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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Rookie backcourt propels No. 1 KU past No. 10 Michigan State

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) goes around Michigan State guard Matt McQuaid (20) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Indianapolis. Kansas won. 92-87.

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) goes around Michigan State guard Matt McQuaid (20) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Indianapolis. Kansas won. 92-87.

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Indianapolis – Kansas freshman Devon Dotson had a simple way of explaining how he and fellow freshman Quentin Grimes exploded onto the college basketball scene during Tuesday’s 92-87 victory by top-ranked Kansas over No. 10 Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“I mean, it’s winning time,” Dotson said with a sly grin.

That it was, and few players contributed to KU’s season-opening victory more than the Jayhawks’ freshman backcourt.

After ho-hum performances in two exhibition games back in Lawrence, Dotson and Grimes delivered like the McDonald’s All-Americans they were, combining for 37 points on 9-of-15 shooting from 3-point range to help Kansas (1-0) race past Michigan State (0-1) in what was the highest-scoring Champions Classic game in history.

KU took control early and led 50-36 at the half before scratching and clawing to hold on late, and both Grimes and Dotson played a huge role in giving the Jayhawks the separation that allowed them the cushion to survive the Spartans at the end.

“They were both gamers tonight,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Q was fabulous. People had told me in his camp that he likes it when the lights are on, he’s a gamer. And you’d like to see that in practice, consistently, too. He’s a good shooter, but when you’re tentative, you never shoot as well, and there was nothing tentative about him tonight.”

Added Kansas junior Dedric Lawson, who also dazzled in his debut to the tune of 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists: “Man, Q was terrific. He came out with a free mind, letting it go. And that’s something coach said before the game, he said, ‘Let it fly.’ And Q went out there and played to his talent and he was a great player tonight. He was the best player on the team.”

Grimes connected on six of his first seven 3-point shots and kept hunting more.

“I knew the next time I got the ball, I was going to shoot it again,” a smiling Grimes said after the victory. “And my teammates did a great job of finding me tonight.”

Added Dotson of Grimes’ red-hot touch: “I mean, that’s what he does. He can get hot. We see it in practice and it was great.”

Grimes scored eight of KU’s first 14 points and finished with a game-high 21 for the night. Dotson finished with 16 points and knocked the Spartans off balance with his pace and tempo.

Self said the two talked last week about being an extension of the KU coach on the floor, and Dotson passed that test by saying all the right things.

The rookie from Charlotte, N.C., did not necessarily make all the right plays on Tuesday night — both he and Self said he could play much better — but as far as debuts go, Tuesday’s effort was about as good as one could ask for, especially given the fact that all Dotson had to do was take the reins from All-Americans Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham on the biggest stage in college basketball for the No. 1-ranked team in the land.

“To be able to execute what we think’s important,” Self said, clarifying what he meant by Dotson being an extension of him on the floor. “That’s on him to set the tone for that. Obviously, he can do a lot better, but he did a lot of nice things.”

Tuesday’s win was hardly all roses for the Jayhawks, and the statistics provided a clear indication of why the game came down to the final few minutes when it looked, for a while at least, like Kansas might lap the Spartans during an easy, double-digit victory.

KU shot 44.9 percent from the floor and gave up 44.1 percent shooting to MSU. The Jayhawks hit 10 of 23 3-pointers and gave up 12-of-23 shooting to the Spartans. And the two teams shot in the 60s in free-throw percentage, with KU hitting 20 of 33 and MSU 23 of 35.

The Jayhawks did outrebound the Spartans 42-40, but the biggest edge came in an area where Kansas had struggled during exhibition play.

After turning the ball over 42 times in easy wins over Emporia State and Washburn, the Jayhawks gave it away just 11 times on Tuesday night, while forcing Michigan State into 18 turnovers. That led to a 20-11 edge in points off turnovers and helped KU maintain control on a night when it led for 37:49 of the 40-minute game.

A big part of the reason for KU maintaining that lead was the play of junior center Udoka Azubuike, who played hungry in spurts and flashed an evolved offensive game after airballing his first field goal attempt of the night.

Azubuike finished with 17 points and six rebounds on 7-of-10 shooting in 20 minutes, many of them coming late when KU ran everything through him in order to keep Michigan State from climbing any closer.

“Udoka needs to play more than 20 minutes,” Self said. “If he plays more than 20 minutes, we’re a different team.”

In the end, no one in KU blue really cared too much about numbers, stats, minutes or moments. The only thing that mattered was that this team, which is still very much trying to find itself and figure out how all the parts work together, walked away with a tough win against a good team on a big-time stage.

“I’m just glad we won, to be honest,” Lawson said. “Nobody wants to lose, and I don’t care if it’s by one point, as long as we won.”

Added Dotson: “It should give us a lot of confidence. Even though we’ve still got stuff we can build on, this was a big win for us. It was our first game, we can definitely improve and we will improve.”

Comments

Bryce Landon 1 week, 6 days ago

If I'm not mistaken, I think Kansas has now won three straight Champions Classic games after starting off with a woeful 1-4 record in the event.

It's a fun event, and I'm glad to hear we'll continue to be part of it for the next few years! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Craig Carson 1 week, 6 days ago

MSU was the only team they hadnt beaten yet,,seeing them beat MSU like they did then watching UK get dismantled by Duke was a great overall night LOL

Bryce Landon 1 week, 6 days ago

When Duke and Kentucky play, I'd rather see the building collapse than see Ratface or Calamari win.

Kevin Woods 1 week, 6 days ago

Why does Vick give me the impression that he doesn't want to be here?

Jeremy Wilhelm 1 week, 6 days ago

Good question. I didn't get that impression at all.

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 6 days ago

Tough to answer as he disappeared somehow while still on the court.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 1 week, 6 days ago

Q was amazing. I wasn’t impressed with Dotson while watching the game but his stats were better than I would have guessed; but you can see his potential. By the end of this season they could be a superhero like dynamic duo.

Eliott Reeder 1 week, 6 days ago

Really?!? I was definitely impressed with Dotson. He's super-quick with the ball in his hands. I think he needs to learn to slow down a bit and was maybe trying to do too much at times, but he is very good!

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 6 days ago

I'm with Karen on this. I thought he looked like the best player on the court at times.

RJ King 1 week, 5 days ago

Dotson looked a bit like Frank Mason 1.0. Only faster.

Marcus Balzer 1 week, 6 days ago

I was more impressed with Dotson then I was Q. Q is dynamic and is as close to a first round draft guy that KU has had in awhile. His play wasn’t a surprise to me. Dotson - talented guy but Self is typically pretty hard and less trusting of freshman point guards and with a guy in Charlie, who has been around the program for a year I thought Dotson would have to earn his minutes coming off of the bench. To see him play the way he played, in the spotlight and against a veteran and talented MSU squad was impressive to me. Can he play better? Yes. He tends to over penatrate at times and gets sped up but you can see the difference he makes on the court. It is one game but at least for one night he looked like a starter and a difference maker to me.

Bob Thompson 1 week, 6 days ago

When I die and if I go to hell, I will be subject to having to listen to Dick Vitale. I was going to say do basketball commentary, but that is not what he does. I would say random thoughts come out that have nothing to do with the game....

Jim Stauffer 1 week, 6 days ago

Watching UK get dismantled as one person said is absolutely horrible for the rest of us. I need to see Duke struggle to believe this BB season is not over already. I realize these are the first games and UK played very poorly, but those three kids Duke has look unstoppable to me. We will see. I have always hated Duke more than UK which is the opposite of most here, but we can beat Kentucky, but Duke looks unstoppable to me.

Joe Black 1 week, 6 days ago

Well they do have the best player money ($25,000.00) can buy: Zion Williamson. I love how they mentioned KU woes from the trial last month but no mention of the fact that Zion Williamson's people were shopping him around to the highest bidder and he signed with Duke. Doesn't that kind of smell funny(insert poop emoji here)

John Strayer 1 week, 6 days ago

Until Zion gets wrapped up in the Nike mess of a trial coming in early 2019.

And I do think it's interesting that KU sits De Sousa...and Zion gets national hero treatment. $2,500 vs what ??

Joe Black 1 week, 6 days ago

The least impressive player for KU last night was Dedric Lawson. He forced shots, missed easy shots, got his shot blocked several times, was late on defensive switches which led to wide open shots for MSU. I hope this game was an anomaly and not what we have to look forward to all year. I'll chalk it up to first game on the big stage jitters.

Gerry Butler 1 week, 6 days ago

And yet the guy ends up with 20 points - - -14 rebounds - - led the team in assists with 6 and drew foul - -after foul -- after foul - - I like him think ya, go ahead block it - -here I come again and results him getting yet ANOTHER rebound and gets fouled -- -Result? - -2 more points for KU - - - pretty bad night lol - -just to think what's he has a decent game what's he gonna do? -- Hate much? lmao. - - - ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

Eliott Reeder 1 week, 6 days ago

...add 2 blocks and 2 steals to that line. His shot was off last night and he still had best numbers in the game. That's impressive.

Barry Weiss 1 week, 6 days ago

all players are going to have off shooting nights. I think Dedric had that. What is important is what they still do to contribute. Given he still contributed a double double that most players never get, I was very happy with his play. I would not read too much into his rough shooting night.

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 6 days ago

I was much more unimpressed w/Vick and Marcus but being only one game into the season tends to not make any firm conclusions. I thought Grimes impressed me the most and not far behind was KJ.

Steve Quatrocky 1 week, 6 days ago

Great Game for a season opener at the Champions Classic. Yes, we were rough around the edges, Dedric tried to do too much at times, but we controlled the game from the tip until the refs took over in the second half. I hope our youngsters learned something very important about big stage national TV games where the refs do as much as possible to handicap the leader so that it doesnt become a blowout and try to manage the game to be a nailbiter in the last 5 minutes, just like the NBA. Most important improvement was team assists to turnovers against a quality team known for its defense first attitude.

Justin Kruse 1 week, 6 days ago

For our first game, and against a quality opponent and coach, I thought we did pretty good, especially the first half.

Dok was great, offensively and defensively! Our transition defense was pretty horrible, as well as our rotation on D. Grimes was on fire, was kind of hoping for more from Vick, and our guards need to attack the rim (I miss Frank!). But, it was a great W to start the season!

Rock Chalk!

David Robinett 1 week, 6 days ago

Spoiled KU fan comment: I was irritated that MSU was able to get within striking distance at all. Made me think that (or reminded me) that Izzo has our number when the talent is about equal -- and it took our overwhelming talent advantage to squeak out this win.

Stephen Burtin 1 week, 6 days ago

That was irritating, but I was worried about even winning this game. We have the star power for sure, but their entire starting lineup was juniors and seniors. I expected their upperclassmen to have more poise and keep it close all game just to steal it from us in the final minutes. I'm glad we got out of there with a big confidence boosting win for our freshman guards.

They have a lot of tough games left in the non-conference to smooth out their rough edges and learn how to step on the throat of their opponents when they get them down.

Tony Bandle 1 week, 6 days ago

Interesting take on the rivalry, although an overall break even mark of seven wins apiece doesn't exactly indicate dominance by either side. As for over-whelming talent, just how many guys were playing for KU the first time and how many were playing their first NCAA game the first time and how many were playing together in a game that counted for the first time?

Not necessarily disagreeing with you, David, just offering up a different perspective.

Eliott Reeder 1 week, 6 days ago

Self is still tinkering with various line-ups and offensive sets. Things will be settled and we will be much better by start of conference play.

Scott Proch 1 week, 5 days ago

Okay, new goal. Reach the overall number 2 seed in the tournament so we don't get Duke until the finals!!

Marius Rowlanski 1 week, 5 days ago

I was surprised by how easily Duke took it to Kentucky. You never know how players will do in their first primetime game. The talent was closer than the game was.

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