LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Ochai Agbaji and Mitch Lightfoot were held without a field goal and combined for two points when fifth-ranked Kansas needed a late 3-pointer and a missed free throw by Creighton to escape with a win earlier this week.
The pair made up for it against Omaha.
Agbaji hit four 3s and scored 18 points, Lightfoot came off the bench to score a career-best 14 points with seven rebounds, and the Jayhawks cruised to a 95-50 win Friday night in their final tune-up before beginning Big 12 play.
“I wouldn’t say I did anything differently,” Agbaji said. “Last game was a rough game. My teammates knew it. I’ll give it to them, they did the best job of keeping me confident and up during the practice days, and keeping me up for this game, so my mindset wasn’t any different going into this game.”
Tyon Grant-Foster also came off the bench and scored 13 points, and David McCormack added 11 points and 11 rebounds, as the Jayhawks (6-1) cruised to their 12th consecutive win before about 2,000 fans at Allen Fieldhouse.
Wanjang Tut scored 14 points and Jadin Booth had 11 to lead the Mavericks (2-5). Leading scorer Matt Pile was held to six points on 2-for-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble for much of the game.
“You know, Kansas, obviously very talented,” Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. “They pose a lot of problems for teams like us, and coming in here short-handed didn’t help, but that being said, we didn’t take care of things we needed to do better.”
The Mavericks were 4 of 20 from the 3-point arc. They were out-rebounded 54-31, committed 15 turnovers against six assists, allowed 42 points in the paint and 28 off turnovers and were outscored 47-18 by the bench.
The Jayhawks opened the game with 5 spectacular minutes, knocking down 3-pointers and getting easy buckets at the rim while forcing Omaha to miss its first nine shots. By the time they substituted at the under-16 media timeout, the five starters led by Agbaji and Jalen Wilson had given Kansas a 17-0 lead.
Five miserable minutes followed in which the Jayhawks went 1 for 8 from the floor, turned the ball over on three straight possessions and allowed the Mavericks to turn their massive deficit into a 10-point game.
“You know, it’s really not fair to those guys to sub them in five-at-a-time and expect them to maintain a 17-point lead,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “They didn’t play well the first 3 or 4 minutes, but after that I felt like everyone played pretty well. Guys played the right way, even when we didn’t make shots.”
The Jayhawks ran off another 10 consecutive points when the starters returned, but this time, they didn’t stop when the backups checked back into the game. Lightfoot established a new career high when his 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first half to give Kansas a 45-22 advantage heading into the locker room.
“I’m going out there and trying to give my team the best chance to win,” he said, “and I was able to do that tonight.”
The lead soon stretched 69-34 midway through the second half before the Jayhawks began to substitute liberally.
The Jayhawks were supposed to conclude their five-game homestand against Tarleton State on Sunday, but a positive test within the Division I newcomer Friday caused its cancellation. “I’ll spin it into a positive that we’ll have fresher legs, even though we won’t have the game,” Self said, “but maybe we’ll be able to work on some things.”
Omaha fared about as well as it did against Creighton, which routed the Mavericks 94-67 earlier this month. In both games they lacked the size and athleticism to hang around with an opponent that has national title aspirations.
Kansas is still trying to sort out its rotation heading into Big 12 play. The first five were set and Lightfoot has had a few good games in a row, but there’s a vacuum beyond those six. Freshman guard Bryce Thompson has the most upside and Foster-Grant has flashed some much-needed scoring punch.
The Mavericks visit Wyoming on Wednesday night. The Jayhawks begin Big 12 play Thursday night at No. 17 Texas Tech.
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