Led by sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji and a dominant effort from their big men, the Kansas Jayhawks crushed the Pittsburg State Gorillas in KU’s final exhibition game of the year with a 60-point blowout, 102-42.
The last time Kansas scored 100 points in an exhibition was also against Pitt State, back in 2017.
Agbaji led the Jayhawks in scoring once again on Thursday, just as he did in their first exhibition. He finished with 19 points, including making his first seven shots from the floor (the only one he missed was his last attempt). In the two warm-up games combined he had 44 points.
Sophomore forward David McCormack pointed out how important Agbaji’s presence is, not just in terms of a scorer but for the team overall.
“He just plays with a lot of energy, a lot of heart, a lot passion,” McCormack said, “And it just spreads through the team.”
Shooting was a particularly important skill for Agbaji to work on this offseason after experiencing some inconsistencies from long range in his freshman year. Self said that he’s pleased with what he’s seen from the starting wing so far.
“He’s shot it extremely well, tonight he looked pure,” Self said. “I think that was great to see tonight.”
McCormack had a highly efficient night of his own, making 6-of-7 field goal attempts and finishing with 13 points. He got the start against Pittsburg State as a way for coach Bill Self to see how he’ll pair up with senior center Udoka Azubuike if they’re on the court simultaneously.
“I felt great, I felt that the big men did well,” McCormack said. “We all bring our own thing to the table and we all played to our strengths.”
Speaking of Azubuike, the preseason Big 12 player of the year ended up just shy of a double-double with eight points on 4-of-4 shooting with a game-high 12 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Devon Dotson was the only other Jayhawk who finished in double figures, scoring 12 despite going just 4-of-13 from the floor.
Even with a tough shooting night it was an important game for Dotson. He missed KU’s first exhibition against Fort Hays State with an ankle injury, so this was his first action of the year.
“It felt good getting back on the court,” Dotson said. “It was good getting back in the swing of things and looking to progress.”
Dotson wasn’t the only one making his debut for the Jayhawks on Thursday night, either, with senior guard Isaiah Moss playing three early minutes. He went 1-of-4 for three points in that brief stretch. Self said he was told Moss could play up to 10 minutes, but that things didn’t work out according to that plan.
“I thought it was good to get him out there,” Self said. “You can tell by watching him he’s not running full speed.”
Self said there’s a chance Moss won’t be available for the first game of the regular season next week.
The dominance from the big men for the Jayhawks showed on both ends of the floor against the Gorillas. Pitt State shot just 27.1% from the floor for the game and went just 9-of-31 on two-point shots.
Pitt State coach Kim Anderson, who knows all about playing against KU from his days as the coach at Missouri, said after the game that he was impressed with Kansas’ team size and strength.
“Certainly impressed with Kansas, as I always am,” Anderson said. “We tried to zone them, but they’re just too big and strong.”
Anderson said that the guards for Kansas stood out specifically, noting Dotson’s ability to shoot and overall ball movement as a major factor in frustrating Pitt State throughout the game.
“I was impressed tonight with the guards,” Anderson said. “They did a great job of moving the ball, we got tired and couldn’t get where we needed to get.”
Next up for Kansas is the regular-season opener against Duke in the Champions Classic on Nov. 5 in New York City. Duke won its first exhibition of the year against Northwest Missouri State by just six points, but had an easy 126-57 victory in its second tune-up.
Self said that he thinks Duke, like Kansas, is a legitimate national title contender this year.
“They’re really aggressive and active and certainly they’re going to be terrific,” Self said. “I just hope they’re not terrific at our expense.”
Click here to hear what Bill Self and the Jayhawks had to say after their 102-42 win over Pittsburg State:
Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack