In the aftermath of the 68-66 loss to Duke, the Kansas men’s basketball team welcomed UNC Greensboro for its first regular-season home game of the 2019-20 season. Despite a tightly contested matchup in the first half, the Jayhawks managed to pull ahead in the final 20 minutes and top the Spartans, 74-62, for their first win of the season.
Entering Friday evening, Kansas had won 46 consecutive home openers dating back to the 1973-74 season. But on this night, its hands would be full with UNC Greensboro — a program that rattled off a school record 29 wins a year ago.
To begin the contest, it was junior guard Marcus Garrett providing the majority of the offense. Coming off a performance in which he tied a career-high with 13 shot attempts, Garrett recorded eight points on his first three shots from the field, including two from beyond the arc.
The spark, however, would not be strong enough to pull the Jayhawk offense from the rut it had been stuck in. After missing the season-opener with a hamstring injury, senior guard Isaiah Moss was the first off the bench for Kansas. The graduate transfer from Iowa, who shot a blistering 42.1% from three-point range for the Hawkeyes in 2018-19, struggled to discover his touch out of the gates. Moss finished the first half going 0-2 from the field in seven minutes of action.
Freshman forward Jalen Wilson suffered an ankle injury just seconds after checking in for the Jayhawks. The 6-foot-8 Texas native was helped to the locker room by two Kansas trainers once coming off the floor. He did not return to the game but was seen on the bench with crutches and his left shin wrapped in a brace.
During the post-game press conference, coach Bill Self said Wilson's ankle is broken, and he will miss an estimated three months with surgery coming next week.
"[Wilson] said he felt [his ankle] pop," Self said. "It's a bad one."
As the game was deadlocked at 23 during the final media timeout of the first half, sophomore guard Devon Dotson ignited a run to create some separation. Knocking down two three-pointers and all six of his free throw attempts, Dotson led Kansas with 14 points to go along with five rebounds heading into the break.
Through the first 20 minutes, the Jayhawks held a slim lead over the Spartans by a score of 36-32.
During opening play in the second half, the urgency became apparent on the offensive end. Benefiting from the outside shooting abilities of sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji and Moss, Kansas used a 12-2 run to extend its lead to 14 before the first media timeout of the half.
"He did good," senior center Udoka Azubuike said on Moss' debut with Kansas. "We really need him in the game. He's a good shooter for us."
Putting an exclamation point on the second half awakening, Azubuike nearly blew the roof off Allen Fieldhouse with a monstrous flush over sophomore guard Kaleb Hunter. The slam capped off a 28-11 run out of the half for Kansas. With the bucket, Azubuike recorded his first double-double of the season — tallying 10 points and 10 rebounds.
"With our four-guard rotation, that kind of opened up space for me to do whatever I got to do," Azubuike said.
Freshman forward Tristan Enaruna, who gathered the second-most minutes off the bench for Kansas, contributed nine points and five rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
"[Self] told me I played well," Enaruna said. "[Self] always tells me to go out there and not worry too much. Just to be an all-around guy."
Outscoring the Spartans by eight points in the second half, the Jayhawks claimed their first victory of the season by a 12-point margin.
Moving to 1-1 on the 2019-20 campaign, Kansas will play host to Monmouth next Friday. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m.