LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lagerald Vick was 8 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc and scored a career-high 32 points, Udoka Azubuike added 23 points and 10 rebounds, and second-ranked Kansas slogged its way to an 84-68 victory over Vermont on Monday night.
The Jayhawks (2-0) were jumped by Duke for the top spot in the AP poll earlier in the day, even though they beat then-No. 10 Michigan State in the Champions Classic last week. And for most of their game against the Catamounts (1-1), they did little to prove the voters wrong.
Kansas led just 40-36 at halftime before two big runs allowed coach Bill Self to breathe easy.
Anthony Lamb had 24 points, Ernie Duncan added 17 and Stef Smith scored 13 for the Catamounts, who have lost nine straight to ranked teams dating to a win over Boston College in 2006.
The Catamounts looked as if that streak might end when they went on an early 18-4 run, hitting a series of quick 3-pointers while double-teaming Azubuike on defense whenever he got the ball.
The Jayhawks’ 7-footer still muscled his way to 12 first-half points.
But while the Catamounts sent waves of bodies at Azubuike inside, and made fellow Kansas forward Dedric Lawson a non-factor, they didn’t account for Vick on the perimeter.
After struggling mightily in the Jayhawks’ season-opening win over the Spartans, Vick poured in four first-half 3s and piled up 16 points. Most of them came while the Jayhawks struggled to run offense through their two freshman guards, Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes.
Eventually, the Jayhawks’ depth and talent wore down Vermont.
It was 44-40 before Azubuike added another of his rim-rattling dunks and then scored on a putback. Vick followed a jumper with his sixth 3-pointer and added his seventh a couple of minutes later as the Jayhawks’ lead swelled to 61-45 midway through the second half.
Vermont went on one last run to get its deficit under 10, but Azubuike added two more baskets and Vick curled in his eighth 3-pointer. That matched Mario Chalmers for the most in the Self era at Kansas and left Vick trailing only Terry Brown, who hit 11 in a game in 1991.
Vick finished 12 of 14 from the field in helping Kansas win its 46th straight home opener.
Vermont: The favorites to win America East did nothing to diminish their outlook, standing toe-to-toe with the reigning Big 12 champs for nearly 30 minutes. In a league where they should match up better physically, keep an eye on Vermont to roll toward another NCAA Tournament appearance.
Kansas: Lawson followed his excellent debut against the Spartans, when he had 20 points and 14 boards, with a dud at the Phog. The transfer from Memphis and the Big 12’s preseason player of the year was held scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting.