Senior center Udoka Azubuike turned an ankle Saturday against Kansas State, and the lingering effects could limit the 7-footer Wednesday when No. 1 Kansas plays host to TCU on Senior Night in Lawrence, Kan.
“He showed some toughness coming back (into the game),” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “But I imagine he’ll be fine. Big guys like that, a turned ankle probably affects (them) more than a guard.”
Azubuike, who played just 20 minutes but contributed nine rebounds and six points, also has dealt with wrist injuries during his time at Kansas, causing him to miss stretch runs as a freshman and junior.
He is still on pace to qualify as the most accurate shooter in Division I history and has participated in just 12 defeats in 85 career games. His career field-goal percentage stands at .743.
Azubuike, who wore a walking boot a day after the Jayhawks defeated Kansas State 62-58, is considered questionable for the TCU game.
The role he plays as both a dominant dunker offensively, rim protector defensively and rebounder on both ends is key to the Jayhawks’ national-championship hopes.
As it is, Kansas (26-3, 15-1 Big 12) is bidding for an outright Big 12 championship while riding a winning streak that stands at 14 games entering the last week of conference play. Kansas ends the regular season with a trip to Texas Tech on Saturday.
“We play next man up,” said sophomore point guard Devon Dotson, who assumed the scoring load at Kansas State with 25 points and joins Azubuike as a Player of the Year candidate.
“I mean, of course we’re going to feel for him and make sure he’s all right, but a player going down, it can’t stop us that particular game in the moment. Coach told us we’ve got to play. We can’t feel sorry, and if we do, they’re going to take advantage of that, so we’ve just got to keep confident.”
David McCormack, a starter earlier in the season before Self transitioned to a four-guard lineup surrounding Azubuike, is a capable 6-10 backup inside. Another big man, Silvio De Sousa, does not return from a 12-game suspension for his role in a homecourt brawl with Kansas State until the game at Texas Tech.
TCU (16-13, 7-9) deserves credit for helping Kansas gain the upper hand in the Big 12 race. The Horned Frogs posted a 75-72 homecourt win Saturday over Baylor, which dropped the Bears to No. 4 in the latest AP poll. A 54-point second half keyed the upset after TCU lost eight of its previous 10 games.
“It’s a great feeling,” TCU senior guard Desmond Bane said. “To be rewarded like this and beat a great team, it shows how far we’ve come since November. … It’s something that comes from being TCU, that underdog mentality.”
Bane shot 5-for-8 from 3-point range in the win over Baylor. His 16.1-point average trails only Dotson’s 18.1 mark among Big 12 scorers.
–Field Level Media