No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks (2-0) vs. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (1-1)
Time: 7 p.m. Friday | Location: Allen Fieldhouse
TV: Jayhawk TV/ESPN+ | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
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1. Closing time
Kansas freshman Quentin Grimes said one of the team’s many points of emphasis this week was on closing games.
Sure, the Jayhawks defeated a tough Vermont team by double digits on Monday night. And, yeah, the team’s sluggish second half against Michigan State is now more than a week old.
But in both outings, the Jayhawks were not as sharp as coach Bill Self would like to see them in the final few minutes, and he and his coaching staff hammered home that point this week.
“We watched film on that (Wednesday), because in Indianapolis, we kind of let (Michigan State) come back a little bit. And then, Vermont, we were just kind of discombobulated out there on the court in the last five minutes,” Grimes explained.
Asked what areas Self has emphasized that might lead to better closeouts, Grimes pointed to three main things and one general theme.
“Watching film on situational stuff,” he said. “Just being more focused and really knowing out of the timeout what he wants on the court, making sure everybody’s in the right spots, what time we should go in the shot clock, just paying attention to little things and details.”
2. Get to the free-throw line
After his two freshmen guards in the starting lineup got to the free-throw line just a few times in the season opener, Self watched Grimes and Devon Dotson fail to get there at all in the win over Vermont.
Both players know that needs to change, and they said they’ve heard about that a lot this week, too.
“He talks about it,” Dotson said. “I’ve noticed that, too, that I need to get to the line more and just be more aggressive. I know I can be, it’s just something I need to start (doing), just getting in the lane and making plays for others and myself.”
Asked how Self emphasizes the idea of guards shooting more free throws, Dotson said it usually comes during film sessions.
“He just has a stat, like, ‘You guys have only got to the free-throw line a certain number of times.’ And that’s something we need to work on.”
Added Grimes: “He said we definitely need to get to the line a lot more. The guards need to get a lot more aggressive and not worry about shooting the 3 ball and really focus on getting the ball downhill and making sure the other team gets in foul trouble.”
3. Defend the 3
It’s a small sample size, but the one way KU’s first couple of opponents have been able to hang around with the second-ranked Jayhawks has been by getting hot from 3-point range.
Vermont’s red-hot early shooting led to the Catamounts playing with a lead for most of the first half. And Michigan State’s hot-shooting second half nearly led to the Spartans coming all the way back from 17 down.
Through two games, KU’s opponents are hitting 43 percent from 3-point range, only to be outdone by KU’s 22-of-42 clip from 3-point range, good for 52.4 percent.
Louisiana shot 24 3-pointers in its opening game (when it scored 121 points in a win over Virgin Islands) and shot 25 more in a 22-point loss at No. 6 Tennessee. In all, the Ragin’ Cajuns enter this one shooting 45 percent from 3-point range, which makes the 3-point line an area to watch tonight at Allen Fieldhouse.
Lagerald Vick might not shoot 8-for-8 again and KU’s defense could slow Louisiana down. But both teams should do everything in their power to make sure the other does not get going from distance or it could be a long night.
Grimes, who is shooting 57 percent from deep, said he had been impressed by KU’s 3-point shooting thus far, and the coaches had been pleased.
“Some of the bad shots are even good shots in a way,” he joked. “And I think we’ve done a good job with shot selection out there.”
Dedric Lawson vs. himself
Dedric Lawson’s off night against Vermont was not just one of the roughest games in the junior forward’s career, it was the roughest.
Statistically speaking, his worst offensive rating during his two seasons at Memphis came on a night when he registered a 77 on the meter that measures efficiency, shooting percentage and other offensive factors, as well (his best was 161, and against Michigan State, he recorded a 103).
On Monday night, Lawson’s offensive rating came in at a whopping 27, as he finished 0-for-6 from the floor with zero points in 19 minutes.
Despite the off night, neither Lawson nor his teammates seem all that worried about his overall game, and the 6-foot-9 starter has an opportunity to bounce back against Louisiana in the comfort of his home environment and friendly fan base.
“I think, right after the game, he put it behind him,” Grimes said of Lawson’s poor performance vs. Vermont. “Coach let him know that, don’t worry about it and move on to the next game. At practice the next day, he was out there playing like he usually does, going out there scoring and passing the ball really well.”
Self’s squad has now made it over two hurdles — season milestones, if you will — and it’s time for this team to start to settle in on the grind.
With the season opener out of the way and home opener behind them, the Jayhawks will now play three games in eight days before any kind of break.
Two of those games will come next week in New York, against top competition at the NIT Season Tip-Off. So this game against Louisiana serves as a bit of a tuneup for that.
The Jayhawks are in the top five nationally in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, and the Ragin’ Cajuns aren’t in the Top 90 in either category.
Kansas, which was a 23-point favorite over Vermont, is a 22-point favorite over Louisiana. But this one feels like a game in which the Jayhawks should cover the spread.
No. 2 Kansas
G – Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, Fr.
G – Quentin Grimes, 6-5, 210, Fr.
G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 190, Sr.
F – Dedric Lawson, 6-9, 235, Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 270, Jr.
G – Cedric Russell, 6-2, 175, Soph.
G – Malik Marquetti, 6-6, 200, Sr.
G – Marcus Stroman, 6-2, 200, Sr.
F – Jerekius Davis, 6-6, 225, Jr.
F – JaKeenan Gant, 6-8, 215, Sr.