The Jayhawks beat the Golden Grizzlies of Oakland, 102-59, on Friday night to improve to 5-0. For the second straight game, all seven scholarship players for Kansas scored in double-figures.
Here are some immediate takeaways from yet another impressive display for KU, who is one win away from its first perfect November since 2010.
1. This team puts lesser teams away in a hurry
It was more of the same for the Jayhawks’ offense, which put up 55+ first half points for the fourth time in four home games. In the past, it seems like Kansas has had tendency to play down to inferior opponents. So far this year, the Jayhawks have absolutely buried opponents, using Allen Fieldhouse’s intimidation and an offensive barrage to turn games into laughers from an early point.
Kansas has led by at least 10 points at the second TV timeout in all four of its home games. The Jayhawks haven’t faced a deficit at home after the first five minutes of any game. They haven’t led by fewer than 10 for the last 32 minutes of any home game. They’re burying opponents from the beginning, and it’s an unusual but pleasant surprise from a team that we’re used to starting somewhat slow.
2. Udoka Azubuike is a damn monster
For the third straight game, Udoka Azubuike set his career high in points. He went for 21 points on 10-for-16 from floor (both career-highs in shots made and attempted), pairing that with 10 rebounds for the second double-double of his career.
This guy is flat-out different than the other bigs we’ve seen patrolling the paint for the Jayhawks in recent years. While the sample size is too small this year to validate any statistics, he’s going to end the season with the highest rate of drawn contact of any KU big since Cole Aldrich. He makes absolutely everything down low. His plethora of post moves is increasing by the game. Suddenly, this is a guy that can make all of the shots underneath with either hand.
Simply put, teams cannot guard Udoka Azubuike. On a roster with five legitimate guards that could all compete for All-Big 12 spots, Azubuike is the team’s most important player. And enjoy watching him while he’s around, because he’s not going to be in Lawrence long.
3. Lagerald Vick’s goal: be 80% of Josh Jackson
Josh Jackson was a second-team All-American for the Jayhawks last year. He was dynamic, versatile, and one of the country’s top do-everything players. Lagerald Vick, though three inches shorter than Jackson, plays the position in a similar way. While he’s not as big as Jackson was, Vick is a better overall shooter and avoids foul trouble.
If Lagerald Vick is 80% of Josh Jackson, statistically, that would give him 13 points, six rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game. I don’t think anybody who has watched Vick this year would say it’s a stretch for him to reach those marks. In fact, I’d go as far to say I think Vick will exceed those numbers. He very well may be 90% or even close to 100% of Josh Jackson from a statistical perspective.
As good as Frank Mason was last year, he was never going to be the one that was difficult to replace because the Jayhawks had another All-American-caliber point guard waiting in the wings. KU’s ability to replace Josh Jackson’s productivity was always going to decide how well this team would do compared to last year’s. Through five games, Lagerald Vick has been every bit as good as Jackson was last year, and that’s a remarkable sentence to type.
4. Malik Newman, quietly, had his best game of the year
While the stats aren’t going to blow anyone away, Malik Newman’s 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting with six rebounds, three assists and two steals made for the best game of the young season. His best stretch came late in the first half, when he scored, only to follow that up with a steal-and-score sequence. It may take him some time, but by conference play, I think Newman will have settled into a role as this team’s second or third best scorer.
5. Mitch Lightfoot???
Maybe we all buried Mitch Lightfoot too soon. With 11 points and eight rebounds, Lightfoot set new career-bests in both categories, coming alive with an electric first half. At this point, who knows about Billy Preston, so KU needs Lightfoot. Fortunately for them, this was the best he’s looked as a power forward all season. The Jayhawks don’t need Lightfoot to match Azubuike’s productivity. They need 15 solid minutes per game where Lightfoot isn’t a massive liability. If he can do that, Bill Self will be plenty pleased.