The Maui Invitational, which always seems to live up to expectations, came to a thrilling close on Wednesday as No. 4 Kansas outlasted Dayton, 90–84, in overtime to win the annual Thanksgiving week tournament.
Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike both turned in career outings for the Jayhawks. Dotson led all scorers with 31 points on 11-for-16 shooting and added six rebounds, five steals and four assists, while Azubuike finished with 29 points and four blocks on 12-for-15 shooting.
The Flyers and Jayhawks traded blows in a high-level affair before Jalen Crutcher sent the game to OT with a three-pointer with three seconds remaining in regulation.
Azubuike then took over in overtime, scoring nine straight points to open the extra stanza before fouling out. Despite battling all night with Dayton star Obi Toppin, Azubuike was able to assert himself as a dominant force in the paint, and even made three crucial free throws in overtime—an area the big man is known to struggle with.
Kansas's win ended a magical run by the Flyers in Maui. Dayton, of the Atlantic 10, came into the tournament 3–0 but untested against Power 5 competition. It proceeded to dispatch Georgia (by 19) in the quarterfinal before dismantling a Virginia Tech team that had just knocked off No. 3 Michigan State by 27. In the final, it gave the Jayhawks all they could handle, leaving no doubt that the Flyers are legitimate (and deserving of Top-25 status) and should not only be a serious player in the A-10, but on the national scene as well.
While Toppin is the Flyers' star, Michigan transfer Ibi Watson had a big day with 16 points off the bench, and senior forward Ryan Mikesell led them with 19. Toppin, an NBA prospect who has had a stellar start to his sophomore season, finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against Kansas. After scoring 49 total points in Dayton's first two games at the Maui Invitational, he leaves with plenty of buzz around both his future and his team's.
Wednesday, though, ultimately belonged to Dotson, Azubuike and the Jayhawks, who proved some things in the gutsy overtime win. While the team got little scoring production outside that duo and guard Marcus Garrett, who had 18, they limited their turnovers to 11 (six by Dotson) and shot 55.9% from the floor. In its season-opening loss to Duke at MSG, Kansas turned it over an astounding 28 times and shot 46%, missing 10 free throws in the process. The Jayhawks looked like a more complete and organized team in Maui, though questions about their outside shooting and depth remain. One thing that's clear is that when both are playing well, the dynamite inside-out pairing of Dotson and Azubuike is going to be a handful for anyone.
Despite giving up 84 points (1.08 per possession), Kansas showed its mettle defensively as well. Dayton is a nightmare team to defend because the Flyers are formidable inside the arc, entering Wednesday's game ranked first nationally in two-point percentage and fourth in field-goal percentage at the rim, but can shoot it efficiently and at a high volume from the outside as well. With Toppin being frequently doubled in the paint, they went 16 for 33 (48.5%) against Kansas from three—normally a strong recipe for an upset. But with Azubuike anchoring, the Jayhawks held Dayton to an 11-for-29 (37.9%) mark on twos, overcoming the Flyers' hot outside shooting and their own lack of perimeter scoring (KU attempted just 11 threes, making four).
Bill Self's team now has a week-and-a-half off before returning to action when hosting No. 21 Colorado on Dec. 7. Dayton next hosts Houston Baptist on Dec. 3 before what should be a pivotal Dec. 8 matchup with Saint Mary's in Phoenix.