Advertisement

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Benton Smith: Familiar flaws finally cost No. 1 Jayhawks

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) and Devon Dotson (11) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) and Devon Dotson (11) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Arizona State, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Advertisement

Welcome to the point in the season when we are supposed to overreact.

That’s what we are trained to do when a team on a roll loses for the first time or falters when faced with a new challenge.

The No. 1-ranked (for now) Kansas basketball team checked both of those boxes Saturday night. The Jayhawks suffered their first defeat of the season in their first true road game on the schedule.

The trouble is it’s hard to blow KU’s 80-76 loss to No. 18 Arizona State out of proportion.

Did we really think Kansas was the best team in the country — a different question than should it have been ranked No. 1 in the polls — before the Sun Devils rallied from a 10-point early second half deficit to win?

Those who have followed the Jayhawks closely already knew their flaws and many of those imperfections cost them on their preholiday break trip to Tempe, Ariz.

Junior forward Dedric Lawson can’t be asked to do much more offensively than he already is. Lawson’s never looked more smooth than he did at ASU, with a 30-point, 14-rebound double-double. But, just as we’ve seen before, in other games KU could have lost, there’s rarely even an Alfred to be found to complement Lawson’s Batman, let alone a Robin.

Where’s Lagerald Vick when Lawson needs him? Well, sometimes the senior guard comes through. (See: Vick’s 4-point play at the 4:58 mark of the second half, which briefly pushed KU’s lead to seven.) But Vick also was credited with two turnovers in the game’s final minute, the second of which was at best a borderline over-and-back call when Devon Dotson and an ASU defender chased and reached for a Vick pass that got away.

Then there’s the matter of KU’s 3-point shooting. Gone are the days of picture-perfect jumpers draining from all angles within KU’s four-guard lineup.

This team has one 3-point shooter. And when Vick is off, good luck finding someone who is on. Vick’s 3-for-11 night at Arizona State isn’t what cost KU. But the Jayhawks’ offensive problems worsened when the rest of his teammates combined to shoot 4 for 17 from behind the arc.

At some point this season, Dotson (2 for 4 on 3-pointers) and fellow freshman Quentin Grimes (0 for 5), as well as backup guard Charlie Moore (1 for 3), will have to prove to opponents they can hit from downtown with consistency. If they don’t, it will continue to be that much easier for defenses to collapse around Lawson and take away his utility belt of offensive tricks.

We’ve also seen that KU doesn’t get much production from its bench. That cost the Jayhawks more than ever at Arizona State, as the Sun Devils’ subs outscored their counterparts 26-5.

These aren’t new issues for KU. They’re just magnified by the fact that they all added up to a defeat for a change.

At some point soon, Udoka Azubuike will be back in the mix. And the 7-footer’s presence might at least give KU the complementary piece to Lawson that it needs offensively.

Those other issues aren’t going to be overlooked, in wins or defeats, until the Jayhawks can prove they’ve put them in the rearview mirror.

So what did we learn about KU in its first road game, which also happened to be its first defeat? Not a whole lot. Except that without some tweaks and progress in the next few weeks, the Jayhawks will be losing with more frequency, because with the start of Big 12 play comes road games. And if you believe the rankings at KenPom.com, there are seven teams not named Kansas in the Big 12 that are better than Arizona State.

It’s like KU head coach Bill Self said before his team ventured west.

"Just because you go on the road and win, doesn't mean you conquered it or if you don't win, you lost it.”

No one thought this KU (10-1) team was unbeatable before Saturday night. Neither a win or a loss was going to change that.

The ongoing battle to address and overcome obvious weaknesses is a true challenge for every team. And Self and his staff were going to be doing all they could on those fronts regardless of Saturday’s outcome. They won’t be overreacting to anything that transpired either.

Comments

Layne Pierce 7 months ago

This game shows that we are essentially a 2, make that 1.75 man team. Now when Doke comes back, we will be a 2.75 man team, but teams are not going to play honest, if we cannot

hit 3 point shooting, at least at 33 per cent clip. The other thing that really ticket me off tonight was our shot selection in the last 4 minutes of the game. Twice Garrett takes 3 point shots. He won;t make 10 percent, on a good day. If Lagerald wants to jack it up, ok, he;s earned the right. Frankly Grimes and Dotson, are not 3 point shooters that teams will worry about, KJ and Garrettt are terrible. Charlie is so erratic. So any way we look at it. We have a problem.

I did think that overall Grimes played better tonight, than he has for several games. He needs to be aggressive taking it to the hoop, and stop for the 8 to 10 foot jump shot, especially when Doke and Lawson are near the basket.

We will get better, or we won't win league again.

RCJH

Barry Weiss 7 months ago

I think we are a totally different team with Dok. That is the identity of this team and we did fairly well without him. Once he is back, we will go back to having 4 players who bring offense...Dok, Dedric, Vick and Dotson. Right now we just have 3 out there who can score as Grimes is still learning the offense and Garrett is our defensive lock down. Having Garrett and Grimes out there at the same time is just not going to win games. Once Dok is back, I think Grimes, Garrett and Moore all fight for minutes depending on the need that night.

And that game last night was totally winnable. ASU basically had a lopsided ref advantage, hit two big threes in the last couple of minutes that closed out the lead we had all night, then they hit a legit step back jumper to take the lead. And we turned it over twice under a minute. That was the game. The refs have way call them equal, ASU misses one of those 3's, we get a shot off under one minute...any of those things and we win a tough one in a very hostile environment. I was there, it was almost Allen Fieldhouse loud, which I think we handled well.

Clarence Haynes 7 months ago

Need to do a better job running shooters off of the three point line.

Mallory Briggans 7 months ago

It was obvious we had no one to keep ASU from driving the lane . And they were more active on the boards Put backs killed us .We don't have the players that have that mentality to hit the boards …………..Not having Silvio really hurts …. D-Mac is still like a bull in a china shop.and although he brings energy its not always around the rim. Lawson is a finesse player and if you ever notice he doesn't jump very high on offense or defense....If we played better defense our offensive woes wouldn't be as evident. Virginia doesn't blow people out they shut people down …...Hopefully the offense will be more efficient …….but that defense needs work

Town Thomas 7 months ago

If you have three-point shooters, play four guards. If you don't, then don't.

Tony Bandle 7 months ago

When Dok comes back with Lawson and Dotson, anything from Vick will be a bonus and anything else past those four will be a minor miracle!

Dirk Medema 7 months ago

Benton - You are absolutely right about the team overreacting and there's no need to. The fans will more than handle any need to overreact. With Beaty gone and only Ws in BB there's tons and tons of it stored up. It rather funny to watch. Sort of like old comedy reruns on tv.

Robert Brock 7 months ago

The magic ran out: KU had been winning while playing lousy basketball.

Eliott Reeder 7 months ago

We have more than one three-point shooter. Devon Dotson is shooting 42% from three. Yes, he hasn't shot as many as Grimes and Moore, which may affect his %, but I would MUCH prefer him shooting them than Grimes. Please let Grimes ride the pine for a while. Also, Lagerald doesn't need to toss up so many. Taking 11 threes is great if you're ON, but if you're off, stop chucking. Also, I wish Self would have started Dotson, Garrett, Vick, Lawson, McCormack while Doke has been out and let McCormack play through some errors. Running four guards out there just makes this team want to play like the last couple of year's teams and chuck threes, which is an unsuccessful strategy... :(

Eliott Reeder 7 months ago

P.S. remove the Michigan State game from his stats and Grimes is shooting 17% FROM THREE on the season, yet Self seems to continue to give him the green light. Why is a 17% trey shooter taking 5 threes in a top-25 road game!?!?! Silly.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.