KU guard Ag­baji has yet to com­mit a turnover

The Wichita Eagle - - Comics - BY GARY BEDORE [email protected]­star.com

Steady fresh­man Ochai Ag­baji has been turnover­free in one Big 12 home game and one road con­test since hav­ing his red­shirt lifted at Kansas. That’s mis­take-free bas­ket­ball in 46 to­tal min­utes against TCU and Bay­lor head­ing into a Big Mon­day bat­tle against Texas at 8 p.m. in Allen Field­house. “Ochai had the most poise of any­body out there down the stretch,” KU coach Bill Self said of the 6-foot-5 Oak Park High School grad­u­ate, who scored 10 points and grabbed three re­bounds while play­ing 21 min­utes in Sat­ur­day’s 73-68 vic­tory at Bay­lor. He kept his com­po­sure in the fi­nal min­utes as Bay­lor cut KU’s 23-point lead with 6 1/2 min­utes left to just four points dur­ing crunch time. “He’s got the hard­est job, to throw it in, and so when guys aren’t open, he’s got the count in his head (to avoid a fivesec­ond call on the in­bounds pass),” Self added. “He made the great pass to Dedric (Law­son, who was fouled and hit one of two free throws with 19 sec­onds, giv­ing KU a 7368 lead) which re­sulted in missed free throws. We just jacked around (at end of game). Still, he’s done ex­tremely well and we’re go­ing to need him to con­tinue to play at a high level.” Ag­baji — his red­shirt was burned in re­sponse to Udoka Azubuike’s sea­so­nend­ing hand in­jury on Jan. 4 — scored seven points with three re­bounds and again no mis­cues in his first game, a 77-68 vic­tory over TCU on Wednes­day at Allen Field­house. He played 25 min­utes in his ma­jor-col­lege de­but. “It was ob­vi­ously dif­fer­ent,” Ag­baji said of play­ing at home and then on the road. “I stayed to­gether with my team­mates. It’s what I em­pha­sized in the locker room (be­fore Bay­lor game), stay­ing to­gether. They helped me. They kept me com­fort­able.” Ag­baji has made 7 of 10 shots (2 of 4 threes) and 1 of 2 free throws en­ter­ing Mon­day’s game be­tween the No. 7-ranked Jay­hawks (14-2, 3-1 Big 12) and un­ranked Longhorns (10-6, 2-2). “He’s been ter­rific. He’s been great,” Self said, not­ing Ag­baji, “is be­com­ing one of our best play­ers. “He’s go­ing to con­tinue to play more and more. He needs to get his wind a lit­tle bit. But, cer­tainly, we’re more ac­tive and ath­letic when he’s in the game.” Ag­baji’s ath­leti­cism alone fig­ures to guar­an­tee him sig­nif­i­cant min­utes against the Longhorns, who fell to Texas Tech 68-62 on Sat­ur­day in Austin. “They are so long and ath­letic. It wor­ries me so much,” Self said, re­fer­ring to strengths of a Texas team that out­re­bounded Tech, 37-30. KU was out­boarded by Bay­lor, 49-30. “We have room to im­prove on that,” Ag­baji said of hit­ting the boards. “It’s a mind­set thing really. De­fen­sive re­bound­ing … ev­ery­body locks in, ev­ery­body’s emo­tions are go­ing at the same time.”

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