KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ochai Agbaji scored 23 points, Christian Braun added 20 and eighth-ranked Kansas tuned up for this weekend’s return of the Border War with a 78-52 blowout of UTEP on Tuesday night.
David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot added eight points apiece for the Jayhawks (7-1), who led by 21 at halftime at T-Mobile Center and weren’t threatened the rest of the way.
Now, the Jayhawks turn their attention to Saturday’s showdown with Missouri. The bitter rivals have not played a regular-season game since the Tigers bolted for the SEC nearly a decade ago.
Souley Boom had 18 points and Keonte Kennedy 11 for UTEP (4-4), which famously beat the Jayhawks during their 1966 national title run immortalized in the film “Glory Road.” The Miners also beat Kansas to reach the Sweet 16 in 1992.
Such history had little bearing Tuesday night.
The Jayhawks, the nation’s sixth-highest scoring team, showed right away they can play a little defense, too, forcing UTEP into missing its first six shots and committing four turnovers before Boum knocked down a 3-pointer.
By then, the Jayhawks had a 10-point lead and didn’t look back. They continued to hound the Miners on defense, forcing a series of turnovers — at one point, four in five possessions — and most of them turned into layups at the other end. When Kansas was forced to run some offense, it merely had to find Braun cutting to the basket or McCormack posting up for an easy lay-in or dunk.
It was 42-21 at the break, and the Jayhawks cruised the rest of the way.
Kansas and Missouri began playing in 1907 but haven’t taken the floor together — besides an exhibition for hurricane relief — since the Tigers left the Big 12. Their last game, when Kansas rallied from 19 down to win in Lawrence, Kansas, took place on Feb. 25, 2012,
The Jayhawks and Tigers were supposed to play the first game in a six-game series last year, but it was pushed to this year because of the pandemic. Their football teams have since decided to play a four-game set beginning in 2025.
“T” ME UP
Kansas coach Bill Self was given a technical foul with 9:44 left and his team leading 58-39. He took umbrage when official Amy Bonner called a foul on Jalen Wilson during a fight for a rebound. Self sarcastically clapped after the “T” was given.
UTEP: Had been competitive in its first three losses by a combined 21 points, but the Miners trailed by that with 7 1/2 minutes left in the first half Tuesday night. Still, they played the Jayhawks even most of the second half.
Kansas: Got sloppy on offense after the break, particularly when running the fast break. That was just about the only flaw on what was perhaps the Jayhawks’ best defensive performance of the season so far.
Kansas welcomes Missouri to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.