LAWRENCE — Kansas basketball’s long-awaited return to Allen Fieldhouse went quite well.
Tad Boyle’s, not so much.
The No. 2-ranked Jayhawks won their top-25 showdown with No. 20 Colorado 72-58 on Saturday night, delivering the visiting Buffaloes their first defeat of the season in lopsided fashion. The game represented KU’s first inside its home arena since Nov. 19, and it was also a homecoming of sorts for Colorado’s head coach — Boyle was a Jayhawk guard from 1981-85.
"KU beat us tonight. I mean, very soundly," Boyle said. "You know, people are going to see that score, but it really wasn't even as close as the score indicated, and I think you guys know that and I know that."
Ochai Agbaji scored 20 points and hauled in 12 rebounds, both team-highs for KU. Devon Dotson scored 18 and dished six assists, while Udoka Azubuike's 12-point evening rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Jayhawks.
KU (7-1) took into halftime a 12-point lead that in all honesty could’ve been much larger.
The Jayhawks held a 26-6 advantage in points in the paint in the opening period, scoring the game’s first 16 points inside en route to a 21-12 lead. The KU defense, meanwhile, held the Buffaloes (7-1) to a 7-for-26 opening period and a 4-for-15 clip from 3-point range ahead of the break. All of that helped offset KU’s own 0-for-6 shooting start from beyond the arc.
Azubuike’s flushed a buffalo-sized dunk with 1.9 seconds left in the first half, giving the Jayhawks their 34-22 lead going into the locker room. Azubuike and Agbaji each scored eight points in the opening 20 minutes to lead KU, which out-rebounded the Buffalos in the period, 24-13.
Evan Battey’s layup ended an eight-plus minute field goal drought for the Buffaloes and pulled the visiting squad to within 41-27 with 16:12 remaining, but Agbaji had an answer — the sophomore guard’s 3-pointer a minute later pushed the advantage to 18. Later, it was Agbaji again, this time hitting a falling trey to give the Jayhawks a 49-34 lead with just over 10 minutes to go.
Agbaji’s fourth triple with 6:20 to go lifted the KU lead to 16 and kick-started a decisive 10-0 run — Isaiah Moss drained a 3 of his own on the Jayhawks’ next possession, and Dotson hit a pair of free-throw tries and converted a steal-and-layup to cap the stretch and, with the home squad up 23, effectively end any threat of another memorable victory for Boyle inside Allen Fieldhouse.
Jayhawk fans won’t have to wait as long until their team's next game inside Allen Fieldhouse, which will come at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Milwaukee.
Agbaji had been mired in an early season slump, and KU coach Bill Self said the message entering the contest had been simple: "Worry about the things you can control," Self said.
"I don't think he's rebounded the ball well, like he's capable of. And he goes and gets 12 tonight, and three offensive, which was great," Self said. "I think you worry about the right things, and what does he go, 4 of 6 (from 3)? But I thought Ochai played really well."
KU, which never trailed, finished the evening with a 38-22 advantage in points in the paint and a 6-for-13 success rate from 3-point range, all while limiting Colorado to just 30-percent shooting from the floor. The Buffaloes were led by Battey's 14 points.
"It's not like our team to take 34 of, what, 60 shots from 3," Boyle said, "but you know, sometimes KU makes you do things you don't want to do."
Saturday's game was also a homecoming for another former Jayhawk — Devonte' Graham, who is having a sensational sophomore season for the Charlotte Hornets, took in the contest from behind the KU bench.
Graham, who played for the Jayhawks from 2014-18, spoke to the team after the contest.
"He talks to 'em all the time, so it wasn't like that was a huge deal for our guys to see Devonte', because he's in touch with the guys all the time," Self said. "But it's always great to see him. He loves this place. He's got an off day today and then (the Hornets) play tomorrow and he's still here in Lawrence today. He's got to catch a 6 a.m. flight back to get back. But it's always good (to have him back)."
That said, there was one particular message in Graham's postgame remarks that Self hopes resonates with his group.
"One thing that Devonte' did tell our guys afterward: When you play a team like Colorado who's got a really good team, and you control the game and it's a 22-point game or whatever with three minutes left and you end up winning by 14, you don't leave out of here feeling near as good because obviously we didn't finish the game right," Self said. "He did tell the guys that that's, like, my biggest pet peeve. So hopefully they'll listen to him since they don't me very well."