Athletics

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Frank Mason III supplied the three-pointers and Udoka Azubuike contributed the dunks during a, 33-9, Kansas run to close the first half as the Jayhawks ran away with a, 95-57, win over UNC Asheville, inside Allen Fieldhouse Friday night.

Mason and Azubuike combined for 21 points during the run that saw a two-point edge balloon into a 26-point lead as Kansas doubled up – and then some – Asheville with its inside-out game at the break, 47-21. Kansas led by two points (14-12) just before the minutes clicked into single digits then provided a furious finish, including three threes from Mason, setting a new career-high with five from long range, on five attempts, and a quartet of slams for KU’s freshman big man.

The post looks kept coming in the second half with Azubuike reaching double figures for the first time in his career on an efficient 8-of-9 effort – seven of them dunks – from the field, for 17 points. Mason – a Wooden, Olson, Cousy and Naismith Trophy award watch list member – led Kansas in scoring for the fifth time in six games with a game-high 21, also his fourth 20+ scoring game already this season. Josh Jackson chipped in 14 and Lagerald Vick, who made his first-career start, added 15 and narrowly missed a double-double with a game-high nine rebounds – both career-bests.

The Bulldogs mustered what response they could to open the second half, but an 8-of-10 start from the field pushed Kansas’ lead past 30 and to as many as 42 – its largest of the season at the 7:45 mark – before the final whistle.

Asheville’s Kevin Vanatta and Ahmad Thomas both scored 12 points to lead the opposition, which was held to its second-lowest point total of the season.

UNC-Asheville’s Rawkwon Miller hit a jumper in the paint at the 11:14 mark of the first half to cut Kansas’ lead to two points at 14-12, then the Bulldogs had a chance to tie in the next couple of possessions, but three Kansas threes, including two from Mason, pushed the KU lead into double figures.

Azubuike finished with seven dunks. That’s when the Jayhawks turned inside to Azubuike for even more punishment. The Delta, Nigeria native logged four dunks in the final 7:16 of the first half, part of seven dunks and 8-of-the-last-10 buckets in the paint for KU.

Jackson, who joined Mason and Azubuike in double figures during the game’s first 20 minutes, notched three blocks, a steal, three assists and an offensive rebound before putting in his first bucket with 6:34 to play before halftime and turned in a career-best seven assists for the game.

Devonte’ Graham didn’t reach double figures for the first time this season, but played an important supporting role, highlighted by a poke away steal and points the other way to help cap the first half run in the waning minutes. Bulldog guard Macio Teague was dribbling at the top of key when Graham tipped the ball away, dove on the ground to corral it and threw it forward to Vick. Vick continued the play with a lateral to Jackson who finished the fastbreak with authority. Graham didn’t get the assist on the play, but he did on 11 others for a new career best.

Kansas outscored Asheville, 46-30, in the paint and held a commanding, 49-23, edge on the glass, to win its fourth game in eight days.

The Jayhawks continue a five-game Allen Fieldhouse home stand, when they welcome Long Beach State to Lawrence on Tuesday, Nov. 29, a 7 p.m. tip on the Jayhawk Television Network/ESPN3.

GAME NOTES
KU STARTERS (SEASON/CAREER STARTS):
Sr. G Frank Mason III (6/83)
So. G Lagerald Vick (1/1)
Jr. G Devonte’ Graham (6/42)
Fr. G Josh Jackson (6/6)
Fr. C Udoka Azubuike (1/1)

SERIES INFO
Kansas is now 4-0 in the all-time series with the Bulldogs. Each contest has taken place inside Allen Fieldhouse.

ATTENDANCE: 16,300 (245th-consecutive sellout)

KANSAS’ WIN…
Moves the Jayhawks to 5-1 for the 12th time in the Bill Self era.
Extends the nation’s longest home court winning streak to 44 games.
Makes KU 747-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse.
Improves Bill Self’s record to 390-84 (.823) while at Kansas and 597-189 (.760) all-time.
Gives KU an 208-9 (.959) home record under Bill Self.
Moves KU’s all-time record to 2,191-837.

TEAM NOTES
The victory is KU’s fourth win in eight days.
The Jayhawks led 47-21 after the first 20 minutes of action, marking their largest halftime lead (26 pts.) of the season.
Kansas closed out the first half on a 33-9 run.
Kansas pushed its lead to 42 points at the 7:45 mark, its largest of the 2016-17 season.
KU outrebounded the Bulldogs 49-23, the largest rebounding margin of the season.
From beyond the arc, Kansas shot 62 percent (12-of-21), the first time shooting 60 percent or better since a 69 percent performance at Texas on Feb. 29, 2016.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES
Junior G Devonte’ Graham
Recorded a game-high 11 assists, marking a new career high and the most by any Jayhawk this season.

Sophomore G Lagerald Vick
Made his first-career start.
Pulled down a career-high nine rebounds, leading KU in boards for the first time this season.

Senior G Frank Mason III
Shot 80 percent from the field, connecting on 8-of-10 attempts, and finished the night with a game-high 21 points.
Sank a career high five three-point baskets on 5-of-5 shooting. The perfect shooting from beyond the arc marked the first time a Kansas player has made 5-of-5 three-points field goals since Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk accomplished the feat on Feb. 27, 2016, against Texas Tech.

Freshman G Josh Jackson
Dished out a career-high seven assists.
Swatted a career-best three blocks, leading the Jayhawks for the second time this season.
Finished the night with 14 points, his fifth-straight game in double figures.

Freshman C Udoka Azubuike
Made his first-career start.
Netted a career-high 17 points.
Scored the first three points of the game for Kansas, including a dunk just 11 seconds after the tip-off.

Freshman F Mitch Lightfoot
Scored a career-high three points.
Recorded the first three-point field goal of his Kansas career.

QUOTES
Kansas head coach Bill Self
On mixing up the starting lineup and controlling the game from start-to-finish:
“This was the probably the best we’ve looked with the exception of the start to the UAB game and the second half of the Duke game. We did some good things. We actually rebounded the ball better, without question. We got a lot of assists and we took a lot of chances, but that’s okay. I think having Udoka (Azubuike) and Lagerald (Vick) both play very well, I think they combined for 32 points, I was really happy with that.”

On Frank Mason III’s consistency to start the year:
“He was (great). Sometimes when teams plays zone it kind of messes with Frank a little bit. I didn’t think he was very engaged early, but when he saw the ball go in the hole he was a little more engaged. Frank’s good and it was good to see the ball go in the hole and it was good to see Lagerald (Vick) make a couple of shots. I thought Josh (Jackson) played tremendously well again – he just does a little bit of everything. I certainly thought Devonte’ (Graham) had a good floor game with 11 dimes and only two turnovers. There were some good things that happened tonight.”

On Josh Jackson’s vision passing the ball:
“He is a terrific passer. He probably has the best vision on our team. He maybe doesn’t always make the perfect pass, but he sees it. He’s getting more and more comfortable all of the time. He took a couple of bad threes when he was off-balance, but it’s hard to complain too much about the three when you go 13-of-21 from beyond the arc (overall). We shot it well and shared it pretty well. We threw the ball up to Udoka (Azubuike) and he knows how to finish with two hands above the rim.”

On the plan to prep for Long Beach State on Nov. 29:
“We’ll be off tomorrow – we’ll meet tomorrow, but we’re basically off tomorrow. On Sunday and Monday we’ll practice and get ready for Long Beach State and then be off Wednesday. I think we got our legs back under us now. I think we’re fine. I don’t see the trip having any negative impact on us at all moving forward.”

Kansas junior guard Devonte’ Graham
On Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike starting:
“They played great. Coach [Self] got on us yesterday at practice about being aggressive and having a lot of energy. I think they came out tonight and played with a lot of energy.”

On passing to Azubuike:
“It’s definitely easier when you can just throw it up there and have somebody go get it. You’ve got to reward a big fella when he’s running hard and blocking shots and just playing hard. So I try to reward him as much as I can.”

On pushing the pace early:
“Coach [Norm] Roberts told us to keep running. Get the ball and just go, try to wear them down. So we were just trying to play even faster.”

On Vick’s rebounding:
“That’s a great part of his game that Coach [Self] likes and especially on the offensive end, Coach is all on him about getting rebounds and extra possessions. He is one of the best on the team at it.”

On Landen Lucas:
“It’s a little funk you go through. Somethings aren’t going right and then you’re not as energetic or into the game as usual. He got in foul trouble early then he got frustrated with himself just because he made a bad play or a dumb foul and now he has to sit out. I said it before, he’ll be all right.”

Kansas sophomore guard Lagerald Vick
On improving his 3-point percentage:
“I got in the gym as soon as we got back [from Kansas City]. I watched the film and studied my shot a little. I just came out more confident.”

On earning the start tonight:
“Starting was great. I found out yesterday at practice. I just want to build momentum.”

Kansas freshman center Udoka Azubuike
On starting:
“It was (at) practice yesterday. Coach said, ‘You’ve got to step up,’ so I did.”

On getting into a rhythm:
“I try not to think about it much. Right before the game Frank [Mason III] game up to me and said, ‘Just go out there, play your game and have fun,’ and I just did that.”

On having butterflies:
“No, I wasn’t scared. It is normal for a freshman. I was nervous, but I wasn’t scared. (I had to) Just go out there and play my game.”

On the team’s reaction to his first field goal instead of dunks:
“We haven’t really talked about it.”

On improving his field goal shooting:
“I definitely work on my left and right hook shots in practice. Coach gets on me all the time about finishing my left and right hook shots. He also talked to the guys about giving me the ball and me doing my moves and using my left and right hook shots.”

On tonight’s performance:
“I feel great. Coming off the game we played against Georgia, I didn’t do my best. The past few days I was just thinking about what I have to do to get better. I just go out there and play my game.”

On improving his fitness:
“Coach gets on me a lot about that, he wants me to be in my best shape, he wants the best for me. His words give me an extra edge to play hard.”

UNC Asheville head coach Nick McDevitt
Opening statement:
“I thought Kansas played extremely well. They overpowered us around the basket, doubling us up rebounding-wise, 49-23. We knew that they had a big size advantage on us, but I just didn’t think we negated that size well enough by putting enough pressure on the ball. Whether we were in zone or man, they were just throwing over the top of us. When the guards can see that easily into the post, we weren’t going to grow right before the game and have two 6-foot-10 bigs. Our guards were just letting Mason and Graham and some of those other guys play quarterback out on the perimeter. Azubuike sure knew how to finish it.”

On Udoka Azubuike compared to other bigs the Bulldogs will see:
“There’s none like him. At seven foot, 280, and he plays hard too, he’s aggressive in there. He had one where he missed the dunk, I think he missed one shot. Yeah, he was 8-of-9 from the floor. He missed a dunk, got his own rebound, and dunked it. When you’re that strong and powerful and aggressive, you get a lot done. We just didn’t have enough to stop it.”

On Devonte’ Graham’s influence:
“With 11 assists, yes, anytime you’ve got a guard that’s got a 5.5-1 assist-turnover ratio. I know our guards would take it. The way (Devonte’) Graham and (Frank) Mason play so well off each other, they weren’t fun to watch tonight for me, but they’re fun to watch. They play the game the right way and made it awfully tough on us tonight.”

On Lagerald Vick:
“He played to his strengths, he’s getting in the lane, he made some threes tonight. I think he made one on the season, I thought he was 1-for-14 coming into the game tonight, and goes 3-for-4. He wasn’t just out there jacking shots; he took some of those once they were up 25 or 30. Up until that point he was influencing the game in other ways.”

On KU’s lineup:
“Obviously, they went with a little lineup change to start the game as well. I’m sure he was trying to send a little bit of a message to some of the other guys. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Azubuike get a little more minutes after the way he played out there tonight. The four-guard lineup with him in there, they were quick, they were long and then you have a big man who enjoys physical play. He was good out there.”

On seeing KU up close versus film:
“They’re big and long, I’m telling you. They just have so much size. When you’ve got some of the guys like Jackson, that can help you, to me that spot is critical. When these guys play big teams, he’s the guy who can help you rebound because of his size and athleticism. When you play teams that are smaller and want to get after you, he’s the extra ball handler. When you’ve got a big wing like that, that can help you on both the glass and on the press, it makes them awfully big. Tough to handle. I’m telling my guards, 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-2, put pressure on the ball. I’m not sure how to pronounce No. 10’s (Svi Mykhailiuk) name, we just said it was No. 10 all week. [Laughter] That kind of size with him and Josh Jackson, even ball pressure, they’re throwing over the top of zones, throwing over the top of ball pressure. Some of the lobs I thought we played good defense and they just threw it over the top.”

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