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Breaking down KU’s defense against Angel Delgado

Seton Hall's Angel Delgado pulls a rebound from Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during the first half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Seton Hall's Angel Delgado pulls a rebound from Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during the first half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

Equally skilled at scoring and rebounding, Seton Hall senior forward Angel Delgado presented one of the toughest matchups for Kansas big men all season.

Heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks could face more players like him.

Clemson, KU’s opponent in the Sweet 16 on Friday (6:07 p.m., CBS), is led by 6-foot-9, 237-pound junior Elijah Thomas but he’s not as prolific as an offensive rebounder as 6-foot-10, 245-pound Delgado. Thomas does average 10.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, ranking fourth in the ACC with 2.24 blocks per game.

If the Jayhawks advance to the Elite Eight, they could face prolific scorers and rebounders like Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. or Syracuse’s Oshae Brissett. Bagley is fifth in the nation with 21 double-doubles this season, only one behind Delgado. Carter, a more traditional center than Bagley, has recorded 15.

The 6-foot-11 Bagley and 6-foot-10 Carter combined for 26 rebounds (seven offensive) against Texas center Mo Bamba in November.

With the benefit of already facing Delgado, their second-round win gives the Jayhawks a blueprint of how they will need to attack some of the top forwards remaining in their region. Of course, it’s unlikely any of those forwards will have as much success as Delgado. He became the fifth player in the last 40 years to record 20-plus points and rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.

What saved Kansas, in the eyes of coach Bill Self, was Udoka Azubuike’s performance to fight strength with strength.

“If Udoka wasn’t able to come back from his injury, we don't win,” Self said afterward.

Delgado had 12 points (5-for-9 shooting), 11 rebounds and one turnover when matched up against Lightfoot. Seven of his 11 rebounders were on the offensive end, tormenting the Jayhawks with second-chance points.

In four minutes against De Sousa, Delgado had four points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. Self said the game was a “little bit too big” for De Sousa. At this point of the season, the Jayhawks can’t afford wasted offensive possessions when players are out of position.

“We obviously couldn’t guard (Delgado),” Self said. “Angel had 12 and 12 at halftime. This isn’t a knock to Mitch, but Mitch physically is going to have a hard time with that.”

Azubuike limited Delgado to eight points and nine rebounds — only one offensive board. The Dominican Republic native shot 4 of 6 against Azubuike but opted to attempt more jumpers and short hook shots.

“Second half, I thought Dok actually defended him pretty good,” Self said. “Of the 24 he got, he probably got six or eight on Dok and the rest were on our other guys. We thought that our best chance was to put a big, heavy body on him.”

Afterward, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said he wished the Pirates would’ve fed the ball more to Delgado when he was guarded by Azubuike. They went away from him, looking for other scoring options, because Azubuike’s size took so much energy out of Delgado.

In December, Syracuse’s Brissett had 13 points and nine rebounds against KU, but only one rebound was on the offensive end.

“You just gotta give him credit,” Delgado said of Azubuike. “He's an unbelievable player. He did a great job with his bad knee. You just gotta give credit to great players.”

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