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Friday, March 25, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Landen Lucas uses brain and brawn inside

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) celebrates a late bucket against Maryland during the second half, Thursday, March 24, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) celebrates a late bucket against Maryland during the second half, Thursday, March 24, 2016 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

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— He beat out a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans in practice daily to earn a spot in the starting lineup, so it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Landen Lucas beat up another hamburger All-American to help Kansas University advance to the Elite Eight.

Maryland freshman Diamond Stone showed early why he projects as a one-and-done, first-round talent and Lucas proceeded to take him right out of the game so that he could do what he does best, dominate the boards.

On a night Perry Ellis demonstrated so many different ways to score on his way to 27 points and Wayne Selden Jr. (19 points, seven rebounds and six assists) put his boundless competitive spirit and basketball versatility on display, Lucas made sure it wasn’t all for naught.

Stone, a 6-foot-11 post player with fancy footwork and soft hands, scored just one of his five points in the second half. Meanwhile, Lucas kept absorbing blows without backing down, and by the time the day was done, he had produced 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Lucas knows his shooting range — point-blank — and stays within it. He made 6 of 7 shots and put back his only miss for a bucket.

Even though those numbers sparkle, it’s how teammates’ numbers grow when he’s on the floor that earned Lucas the starting spot a third of the way into Big 12 play and it has played such a huge part in KU’s 17-game winning streak.

Ellis, a scorer with so much artistry to his game, flourishes when he has Cool Hand Luke, his cerebral bouncer, by his side.

“Landen makes it easy for Perry to play because he understands Perry’s game,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Landen’s strengths allow Perry to play to his strengths, as well.”

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Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self: Jayhawks 'superb' in Sweet 16 win

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self answers questions from the media following the Jayhawks' 79-63 victory over Maryland in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Self gave freshman Cheick Diallo and senior Hunter Mickelson chances to win the starting center job, but the rest of the lineup played better with Lucas on the floor, even when the junior from Portland, Oregon, was missing easy shots and piling up quick fouls.

“It’s not the other guys’ fault,” Self said. “It’s just we need to play somebody that gives Perry a chance to be as good as he can be.”

Ellis so stresses out defenses, even when the defenders stick to the scouting report, that it sometimes results in Lucas having the space to get a few steps of steam up on his way to a lob dunk.

“I’ll take it,” Lucas said of his points. “That’s a credit to my teammates. They give me the ball in good positions. That’s the way I score, off of those guys. I focus on defense and rebounds but if they’re giving me the ball close to the hoop like that, I can finish, then I’m definitely happy with that, too.”

Self spoke to the role Lucas’ intelligence plays in his game.

“Landen is as bright as any player we have, maybe the brightest as far as basketball IQ,” Self said. “Late clock, he’ll know how to set a fade screen to get a guy a short or against a zone or whatnot.”

That basketball brain comes in handy defensively, as well, as Lucas showed in shutting down Stone, Maryland’s second-leading scorer.

“I had watched some tape on him so I kind of could tell what he liked to do and I knew I could be physical with him if the refs allowed it,” Lucas said. “That’s what I tried to do.Then in the second half, I knew he liked to lower his shoulder a lot, so there was an opportunity to pick up a charge.”

He makes it look as easy as he makes it sound.

Thanks to players such as Lucas and Selden doing the dirty work so well, the rest of the players on the court with them become more entertaining as their creative juices flow.

Kansas (33-4) didn’t look so pretty in the first half, but performed the dirty work well enough to take a two-point lead into the locker room.

“We stayed in the game by playing defense in the first half and in the second half, we knew we could create some separation with a nice little run and we did that,” Lucas.

As a result, top-seeded Kansas advanced to the Elite Eight, where No. 2 seed Villanova (32-5) awaits for what promises to be a highly competitive, entertaining show.

— See what people were saying about the Sweet 16 matchup between KU and Maryland during KUsports.com's live coverage


More news and notes from KU’s Sweet 16 victory over Maryland


By the Numbers: Kansas 79, Maryland 63

By the Numbers: Kansas 79, Maryland 63

Comments

Dirk Medema 3 years, 7 months ago

Isn't it a bit ironic that Lucas was a partial qualifier academically?

Dirk Medema 3 years, 7 months ago

Taylor was also ineligible with Ben. Lucas was ineligible in the 2012 class (http://espn.go.com/colleges/basketball/recruiting/school/_/id/2305/class/2012) with Zach Peters, who left school and went home. Also in that class was Perry Ellis, who didn't redshirt and is now a senior, while Lucas is a Jr. I think it was one of those deals where he changed schools in HS and had transcript problems.

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 7 months ago

Lucas will make some money playing basketball somewhere in the world...maybe Japan.

Lucas will make a lot of money coaching basketball somewhere in the world...maybe Kansas.

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 7 months ago

Thanks to Lucas, our rebounding stat is so much improved game after game. I have no complaints at all with him replacing the McDonald's froshies, but please please, no bunny hops, Lucas! Dunk it like there's no tomorrow, big fella!

Jared Reeves 3 years, 7 months ago

Lucas' improvement this season has been phenomenal. We definitely wouldn't be here without him!

Brian Mellor 3 years, 7 months ago

I think Lucas's story this season should remind us how narrow a window we as fans actually have to see through into the whole process. All we see is the final product, the 40 minutes on the floor - and we need to be aware of how little that provides us to judge by. We don't see te effort at practices, the training, the day to day progression, the development of trust and comeraderie.

Mallory Briggans 3 years, 7 months ago

isnt it amazing how we feel about Lucas now as opposed to early in the season.......it goes to show we dont know all we think we know.....Coach Self was second guessed early because he was playing Lucas but he saw something in him as well as the other 4 starters to give him the chance.......and he stepped up to the challenge ....he is the glue that holds this thing together......Perrys offense has gotten better because teams have to concern themselves with Lucas on the offensive end as well now .....He can also score which is an added bonus.......going into next season ....AZ better take note because its Lucas' job going in and you will have to work your butt off to get it.....and if you do thats even better......or any big thinking about it ..

JD Roth 3 years, 7 months ago

I know Lucas was playing like crap around the rim midway through the season and I commented on how clumsy he looked. Since then he has improved each game and is playing at a very high level just like I knew he could. I also stated that KU would turn their season around beginning with the UK game and they are undefeated since then. If you would review video you would see that Lucas is playing with complete confidence in all aspects of his game, a far cry from earlier in the season. Let's take the National Championship. Lucas will be a monster next season. KU is very proud of you Landen, you have earned it my friend....

Dale Rogers 3 years, 7 months ago

You could easily make a case for any of several players being considered MVP for this season but, to me, Landen Lucas is the guy who made it all click and thus he gets my vote (if I had one!).

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 7 months ago

I agree with you totally, Dale. He has provided the missing link from earlier in the season.

This is an excellent article and analysis by Mr. Keegan. I have said from the first minute I heard Landen speak following one of the early season games that he is so articulate and smart. His confidence has grown exponentially. His play has indeed freed up Perry Ellis to do those things that make him so valuable all over the court.

I know that, from now on, all the games will probably be toss-ups. However, I really like this team and would put them up against some of the best in KU history. I know that they will give maximum effort every time out, and I hope that effort is rewarded with a national championship. Rock Chalk!

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