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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Landen Lucas crucial for KU when games get physical

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for position with Kansas State forward D.J. Johnson (4) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for position with Kansas State forward D.J. Johnson (4) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

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— No need for the great minds of our time to take a break from searching for the meaning of life to figure out the primary reason Kansas State played so much better in the second half than the first Saturday night in wild Bramlage Coliseum.

No, not the whistles. Not even Perry Ellis suffering a gash to the head that required stitches and a scratch to the eye that is cause for concern at least until an eye doctor examines it.

Not half-time speeches. Not the spirited crowd fueling the home team with energy, which it most certainly did in impressive fashion.

The biggest reason that the same K-State team that trailed by 10 points at halftime on the way to losing to Kansas, 72-63, is quite easy to identify.

Fourth-year Kansas junior post man Landen Lucas played 10 minutes in the first half and K-State wide bodies D.J. Johnson and Stephen Hurt combined for five points. Lucas played three second-half minutes before fouling out and K-State’s two hulks combined for 19 points.

When Lucas is on the floor, Kansas has an answer for big, powerful bodies. When he has a seat on the bench, the opposition’s muscle turns into a shark smelling blood and is targeted by teammates at the insistence of the coach.

Lucas, armed with smarts and strength, has developed into that important a player for the Jayhawks (23-4 overall, 11-3 in the Big 12), the nation’s second-ranked basketball team.

The more crowded the lane grows, the more subtle body shots are exchanged, the more it enters Lucas’ wheelhouse.

The intensity of this one was made for Lucas.

He played just 13 minutes of it, which was time enough for Kansas State to look for ways other than pounding it inside to score when he was out there and time enough for Lucas to contribute seven points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot. Four of  the rebounds came at the offensive end.

“Landen plays 13 minutes and gets eight rebounds,” appreciative coach Bill Self said. “Perry plays 30 minutes and gets two. We need somebody in there to do the dirty work, to be real candid with you. (Jamari Traylor) would love to do it and try to do it, but he’s not big enough some of the time.”

Self said that two of Lucas’ fouls came as the result of defensive lapses elsewhere that put him in a bad position.

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Lucas chided himself for what he called, “a silly” first foul. During his days as a reserve, Lucas didn’t have to worry about counting his fouls. Different story now.

“He’s become very, very important to us,” Self said.

Lucas, who stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 240 pounds, said that his first choice was to play football, but before he reached high school his height led him in a direction that made more sense.

“That might be one of the reasons contact is something I’ve always enjoyed (as a basketball player),” Lucas said. “It hurts me sometimes. I’ll be playing against a team that’s not that physical and I’ll be expecting contact and it’s not there. I feel more comfortable playing in a game with a lot of contact.”

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In the 13 minutes Lucas was on the floor, Kansas outscored its in-state rival by 15 points. In the 27 minutes Lucas sat, Kansas State had a six-point advantage. The difference in the feel of the game was every bit as noticeable as the numbers indicate.

"It helps when we get Lucas in some foul trouble and then Ellis isn't in there," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "We thought we could take advantage of their big young guys and D.J. and Stephen did that. Those two guys, along with Justin (Edwards), really got us going in the second half." 

It took years of work for him to reach the point that Lucas was mentioned in the same breath by a coach as Ellis, which has to make it all the more gratifying for the big man.

— See what people were saying about KU's rematch with rival Kansas State during KUsports.com's live coverage


More news and notes from the Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan




By the Numbers: Kansas 72, Kansas State 63

By the Numbers: Kansas 72, Kansas State 63

Comments

Mallory Briggans 3 years, 8 months ago

Landen Lucas has become a player to be reckoned with. Lucas was the topic of discussion but not in a good way .He wasn't worthy enough to be on the court but he has worked on his game both offensively and rebounding .He is gaining more confidence and his big body has value as other teams try to exploit Diallo and Braggs lack of size on the inside You cant push Lucas around in the blocks .8 rebounds in 13 minutes pretty efficient , who knows how many rebounds he would have had if not for the foul trouble. We are going to need that inside presence for the tourney . Ellis will be ready we need Lucas to continue to improve he has become a rebounding machine , Keep it up Landen

Rock chalk

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 8 months ago

Good article, Mr. Keegan. It's very fortunate that we see him blossoming at the right time. Now that he's becoming a rebounding machine, the sky is still the limit for him. Now it's time for our PGs to trust him in the O. Help him to help the team in scoring. He can be that guy that provides consistent contribution down low at the rim. High percentage is guaranteed. Perry, for example, can use Lucas when surrounded by 2-3 defenders. Look at the highlight reel above, fforward to ~0.27. Frank's favorite move draws 2-3 guys, he will try to score or pass it back out to the wings at the desperation. Lucas was ready to jam the ball. Luckily, the ball went in. It is time to see Lucas not only play as a rebounder, rim protector, but also an offensive threat.

Rock Chalk!!

Arthur Ankeney 3 years, 8 months ago

Very true Steve. I think we saw Svi really trusting him in the game. Svi got into the paint forcing Lucas's man to come help a couple times and a quick, easy drop off to Lucas for the deuce. Now if Wayne, Frank, and Devonte start that...he could really be a force.

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 8 months ago

Good observation Arthur. I saw Svi's both assists to Lucas, too. Svi shows how a PG utilizes the big inside. He doesn't just toss it, but he draws Lucas' man and then pass the ball at the right moment to Lucas. A very very intelligent play.

Heck, our PGs can even use Traylor since the other team always think he's the weakest link. Did you see how he stuff the ball just like that? We need to use Traylor more, too, in the offense. Such a waste of energy and talent to use Traylor just to be a man in the middle, passing the ball, setting the screen but not rolling to the basket. Our team will be in a better position once they trust and realize each other's strength.

Arthur Ankeney 3 years, 8 months ago

Very true on Traylor. With his unbelievable athleticism the guard can drop it off to him 10 feet from the basket as he's rolling and he can be at the rim in half a second with one dribble.

Rae Bricil 3 years, 8 months ago

Lucas offers a lot of intangibles and rebounds well but who sees him as a rim protector? He is averaging 0.5 blocks per game--that doesn't seem like someone people are afraid to attack. Compare this to Lattin's stats, which are almost identical to Lucas in all other categories, who averages 2.4 blocks per game.

Also, the only way he is going to be an offensive threat is if our guards continue to drive and dish giving him opportunities for lay ups.

Sorry don't see the sky as the limit for him, especially since he has a hard time dunking (or just likes lay ups) but he has been a major contributor and playing up to his potential.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 8 months ago

Rim protector is a misnomer. Interior defender - yes.

And for all the improved play, his O game is still very limited. We've seen that repeatedly even in the last couple weeks when he has had very noteworthy games, but still fumbles the ball away when trying to execute fairly basic offensive moves (beyond the dunk/layup and FT, which he fortunately is competent at - 72% in BigXII)

Landon has been and will continue to be successful because he knows his role, has accepted it, and is focused on doing it well; get rebounds, set screens, and defend.

Arthur Ankeney 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't think many people see "the sky as the limit" for Lucas...they just see him as a more consistent option inside, for this team, this year.

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