Udoka Azubuike was always going to determine who won this game.
He was the mismatch.
On one end, he is unstoppable, a force of nature that can only be slowed by his sub-.500 free throw shooting. Defensively, he’s a dinosaur, a slow-footed rim protector that can be taken advantage of on the perimeter by teams with big men that can shoot the rock. Dayton has exactly that.
And on Wednesday night, Doke won.
Azubuike scored the first nine Kansas points in overtime, finishing with 29 points to go with four blocks on the game, as the No. 4-ranked Jayhawks survived a three-point barrage from Obi Toppin and the Dayton Flyers to take the Maui Invitational title back to Lawrence with a 90-84 overtime win.
Dayton, who fell to 5-1 on the season, shot 16-for-33 from three. Obi Toppin led the way for the Flyers with 18 points, nine boards and three blocks.
Devon Dotson put up 31 points, six boards, four assists and five steals and paced Kansas for much of the game, but it was Azubuike who was the closer. Bill Self fed his big fella until he burped down the stretch. There is no coach in the country that is more adept at finding ways to get his best post sealers touches at the rim, and I’m not sure that Self has ever had a center that was this good at sealing.
Offensively, they are a match made in heaven.
But Dayton, in theory, is Azubuike’s kryptonite.
The Flyers play a way that is pretty similar to the way that the 2017-18 Villanova team played. They have five guys that can hit threes on the floor all the time. They have multiple ball-handlers that can initiate offense and – this is the most important part – they have a stud big that can protect the rim on one end and force opposing centers to defend away from the basket on the other. That’s Toppin, who, along with Ryan Mikesell, are the reason that this group is just so hard to guard.
As good as Azubuike is at burying defenders in the rim, he has been that bad when he is forced to guard on the perimeter. For the first 35 minutes on Wednesday night, that was the story of this game.
But there were glimmers of hope. Twice, in the final three minutes of regular, Dayton got a switch and tried to drive Azubuike. Twice, he moved his feet well enough that he was able to get an angle to block a layup attempt at the rim. He wasn’t perfect, mind you. He fouled a three-point shooter with Kansas up by five points and less than a minute left on the clock. That’s a borderline criminal offense.
It was, however, enough at the end of the day.
And Kansas left the islands with a win over a really terrific Dayton team, one that will carry some weight on Selection Sunday while giving the Jayhawk faithful some hope that they will be able to win even when the matchup is not ideal.