LAWRENCE — Early on it seemed Udoka Azubuike would be the star of the show Friday in Allen Fieldhouse, and eventually he was just that.
The nine points scored by the sophomore center before the first media timeout was just a teaser in the 102-59 blowout No. 3 Kansas administered against Oakland.
Azubuike acquired a dumb foul attempting to grab a rebound and was removed by coach Bill Self with 15:14 left in the first half. Azubuike played just six minutes before the break after drawing an offensive foul at the 5:55 mark.
“He could play a lot smarter,’’ said Self, “because his two fouls were mental mistakes.’’
Enter Mitch Lightfoot.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore, the only other big available to the Jayhawks at this point with 6-10 freshman Billy Preston still waiting for a decision on his eligibility, provided one of his more impressive performances.
Lightfoot went 3-for-3 in the first half, contributing a career-best 11 points and five rebounds. He did not score in the second half but finished with another career-high, eight boards.
“Mitch was the best player we had in the game, certainly the first half,’’ Self said. “Him getting double figures the first half and we needed him to play well since Doke was out, so I thought he played very well.
“Maybe the game slowed down a little bit today. I don’t know for a fact. He just didn’t seem as much on edge, but I don’t do a great job of calming him.’’
Maybe there is a little frontcourt depth for Kansas (5-0) to rely on after all.
OK, maybe it’s not for the best to grow too relieved just yet over the Jayhawks’ limited rotation. It does seem, however, that Lightfoot learned a lesson by fouling out in just seven minutes during a previous game this season.
“I think I made history fouling out in seven minutes,’’ Lightfoot said, “but I learned from it. I try to stay on the ground more and be a better defender.
“Honestly, I’m just trying to do what coach asks, and that’s what he needed was play some minutes, provide energy off the bench, finish and help my teammates get open looks and get us some extra possessions.’’
Oakland (2-3) lacked discipline on both ends and simply could not compete.
The Golden Grizzlies’ 34th-year coach, Greg Kampe, does halftime interviews with the Oakland radio station.
This time it was a snippet.
Told that Kansas was really good, Kampe said, “And we’re really bad.’’ With that, Kampe headed for the locker room.
Not that his instructions changed things.
The Oakland coach burned his last two timeouts before the under-16 break in the second half. Then when that stoppage came, it was after a poor pass out of bounds, which only made Kampe slump in his chair and gaze at the ceiling.
“I was thinking I probably wasn’t going to need (timeouts) in the overtime,’’ Kampe said. “We play games like this (against strong programs) a lot and the result like today usually doesn’t happen.
“To have a veteran senior-laden team, and to have Jalen (Hayes) back, was very discouraging to me. Our execution was really, really bad. Our purpose, what we were trying to accomplish … offensively, we looked like a very, very poorly coached team.’’
Indeed, the reigning regular-season champions of the Horizon League too often hurried shots or committed unforced turnovers trying to get them off.
“I wish I had six more (timeouts),’’ Kampe said. “I almost called another one and took the technical just because it was a teaching moment for us.’’
Sloppy execution by the Grizzlies played perfectly into the Jayhawks’ desire to run the floor as they raced to a 55-26 halftime bulge on 60 percent shooting.
When KU had to slow it down, Lightfoot was game underneath.
But then so was Azubuike, who played with a wrap on his right thumb and wrist, but finished with a career-high 21 points and added 10 boards, while active on both ends.
He converted a lob on KU’s very first possession, one of his six dunks. Kempe referenced the hard penetration by Lagerald Vick as a tone-setter for the Jayhawks, who added several more easy shots off the dribble. They scored 58 points in the paint after using the 3-ball for a decisive edge in their previous game.
“First play, we just try to give our team energy,’’ Azubuike said.
Of course, Azubuike is also an easy target.
“With the big fellow, a bad lob is a good lob,’’ said Malik Newman, who added 15 points and was one of seven Jayhawks to score in double figures. “When we’re in trouble, we can always throw it up by the rim and he’s there for us.’’
Everyone who played extended minutes for the thin Jayhawks contributed to another scorching performance in which Kansas shot 55.7 percent. Six Jayhawks netted double figures before the 12-minute mark of the second half.
Vick added 15 points, while Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk had 14 each. Marcus Garrett netted 10. Graham distributed a team-high seven assists, but had five turnovers.
Senior guard Kendrick Nunn led Oakland with 23 points, including three of the six 3-pointers the Grizzlies canned on 30 attempts. Oakland shot just 32.9 percent overall and was outrebounded 45-34.