Kansas vs. Tennessee score: In first game after brawl, shorthanded Jayhawks survive scare vs. Volunteers
Kansas let Tennessee hang around before closing it out late
Kansas has been the talk of college basketball all week since its on Tuesday, but the third-ranked Jayhawks put their tumultuous week aside to claim an important 74-68 win over Tennessee in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
The fight KU showed Saturday was more impressive than what we saw in Tuesday's vicious melee. Tennessee, which had won two straight games, played Kansas tight and did not back down in a raucous environment. The Vols jumped out to an impressive start early and led by as many as seven in the first half. When they fell behind, they continued to claw away until KU closed it late with free throws.
With Silvio De Sousa suspended by the Big 12 for 12 games due to the brawl, and David McCormack serving a two-game suspension, KU's frontcourt was tested by Tennessee. John Fulkerson scored 15 and grabbed 12 boards, and Yves Pons scored 24, adding seven rebounds and three blocks in the losing effort. It was 7-footer Udoka Azubuike who softened the losses of De Sousa and McCormack; he played 27 minutes and contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots despite flirting with foul trouble in the second half.
Devon Dotson led the way with 22 points and seven assists with only two turnovers.
Kansas played just seven players in the game and was mostly outsized down low, as 6-5 Isaiah Moss and 6-6 Christian Braun spelled Azubuike in what amounted to a four-guard lineup for KU most of the day. KU also went small at times, using Moss as the quasi-center.
Considering all KU's been through this week and all it lost due to suspensions -- both long and short-term -- this was an impressive one for it to put down. Tennessee's been up and down this season, but the Tennessee team that Rick Barnes has is NCAA Tournament-caliber. As it plods ahead into SEC play, with Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Alabama on deck, the way it played against a team that rates No. 1 nationally in several different metrics could catapult the Vols into the March Madness discussion.
For Kansas, it's a win that gets it to 16-3 on the season -- its sixth win since the start of the new year. It heads to Oklahoma State on Monday before a two-game homestand against Texas Tech and Texas.
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