LAWRENCE — As Silvio De Sousa and Ochai Agbaji helped an agonized Udoka Azubuike off the court midway through the first half of Tuesday night’s game against Wofford, two questions likely permeated throughout an eerily-quiet Allen Fieldhouse:
Not if, but for how long will Kansas basketball’s 7-foot junior center be joining his street clothes-clad teammates on the bench, and how will he — and the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks, for that matter — recover from this?
Azubuike suffered what appeared to be a significant right ankle injury about 12 minutes into the Jayhawks’ 72-47 victory over the Terriers at Allen Fieldhouse, landing awkwardly on an unsuccessful shot-block attempt. Writhing in pain under the north basket for several minutes, Azubuike was eventually helped to the locker room by trainers, De Sousa and Agbaji.
Addressing the situation in a halftime TV interview, KU coach Bill Self labeled the injury a “high ankle sprain” and said his center is “out indefinitely.” Azubuike, whose right ankle appeared to twist at an unnatural ankle, was held scoreless but had four rebounds in his four minutes on the floor Tuesday. He didn't return to the KU bench.
The nation’s most accurate shooter last season with a 77-percent field goal percentage, Azubuike entered the Wofford contest averaging 15 points on a 69.5-percent shooting clip while hauling in 6.5 rebounds per contest. He suffered a season-ending wrist injury midway through his freshman campaign of 2016-17.
Overshadowed by the loss of Azubuike, Tuesday night’s contest itself wasn’t a slam-dunk outcome until the Jayhawks (7-0) rode a prolific run to the finish line.
Out of sync for most of the contest, KU led by just one basket, 43-41, with just over 10 minutes left in the contest. That’s when the Jayhawks started to play to their second-ranked status, scoring 27 straight points in a stretch that for the first time since Azubuike’s injury breathed energy into Allen Fieldhouse. Freshman guard Quentin Grimes scored 10 points in the rally, including nine straight at one point, to set the pace against the giant-killer Terriers (6-3).
Dedric Lawson finished with team-highs of 20 points and eight rebounds, while Grimes (14 points) and fellow freshman guard Devon Dotson (16 points) rounded out the Jayhawks’ double-figure scorers. Senior guard Lagerald Vick, the Big 12’s leading scorer entering play Tuesday at 20.8 points per game, notably didn’t score in his 22 minutes off the bench — Vick was late to shootaround and lost his starting role for the contest.
KU continues its nonconference slate with a 7:30 p.m. Saturday contest against New Mexico State at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.