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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Hot hand Lucas moving in the ‘right direction’

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is fouled by Nebraska forward Nick Fuller (23) on his way to the bucket during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Nebraska forward Ed Morrow (30).

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is fouled by Nebraska forward Nick Fuller (23) on his way to the bucket during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Nebraska forward Ed Morrow (30).

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Kansas senior center Landen Lucas entered the season so badly wanting to take a big step forward from a productive junior season.

Little did he know then that taking a step back to his junior season would be greeted with such praise.

Lucas played Saturday in a way that reminded everyone of the value he brought to the team a year ago. He delivered 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in KU’s 89-72 blasting of Nebraska in Allen Fieldhouse in front of 16,300 spectators, including George Brett, the greatest third baseman of all-time.

He was perfect from the field (5-of-5) and the line (2-of-2) and perfectly happy to walk into Allen Fieldhouse for the first time in a long time without a boot designed to ease the stress on his sore right foot.

“I kind of made that executive decision on my own, so we will see how that goes over with Ched,” Lucas said, referencing athletic trainer Bill “Cheddar” Cowgill. “But I was feeling good and mentally, I didn’t want to keep walking around in a boot and then switch to court shoes, so today I didn’t do it. Maybe it’s time to just throw that thing away.”

It was the second consecutive encouraging performance for Lucas, who during that time has played 34 minutes, made 6-of-6 field goals, 4-of-4 free throws and produced 16 points and 12 rebounds.

His revival has come at a good time for the team, which, at least temporarily, is playing without one of its big men, sophomore Carlton Bragg (suspended from competition after being charged with misdemeanor battery of a female student.)

“It’s a team effort,” Lucas said of compensating for an unavailable player. “We all have to do it. It’s not one individual. So everyone has to step their game up, including me. So I felt like I had to get out of whatever I was in early in the season. It seems like it’s going in the right direction.”

The word “funk” was most commonly used to described whatever it was that he was in when he was fouling too frequently and hanging his head after many of the whistles. Since the definition of the word is “state of depression,” funk might be a little strong.

So we’ll call it a fog. It blocked his vision to the path back to the player he had become. The fog has lifted and if his health continues to improve — he missed one game with a strained oblique muscle and foot injuries often linger — then the fog might never return.

That doesn’t mean that Lucas will continue to perform as he did against UMKC and Nebraska once the competition grows much stiffer, but it certainly counts as an encouraging development.

“I thought he played really well,” Self said. “I thought he was quick into his moves. He didn’t catch it and hold it and hesitate. I thought he played really well.”

Lucas and freshmen Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot combined to produce 22 points, 13 rebounds and five blocked shots in 40 minutes, taking the spotlight for a couple of hours away from Bragg, who sat on the bench wearing a polo shirt and slacks and not wearing a smile that once was his trademark.

By the Numbers: Kansas 89, Nebraska 72.

By the Numbers: Kansas 89, Nebraska 72.

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Nebraska


Comments

Clarence Haynes 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Injuries are funky! Glad to see Landen healing and being more effective!

Humpy Helsel 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Reminds me of when Tom Hanks character in Apollo 13 rips off his biometric vest freaking out the physician charged with monitoring astronauts' medical well-being. Headline could have been, "Lucas Gives Huskers the Boot!" In all seriousness, it looks as simple of him "letting the game come to him" and not trying to do too much. Sounds pretty cliche, but I do think it may apply here.

Kit Duncan 3 months, 2 weeks ago

It also helps that the refs in the last few games haven't been as whistle happy as they were in the first few games. I think that had a little bit to do with Landen's frustration. It looked as though he was struggling to understand what the refs were gonna call and not call.

Harlan Hobbs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Landen's resurgence was the highlight of the game for me. Not only was he more active, but he demonstrated some quicker offensive moves. If this continues, he will be a fixture in the starting lineup again, with Udoka putting in some very good minutes off the bench. Then, if Udoka continues to improve, he might actually win the job back based upon his multiple skills.

Stephen Koontz 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Love George. Really do. Hate to say it but Mike Schmidt is the greatest third baseman of all time.

Harlan Hobbs 3 months, 1 week ago

What about Pie Traynor in the Hall of Fame? I knew Pie Traynor, Pie Traynor was a good friend of mine, and ..., oh wait, someone else has already used this type of line. Sorry!

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