Baylor's Udoh a Bear in the Paint
"When I get on that floor and if you come in that lane, I'm going to either alter your shot or I'm going to get it," the 6-foot-10 post player said to FanHouse recently.
Udoh, a transfer from Michigan, has certainly made good on promise this season as one of the most lethal shot blockers in college basketball. The junior set a new Baylor record this past Saturday when he recorded his 100th block shot of the season against the Missouri Tigers. He's also third on the Big 12 all-time single season list and needs just 10 more rejections to set the league mark, after rejecting nine shots during Tuesday night's 88-70 win over Texas Tech.
"You just have to have a desire to accomplish blocking shots and just being grimy and grittyon defense," Udoh said. "I really have that passion and I love playing defense. I think I can guard anybody. That's how I feel as a competitor."
While not as consistent offensively, his athletic ability around the basket has made him a force for the Bears in the post as well. Udoh converted his second straight game-winning tip-in Saturday in the 64-62 win over the Tigers and his third of the season. He finished Saturday game with six points and 10 rebounds.
He also converted the game-winning tip during last week's 55-53 win at Nebraska.
Most coaches recognize his game-changing presence inside as a major reason for the Bears (19-5, 6-4 Big 12) surprising season.
"I don't think there is any question about that," said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford. "He would transform any team. They lost some good players inside and to be able to replace those guys with Ekpe Udoh, a guy who could be Lottery Pick, never hurts your basketball that's for sure."
"He gives them a guy, a shot blocker in there, a guy who can control the paint a little bit for them," said Missouri coach Mike Anderson. "I thought we did a pretty good job on him until the last play but he definitely has an impact on the game with his defensive presence."
Udoh started strong this season and surprisingly hasn't slowed in his first season in the Big 12. Scott Drew says Udoh's extensive experience with the Wolverines in the Big Ten makes him something other than the typical newbie.
He is averaging 13.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.36 blocked shots per game which makes him a favorite for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors.
"He's somebody who works hard every day," Drew said. "He's similar to any junior or senior on your team, you don't expect those guys to hit a wall, they know what it's like the rigors of a Big 12 season and a full basketball season. He definitely has not hit a wall."