LAWRENCE, Kan. — Kansas coach Bill Self hoped from the moment Charlie Moore arrived as a transfer from Cal that the talented shooting guard would provide the Jayhawks a lift off the bench.
He finally did Tuesday night.
Moore knocked down six 3-pointers and finished with 18 points, Dedric Lawson added 16 points and 14 rebounds, and the top-ranked Jayhawks pulled away over the final 15 minutes for an 89-53 win over plucky but overmatched South Dakota on Tuesday night.
“That’s what we thought all along, that he was going to be our marksman,” Self said. “It hadn’t happened yet but tonight it did.”
Freshman forward David McCormack added a career-best 12 points off the bench for the Jayhawks (10-0), making big strides while Lawson was on the bench in foul trouble and helping soak up minutes with Udoka Azubuike sidelined with a sprained ankle.
The Jayhawks are hopeful Azubuike will be back by the start of conference play next month.
“It felt good that I could contribute to the team,” said McCormack, a five-star prospect from venerable Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. “I got more minutes so I got more opportunities.”
Stanley Umude scored a game-high 28 points to lead the Coyotes (6-6), who have never defeated a ranked team in seven tries. Tyler Peterson added 15 points, and leading scorer Trey Burch-Manning was held to two points on 1-for-5 shooting before fouling out.
“Their size obviously bothered us,” South Dakota coach Todd Lee said. “I was disappointed at halftime, thought it could have been a game. And the second half we didn’t compete.”
In truth, neither team was particularly good in the first half.
The Jayhawks struggled to stop South Dakota’s relentless backdoor cuts, and eventually Kansas coach Bill Self was so fed up with their defensive execution he started to burn timeouts.
“The two timeouts in the first half had no strategy to them,” Self said, “except wanting to get someone out of the game. We didn’t play well at all the first half.”
Not that the Coyotes did much with all those easy looks. They committed 12 first-half turnovers, allowing the Jayhawks to slowly pull out to a 37-27 advantage at the break.
Most of the work was done without Lawson, who was forced to the bench with two fouls.
The Jayhawks’ dominant point forward joined Moore in helping the Jayhawks pull away in the second half, though. Lawson scored in the paint, Moore hit a 3-pointer and Lawson added a pair of foul shots to turn a 49-40 lead into a 56-40 lead with about 12 minutes to go.
“Coach said at halftime that we only had three assists, that we had to get downhill more and get more people involved,” Moore said. “We took his words and used them in the second half.”
The undersized Coyotes answered with a run of their own, but Moore and Lawson provided one more answer. Moore curled in his fifth 3-pointer, this time from the wing, and then took a run-out to the rim before dropping a pass to Lawson for an easy layup and a 66-47 lead.
The advantage only grew from there as Moore, who once scored 38 points in a game his freshman year at Cal, and the massive McCormack continued to put together breakout games.
“The second half we puttered around,” Self said, “and then Charlie and David helped us pull away. … It was nice to see someone other than Lagerald (Vick) knock down shots. That was good. And it was really nice to see David have some success.”
South Dakota hung around long enough to keep Kansas on the edge, but the Jayhawks’ superior athleticism was evident. They were quicker in transition, better on the boards and were able to pull away when the Coyotes went cold from beyond the arc.
Kansas finally got an easy win after surviving nail-biters against everyone from New Mexico State and Stanford to Villanova and Tennessee. It was the first time all season that the Jayhawks put away a game in time to empty the bench in the final minutes.
South Dakota hosts Southern Miss on Friday night.
Kansas visits No. 18 Arizona State on Saturday night.