Wednesday, December 5, 2018
The Lawson brothers have been in this situation before.
Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson were both on the Memphis team in 2016-17, when starting center Chad Rykhoek was sidelined with a dislocated ankle injury in December. The Tigers turned to their small-ball lineup following the injury, which lasted 16 games between mid-December to mid-February.
Now, the expectation is that No. 2 Kansas will rely on a similar look, because starting center Udoka Azubuike sustained an ankle sprain during the team’s 72-47 win over Wofford Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks, who used a 27-0 run in the second half to pull away, employed a four-guard lineup for much of the night.
“It really helps out all of us,” Dedric Lawson said after his 20-point performance. “Four guards, I try to not get in (their) way as much as possible. Especially when Marcus (Garrett) has a four on him, things like that, I try not to set ball screens sometimes, just so he can get a rhythm going to the hole.”
It is a lineup that KU (7-0) is familiar with, as it has leaned on the four-guard look in each of the past two seasons.
Lawson, who will shift over to the five, now will have the option to pick and choose his spots for one of the four guards on the perimeter. The space allows the wings to attack the rim on a more consistent basis, since nobody is really clogging up the lane.
An example of that occurred with 9:42 left in the second half, as freshman Devon Dotson bursted through the lane with the shot clock winding down, finishing with an and-one play to give KU a 49-41 lead at the time.
“I know those guys love to drive,” Lawson said. “I pick and choose wisely, when to go and when not to go. I don’t want to throw (their) rhythm off.”
But it also benefits Lawson, who is now leading KenPom.com’s player of the year standings following Tuesday’s showing.
With 14:12 left in the game, Lawson set a screen for Dotson at the top of the key. Lawson slipped the screen, as his man hedged over to help keep Dotson from driving. Dotson then hit Lawson, who beat the lone help defender for a layup at the rim.
The tandem did the same thing with 10:02 left in the game, though Lawson’s layup was negated after the official ruled the defender’s foul occurred on the floor.
“Dedric is fantastic. That’s a different offense to prepare for without the big one down there,” Wofford coach Mike Young said. “They spread us out with the dribble weave. We didn’t guard obviously nearly as well in the second half as we did the first.”
Through seven games, Lawson is leading the team in scoring with 19.0 points per game and rebounding with 10.7 boards per contest. Lawson is also the team’s leader in assists with 22 on the season.
And that’s even with Kansas playing a majority of the time in the two-big lineup, despite the offense appearing more efficient when four guards are out there.
“Whenever (Udoka) isn’t in the game, we need to find a way to isolate Dedric in the post,” KU coach Bill Self said. “It is hard to when you have another big in there, and you can’t stretch it at all.”
Even if it is by necessity, KU appears ready to go all in on the smaller lineup with Lawson as the focal point for the time being.