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Friday, March 15, 2019

Late run in first half lifts Kansas past West Virginia in Big 12 semifinals

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) celebrates with Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) after connecting on a three pointer during the first half, Friday, March 15, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) celebrates with Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) after connecting on a three pointer during the first half, Friday, March 15, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

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Kansas City, Mo. — The shot was big, the foul was foolish but the pass was pristine.

Late in what was, in just about every way, a sluggish offensive half for the third-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in Friday’s Big 12 semifinal against West Virginia at Sprint Center, freshman point guard Devon Dotson darted his way up the floor after a West Virginia miss and needed about three steps to know where he was headed.

Forget that Dotson and his lightning-quick first step had proven to be nearly impossible to guard during Friday’s first half. There was no time for monopolizing the ball on this play.

Instead, Dotson rifled a perfect pass to Quentin Grimes on the far wing in front of the WVU bench, where Grimes cooly rose up, drilled a 3-pointer and absorbed the foul. The ensuing free throw gave Grimes a rare 4-point play and Kansas its first lead since the 13-minute mark.

It also sparked a 14-4 KU run to close the half and completely changed the tone of a game the 17th-ranked Jayhawks went on to win 88-74 to advance to Saturday’s Big 12 title game (5 p.m. on ESPN) against No. 5 seed Iowa State.

“I saw him streaking down the court," began Dotson, recalling the play after Friday's victory. "And I knew he was hot because he hit a shot before that and I just wanted to feed him the ball and get him going a little bit because we’re going to need him if we’re going to make a big run.”

Added Grimes: “I saw the defender closing out and I was like, ‘He’s running pretty fast; he’s got to stop, so I’m going to shoot this one and I’m either going to get three free throws or a 4-point play.' And the 4-point play went my way.”

Grimes, who drilled all five 3-pointers he attempted in the first half, hit two more in the final 2:29 of the half, including a 25-footer that beat the halftime buzzer and put Kansas up 48-40 at the break.

“I looked up at the shot clock and it was like 6, 5 seconds left and I was like, ‘I’m shooting it no matter how far it is,'" Grimes recalled. "So I shot it farther from NBA range and it went in.”

Said KU coach Bill Self of Grimes' monster half: "If it weren't for him, over a 4- or 5-minute stretch, West Virginia controlled the first half and we ended up going up 8 just primarily because of Quentin."

In every way, from the sweet stroke to his extreme confidence and giddy celebrations, Grimes’ performance on Friday night was reminiscent of his KU debut against Michigan State at the Champions Classic last November in Indianapolis.

“Nobody brought that up," Grimes said when asked about the Michigan State game after Friday's win. "You’re the first one, actually.”

But that question wasn't the first time someone in a Kansas uniform thought back to KU's season opener.

“Yeah, definitely," Dotson said with a huge smile. "The way he was shooting, it was kind of giving me flashbacks (to the Michigan State game)."

There, Grimes hit six of his first seven 3-pointers and broke onto the college basketball scene in a monster way, dropping in a 21-point night that still stands as his career-high.

In this one, Grimes tallied 16 first-half points — 18 for the game — and was crucial part of what proved to be a balanced offensive attack that pushed the Jayhawks into yet another Big 12 championship game.

"He shot the ball ridiculously well the first half," KU coach Bill Self said of his 5-star freshman. "There was absolutely no hesitation. He was so confident."

As much as Grimes no doubt felt a little relief and elation to play free and see his shot fall with ease again, Grimes’ memorable game was not limited to what he did when the ball was in his hands.

For the second consecutive game Grimes was good on the glass (8 rebounds) and he also chipped in with four assists and four steals in 30 minutes.

And that kind of all-around effort was consistent throughout the KU lineup once that Dotson-to-Grimes 4-point play broke down the bad basketball barrier.

Dedric Lawson hit 9-of-13 shots from the floor and finished with 24 points and 8 rebounds. Marcus Garrett, who looked as close as he’s been to 100 percent on that injured ankle, tallied 11 points in 30 minutes — nearly all of them right at the rim — and Dotson added 13 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.

It wasn’t all swishes and smiles for the Grimes-led Jayhawks on Friday. In addition to a scary moment with 6 minutes to play when Grimes went down with some sort of left leg injury and did not return, the Jayhawks were forced to overcome a slow start in a sterile building.

After the game, Self, Grimes and the rest of the Jayhawks said the injury was nothing serious.

"He just got a cramp," Self said. "So he's fine. I mean, I guess he needs to drink a lot of water and he should be fine."

It took Kansas five minutes to claim its first lead of the game, but a 10-3 run that featured five points from Lawson and five more from Dotson turned a 10-5 West Virginia lead into a 15-13 Kansas advantage at the 15:22 mark of the first half.

Twice during the run, Dotson showed his ability to blow by the Mountaineer guards in KU’s half-court sets. As it turned, that was the easy part. Once Dotson got to the rim, he found arms and bodies and heads and shoulders hovering between him and the basket. No worries.

Like he’s done all season, the freshman point guard merely contorted his body or hung a half-second longer to finish the play.

After nearly two and a half minutes without another point from there, Dotson returned to his attacking ways and picked up his sixth and seventh points of the game at the free throw line after another hard drive to the rim.

Those free throws, two more from David McCormack and a rebound and putback by Lawson were the only the Kansas points in a span of more than 7 minutes. During that stretch, while the KU offense struggled to both make and find good shots — KU opened 6-of-19 from the floor — the Mountaineers maintained their hot shooting — 10-of-16 overall (62.5 percent) in the game’s first 12 minutes, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range — and used a 12-4 run to build a 27-21 lead at the 8-minute timeout of the first half.

One area WVU struggled early was the free throw line, where the Mountaineers hit just 3 of their first 7 attempts, compared to 7-of-7 for the Jayhawks.

From there, the Mountaineers’ mistakes started to cost them. Seven first-half turnovers led to seven Kansas points, including a transition 3-pointer from Grimes that pulled the Jayhawks within two (32-30) with 4:11 to play in the half.

A quick start to the second half, which featured a Grimes steal and coast-to-coast layup, put Kansas up double digits and the Jayhawks (25-8) played most of the rest of the way effortlessly protecting a lead between 14 and 20 points.

Kansas now leads the all-time series with West Virginia, 12-5, including a 2-1 edge in the 2018-19 season series.

The Jayhawks have won six of the last seven meetings with the Mountaineers (14-20), with the only loss coming in Morgantown, W.Va., earlier this season, in a game that many Kansas and Big 12 fans pointed to as one of the big reasons the Jayhawks’ streak of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles came to an end this season.

Friday’s clash marked the third time in the past four seasons that the two programs have met in the Big 12’s postseason tournament. Kansas won both of the previous meetings, as well, topping WVU in the 2016 and 2018 Big 12 title games.

So now it’s on to another Big 12 title game for the Jayhawks, who will be playing in their 14th such game — by far the most of any Big 12 program — and looking to win a third consecutive rubber match.

KU and Iowa State (22-11) split the season series back in January, with each team winning on its home court.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 5 days, 12 hours ago

Fake move and back cut by Dotson, great finish off of Marcus' bounce-pass! What a beauty!!! Haven't seen that in a while.. Great 3pt shooting by Grimes (yes, Jay, Grimes seems to progress in this game :) We found a way to fill buckets from downtown when we came up short so many times trying near the rim (until Garrett found his way in). Let's hope Grimes keeps shooting with high%. How about that 4-freshmen & 1 soph line-up? We that good!!!

Tony Bandle 5 days, 12 hours ago

Random Thoughts:

1] Q's best overall game by far..a scoring machine in the first half and, when his shots didn't fall in the second, he went to work on hustle defense, facilitating the offense and general overall balanced play.

2] Three games in three days against a team with only two games in a row usually spells defeat and it happened to WV.

3] Big Mac has changed the entire strategy, chemistry and performance of this team....it's amazing to watch.

4] Of all the coaches in the Big 12, win lose or draw, Huggie Bear is the only coach who can make Bill laugh at the post game handshake.

5] It was great to see KSU's Brown go ballistic even after the game was over.

6] Boy, Marcus got off to a rough start but salvaged a decent performance overall.

7] Monkeys will fly out of my but before this happens but it would be amazing to see everybody back next year including both Lawsons, the Dokster plus Silvio getting an NCAA Get Out Of Jail Card on his appeal

8] The KC Kid made a dunk for the ages at the end of the game...it seemed like the broadcast team missed it, however!!

9] 41 -8 in the Sprint Center!! I had no idea. Every one of those eight defeats must have crushers to make me think The Sprint was cursed!!!

10] Since Bryce is an Iowan and a Hawkeye fan, I will concede to him the title of #1 Cyclone Hater. However, I would humbly like to apply for the #2 position since I am going to have to deal with my ISU brother and sister-in-law tomorrow. No matter what, if they beat us, they think they are the League Champions and love it when it's KU they beat. And if they lose, they'll claim to still be the champions and, since the game was in KC, it was totally rigged in KU's favor.

Shannon Gustafson 5 days, 9 hours ago

Barry Brown's blow up at the end about them dunking after the buzzer was ironic considering his dunk at the end of the game when they beat us and his yell "Brannen Greene" after it and such. What a hypocrite.

Bryce Landon 5 days, 7 hours ago

Regarding #10, I am a native Kansan who now lives in southeast Iowa. And I'm only a Hawkeye fan for football. But I would agree that I am the biggest Cyclone hater in the world, and that I hate that glorified junior college from Ames more than even the most ardent Hawkeye fans.

Edward Daub 5 days, 6 hours ago

Bryce, I can "Trump" that. I am a Wisconsin Badger Football Fan.

Jim Keen 5 days, 2 hours ago

With respect to convoluted team loyalties... I was born in Des Moines, IA and as a young boy I was a huge fan of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the days of the Kenny Ploen and Randy Dunkan Rose Bowl victories. (Didn't think much of the "local school" in Ames.) When I was 10 years old we moved to Kansas. It didn't take me long to notice guys like Wilt Chamberlain and John Hadl and I eventually became a hard core Jayhawk fan and eventual KU student. I have KU season tickets for Football and get back to Lawrence a couple times a year for football and basketball games. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

Dirk Medema 4 days, 23 hours ago

1] Q's best overall game by far - agreed, and the scoring machine was really only in a 4 minute stretch to end the first half. I've been encouraged by the overall improvement in his defense, facilitating the offense and general overall balanced play throughout the year. It seems to me to be characteristic of the entire team.

2] Three games in three days is tough for anyone. That's why I was so happy to see Coach giving the starters extra time to rest last night in particular.

3] It has been amazing to watch Coach tinker with the team this year in particular. Some of it was because of injuries, etc., but it seems that a bunch of it was because he knows what is ultimately needed and where the most potential is. Big Mac is a great example. It seemed odd when he was starting and that was about all for the game. Sort of reminds me of the Hunter Mickleson starts from a few years ago (Starting but little else for the game.), though David has obviously gone through the roof by comparison.

4] Huggie Bear is a favorite of Bill's. I hope they do well enough that he can stay around for as long as he likes for the exact opposite reason as Bruce.

5] Didn't see KSU's Brown go ballistic but it is fun to think about. Pathetically hypocritical to remember a poor sportsmanship move by a player that was criticized for the play and little more than tolerated for the remainder of his shortened career and then go put an exclamation point of at least equally poor sportsmanship of his own.

6] Marcus' decent performance - I'm excited about the overall decent/improved performances by all of the players. Starters and subs really. Not that the subs are playing like starters, but that the overall play of everyone seems to be improving together. Charlie and KJ are probably the weakest links of the bunch, but they still seem to be giving more minutes that aren't negatives but do give the huge positive of being able to rest the starters. Is that sort of like addition by subtraction?

7] Monkeys aside (Bruce Almighty) I'd settle for 80%.

8] The KC Kid made a dunk for the ages at the end of the game. He would have had several with better passing. Guessing most of the freshman haven't been throwing lobs to teammates, but will get better with time.

9] 41-8. Beware of the negative. It is seductive.

Bryce Landon 5 days, 7 hours ago

I missed the first 8-9 minutes of the game, so when I tuned in KU and WVU were tied 17-17. As WVU drew ahead, I began to think, "Crap, are we going to mess the bed again against these losers?!" But thanks in no small part to Quentin Grimes, turned a game that was closer than it should have been into a laugher in the second half. There were times late in the second half, though, where it looked like KU was mailing it in, which I wasn't real happy about; but overall it was a nice win.

Now let's go take the wind of out of the Cyclones' sails!

Dirk Medema 5 days ago

"Mailing it in" is a pretty negative perspective. The thing that I noticed was a long stretch in the 2nd half where Coach was able to rest virtually the entire starting line-up. That's really wise, and could be one of those crucial hidden factors in the guys being fresher late in their 3rd game in 3 days.

Brad Watson 5 days, 3 hours ago

Mr. Grimes!!!!....The kid can play...........Mr. Lawson...........fantastic..............Mr. Dotson........superb...........Thunderbolt(McCormack) and Lightfoot.........brought great energy..........Garrett was great......great game by Coach as well.......making all the right moves.......now we have one more score to settle........and if we bring the big time effort.......we will cut down the nets and win a CHAMPIONSHIP!!!.......this is what it is all about........we are in position to win it........and I know we can do it..........i BELIEVE IN THIS TEAM!!!!!!..........HUSTLE ALWAYS WINS!!!!!.......!Bring it .........and things will turn out the way you want........HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT IT!!!!!!.........Do not squander the opportunity to win a TITLE!!!........this is why you came to Kansas...........to play in these kinds of games.....TODAY IS YOUR DAY.........make the MOST of it!.....We love you guys and are behind you 100%!!!!!!!

Jim Keen 5 days, 2 hours ago

Post Brad's rant in the KU locker room before tonight's game!

David Howell 5 days ago

How in the hell did WVU beat TTech ? They are terrible and if they play 9 more games, Tech would win all 9 games ..............

NCAA investigating who that was playing in Grimes uniform last night ! Hopefully his play continues and makes me a believer (but please Grimes do not drive into a crowd!) .

I truly love watching Mitch Lightfoot play. His energy, hustle, blocks ....... they need him 15 to 20 minutes a game in the tournament.

Dirk Medema 4 days, 23 hours ago

I think part of Mitch's secret is that "gun shows" aside, he is still a pretty unassuming white kids that practically blends into the uniforms like Casper the friendly ghost then suddenly appears out of no where to reject shots. He's not a Withey that is front and center in the scouting report to plan around. He's just lurking in the shadows, and smiling the whole time. Love it.

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