As Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack watched from the locker room, No. 3 Kansas held off Tennessee on Saturday in its first game since Tuesday’s brawl against Kansas State.
The short-handed Jayhawks (16-3) withstood a tough test in the 74-68 win over the Volunteers (12-7) as De Sousa and McCormack sat with suspensions.
De Sousa is facing a 12-game ban for his role in the brawl, which included inciting it after gloating over a blocked shot in the game’s final second and picking up a stool as the fight ensued on the baseline. McCormack, meanwhile served the first game of his two-game suspension.
Kansas played down 2 forwards
The suspensions left the Jayhawks thin in the frontcourt, but starting center Udoka Azubuike picked up the slack, fending off foul trouble to log 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in the win.
Devon Dotson led the way from the backcourt with 22 points and seven assists as the Jayhawks stuck with a seven-man rotation.
While De Sousa garnered more attention and a longer ban for his role in the fight, McCormack — a 6-10 starting forward — is a bigger loss to the lineup in the two games that he’s out. De Sousa plays a limited role, averaging 2.6 points in 8.2 minutes per game.
Isaiah Moss, a 6-5 guard, took McCormack’s spot in the starting lineup, leaving Kansas with a four-guard lineup built around Azubuike in the post.
The game got off to a slow start with neither team scoring until Ochai Agbaji put Kansas on the board more than three minutes into the game with a jump shot.
Kansas took a 37-30 lead into halftime and extended the lead to 13 in the second half, but Tennessee rallied to force a sweat in Allen Fieldhouse.
Azubuike comes up big after foul trouble
Azubuike picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with 8:24 remaining and Kansas holding a a 62-54 lead. By the time he returned with 4:27 left, Tennessee had cut its deficit to 66-63.
Azubuike immediately made his presence felt, scoring four straight Kansas points at the free throw line and coming up with three blocks in the final 4:03 of the game.
Kansas faces a road test next at Oklahoma State on Monday before McCormack is scheduled to return for a home test against No. 18 Texas Tech on Feb. 1.
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