Kansas defeats North Dakota State, 65-61

  • 3 p.m., Dec. 5, 2020
  • Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Tyon Grant-Foster helps No. 7 Kansas survive scare from North Dakota State in 65-61 win

Kansas guard Tyon Grant-Foster (1) rejects a shot from North Dakota State Bison forward Grant Nelson (4) with seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyon Grant-Foster (1) rejects a shot from North Dakota State Bison forward Grant Nelson (4) with seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Kansas junior Tyon Grant-Foster did a lot of memorable things on Saturday to help No. 7 Kansas survive a scare from North Dakota State.

But the one that made him smile the most was a block with 10 seconds left that preserved KU’s three-point lead en route to a 65-61 victory at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I love blocking shots,” Grant-Foster said on more than one occasion during his postgame meeting with the media.

He did so much more than that on Saturday, though. And KU (4-1) needed every bit of it.

In a season-high 22 minutes, the junior college transfer from Kansas City, Kan., tallied eight points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

His driving layup with 1:20 to play put Kansas ahead for good and went a long way toward settling the nerves of the 70 or so family members who watched Game 2 from an eerily empty Allen Fieldhouse.

“Tyon was great, great, great down the stretch,” KU coach Bill Self said after the victory. “I was very happy for him because he hasn’t had many opportunities yet.”

There was a reason Grant-Foster got a chance at extended minutes on Saturday. And it had next to nothing to do with his offense, which featured 3-of-6 shooting and four offensive rebounds, including one for an airball by Bryce Thompson that led to a layup that tied the game at 51.

“He’s playing better defense,” Self said. “And as he continues to play better defense, he’ll play more. And certainly his offense will come because he is a very talented offensive player.”

Grant-Foster’s late bucket, which came off of a drive from the left wing into a vacant lane, gave the Jayhawks the lead for the final 80 seconds in a game they led for just 7:59 the entire night.

The fact that it was Grant-Foster who took it, after the 6-foot-7 wing had scored just five points total in his first three games of the season, came as little surprise to his teammates.

“I never doubted it,” said junior guard Ochai Agbaji, who scored 13 points, giving him double figures in five straight games to open the season. “He’s always aggressive. He’s always going to take those shots.”

Said Self: “That was special.”

Grant-Foster said he never hesitated when the ball came to him.

“Coach is always like, ‘Be aggressive,’ and I was like, ‘Why not,” he said of the eventual game winner. “In practice I'm always aggressive, too, so I just saw an opening there and I took it.”

Asked what might have happened after the bucket inside a jam-packed Allen Fieldhouse, Grant-Foster smiled and said, “I think it would’ve gone crazy. Everybody would’ve been up.”

The first-year Jayhawk said the chance to play extended minutes for the second game in a row — he played 16 in Tuesday’s win over Washburn — helped his confidence. And based on a conversation he had with Self earlier in the week, he knew that he was not going to stay on the floor if he didn’t show more than just the ability to score.

One of the better examples of that came just 10 seconds after his late layup. As the teams ran back down the floor, Grant-Foster was up on his man, causing havoc before he could ever even catch the ball.

In an attempt to get some space, NDSU guard Maleeck Harden-Hayes was called for an offensive foul for pushing off of Grant-Foster.

“I knew I was going to get those minutes if I did those things,” he said of his scrappy defense and rebounding prowess. “And once it happened, I just knew that he was going to keep rolling with me.”

For four consecutive games — all victories — the Jayhawks have played big chunks of five-guard lineups. Grant-Foster’s production played a part in that on Saturday. But so, too, did David McCormack picking up his third foul with 17 minutes to play.

That was the first time Self elected to go with the five-guard look on Saturday. And he never went back from there.

“We just made the decision that small was the way to go today,” Self said. “You guys saw as well as I did. We probably defend better with five guards out there. At least we did today.”

One guard who did not play as many minutes as he had in recent outings was redshirt freshman Dajuan Harris, who was limited to 10 minutes without an assist against the Bison.

Self said the way NDSU (0-4) defended KU’s attack and ran its offense by focusing on getting the ball to the paint “neutralized” Harris.

Having their spark plug and big men on the bench paved the way for KU’s wings to step up. And they did. Particularly Jalen Wilson, who again played bigger than his listing on the roster suggests, finishing with 14 points and 15 rebounds while guarding 6-10 forward Rocky Kreuser throughout most of the second half.

“I love how he's playing,” Self said of Wilson. “He's the most aggressive kid we got offensively. He has no fear.”

Wilson’s 5-of-15 shooting performance left a little to be desired, but he did just about everything else well. He boxed out and attacked the glass on both ends. He played defense with his feet and head. And even though it didn’t always lead directly to a made basket, his assertiveness on the offensive end helped keep KU in attack mode.

That mindset was critical from the jump, as the Bison roared out to an 8-0 lead in the game’s opening minutes and never let up from there.

Prior to the very end, every time KU made a run, NDSU found an answer. And every time KU slipped, the Bison were there to make sure they felt the fall.

“We were kind of hit in the mouth and kind of got shocked,” Agbaji said of the start. “We had to turn it around there. We knew they were going to be fighting, and it wasn’t going to be an easy battle today. It was just one of those games we had to play through.”

Agbaji said Self told his crew after the victory that they needed to win games like that.

“Those are the fun ones,” Agbaji added.

Self agreed.

“They played great,” he said of NDSU. “It was good for us to go against a team that played that well.”

KU will return to Allen Fieldhouse for Game 4 in the current eight-day stretch at 4 p.m. Tuesday for a showdown with No. 9 Creighton.

KU officials announced earlier this week that a maximum of 2,500 fans will be allowed to attend Tuesday’s game.

This and that...

KU leads the all-time series with NDSU 2-0... The Jayhawks have now won 10 consecutive games inside Allen Fieldhouse and are 4-1 or better for the ninth consecutive season... Saturday’s game featured veteran referee Amy Bonner, of Parkville, Mo., as a part of the three-person officiating crew. A couple of longtime members of KU’s stat crew said they believed Bonner was the first woman to officiate a men’s basketball game inside Allen Fieldhouse... Despite playing mostly small in the second half, KU out-rebounded NDSU 43-32 (16 offensive) and also won the battle of points in the paint, 36-28. KU also netted 10 second-chance points compared to just three for North Dakota State.


Bryce Landon 4 months, 1 week ago

I'm glad we got the win and everything, but let's not con ourselves into thinking we did something special here today. We almost lost at home to a winless team from the Summit League; and for most of the game, we were getting worked by the Bison. That is just straight-up shameful

For the KU football team to lose at home to North Dakota State a decade ago is one thing; it was embarrassing, to be sure, but NDSU is an FCS powerhouse, while KU is a perennial clown show. But for the KU basketball team to lose at home to NDSU would have been something else entirely; it would have been as humiliating a defeat as Virginia's loss to UMBC in March Madness 2018.

I'm just glad the Jayhawks righted the ship and won. I can't stomach the thought of being North Dakota State's bitch.

Len Shaffer 4 months, 1 week ago

Um, no Bryce, a regular-season loss in December would not have been REMOTELY in the same league as being the first 1 seed in history to lose to a 16 seed in the tournament.

Dane Pratt 4 months, 1 week ago

Bryce, your Hawkeyes are 3-0 and ranked 3rd. Why are you not here boasting about them?

Barry Weiss 4 months, 1 week ago

That was a tough one to watch. It sure seemed like they shot way better than 40%. This super small ball is going to cost us some games this year in conference. Conference teams are big, strong and tough inside and while we may win some with this small jazz, we need DMac to come on strong and soon. JW is just awesome and Foster Grants is going to be the real deal!

Steve Zimmerman 4 months, 1 week ago

I love my Jayhawks. But I feel our offense is a great concern. Coaching defense is different than designing offense. I keep saying this. HCBS offense plays stink. Big time stink. Kids are forced their ways to drive the ball and somehow we all hope every drive will produce. That's not a beautiful basketball. Without assists/passes, that's how he will run our offense. What happens to those plays ala 2006-2008 Chalmers' era? Or even not-so-long ago when Tae was in charge? We got a play maker right now.

We will see in every game kids labor - lots of TOs. And in the end he will say “It was good for us to go against a team that played that well. We needed that kind of win”. Only IF we win. Don't count on it, coach.

You play small or big doesn't make a difference. Kids are used to play the same Xs and Os will not develop their bball IQ, coach. By now, our bigs should have known how to set screen and roll and dunk. But instead we see them called for moving screen. They look so lame in executing the screen. McCormack and Lightfoot combined score is just as much as NDSU 6'10'' Kreuser. Tell me if the feed post play works. All our bigs got is just jump hook, away from the rim. Oh, most of the time, they'll just pass back out. Now that's pathetic.

Don't count on the 3s falling every game either, like today's game. DJ should've been able crack NDSU's not-so-great defense played by not-so-athletic players. In the end - basketball is about scoring. We'll win if we score higher than our opponents.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months, 1 week ago

Anybody who has watched KU for years and listened to Self talk knows that he never installs the full offense until Christmas break. Every year we struggle on offense early, learn the importance of defense and winning games when shots aren't falling, (like tonight and Kentucky). Then, magically, when conference starts we become better on offense and those teams don't have a bunch of tape to look at because our sets are different than they were in the non-con.

Steve Zimmerman 4 months, 1 week ago

Fair enough. But are you not frustrated to watch every game our bigs got whistled for moving screens? This start of season's offense so far is just the same as last year's post Christmas break. Enlighten me please. I watch enough KU games, let's analyze together.

Last year, we got Dotson & Doke. Dotson has low assist #s. We depended on his speed but not feed. Doke has nice footwork in low post with strength and power moves. Same offense. Weaving and weaving, feeding posts, driving to the basket challenging the defender. Look at our TOs. Look at how many assists we got last year. How many lobs do we have so far? Don't count Washburn please. And please don't say it's too early in the season. McCormack and Lightfoot are not freshmen. One was AMD player. BTW, I don't believe in magic - this is basketball.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months, 1 week ago

Of course it's frustrating to watch right now.

We've not had many lobs because the king of lobs, Mr 7'7" wingspan with a 40" vertical (Dok) isn't in there any more. Dave isn't as long, can't jump nearly as high, and most importantly, his positioning and timing suck so he's rarely in position when the guard is in a position to lob it to him.

We've tried a few baseline lobs to Och/TGF from the 3pt line but they've either been poor passes by Freshmen, or the defense has fouled us.

The offense you'll see installed after Christmas will be to optimize the 5 guard "small ball" lineup. We are running what we ran last year (with less of the actual sets called from the sideline) because our starting lineup is the same as it was last year (except with a way less talented 5 man).

Dave was a burger boy coming out of HS but it was also an extremely weak class. In many years he would have been ranked somewhere in the 50-75 range. Still should be solid by his Jr year but we've not seen him figure it out yet. Still seems sped up on offense, undecisive on D, has poor shot selection, bad at positioning when posting up and for rebounds, and doesn't have soft hands.

Steve Zimmerman 4 months, 1 week ago

Thanks Shannon for the enlightenment. I always thought Dave had quick jumping reaction but I didn't realize his got shorter wingspan. You're spot on: his positioning and timing suck. That's exactly my point I've been bringing up over and over. They can be fixed. Tapes don't lie. He still does not know how to set screen. That's 101. He doesn't know how to roll. That's a shame. We've got Dok's tapes. Like you said, timing, Dave doesn't roll towards the basket quickly enough - ahead of the defenders. His hook is always away from the basket with a 20% chance of rain. Again, look at Doke's tapes - he moves closer to the basket to score.

How many times do we see Dave fake under the basket? Perhaps 0. I can go on and on and on. This kid needs to be equipped, trained, developed playing low post - if coach wants to play him down low. Xs and Os don't work without skills development. Dave can be a force. Not a huge one. But we'll see beautiful basketball when coaching staff equips him. This will benefit all parties.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months ago

Dave is who he is. His brain gets in his way and coaching can't fix that. He's been in the program 3 years and these problems have always existed. He does too much thinking and not enough acting/reacting. Hopefully he can turn it around but if it happens, it will because he gets his mind right, not because the coaching staff will magically teach him something that they've already showed him hundreds of times over the past 3 years. This is the same staff that taught Dok all those great skills, no reason to think they were teaching Dok and ignoring Dave all that time. They were likely standing right next to each other for most of it.

Joe Black 4 months, 1 week ago

Moving screens are almost always the fault of the guard not the post setting the screen.

Tony Bandle 4 months, 1 week ago

Random Thoughts:

1] Didn't get a chance to see the game....thank God!!

2] We play like this game on Tuesday, Creighton will win by 20.

3] The Top Ten has taken a beating this last week and a half or so.

4] This season is proving how important the crowd is at Allen......with no one there, KU loses a big advantage including a subtle intimidation of the refereeing.

5] The heck with it...go five guard and be done with it!!!!!!!

Dirk Medema 4 months, 1 week ago

2 - Might be skewed a bit by looking at records and not opponents. I believe the bison led Creighton early in another ugly game just a few days ago as well. 11pt margin was slightly more and yet McDermitt had virtually the same comment of more than ever being thankful just to get a W and move on to the next step.

3 - There do seem to be a lot of crazy upsets this year. All the more reason to be thankful and move on.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months, 1 week ago

Exactly. Ask Kentucky fans how they feel after losing 3 straight, two of which to Richmond and a 17pt loss to an 0-2 GT team who'd lost to Georgia St and Mercer. Hopefully we can gain about 8 games on Kentucky this year in all-time wins.

Micky Baker 4 months, 1 week ago

NDSU is a solid team, They execute well but they had not been shooting it well. They shot pretty well most of the night last night. The last 5 minutes they choked, but don't fool yourselves. NDSU would be a major trap game if it was say right after playing one good team, then them, and another really good team.

Steven Haag 4 months, 1 week ago

I’m frustrated about the moving screen as well. Being a basketball player and then a referee for 20 years, I have a couple of comments: 1. If it is a “point of emphasis” by higher ups, then the refs will call it tighter than previous years. Players need to adapt. 2. At least HALF the blame needs to go to the player dribbling or running off the screen. We ran drills where after the screener was set, you ran...or dribbled so close to the screener that your shoulder almost touched their shoulder. That way, the defender could not get through the screen. When you dribble or run off the screen and leave a gap large enough that a “smart car” could get through, then the screener tries to close the’s almost instinct to do it.

Steve Zimmerman 4 months, 1 week ago

What more frustrated is when the screen is set, the player dribbling uses it only to pass to another player 90% of the time, because they are used to the weaving drills instead of taking the opportunity to score, to pass to the screener, to slash and dunk, etc. Your reference to "instinct" doesn't seem to exist in our players, sadly. I see that maybe in TGF, DJ. Boy, I really miss Graham.

Jeff Foster 4 months, 1 week ago

The boys will be fine. I think this one might have been a little tough to get up for to them, plus, they looked tired. They've had two road trips and Creighton will be their 6th game in 13 days with 3 of those ranked top 20 and two top 10. That's just nuts.UK and NDSU were ugly wins, but you gotta have and win some of those every season. Rock Chalk!

Shannon Gustafson 4 months, 1 week ago

Also no crowd to get energy from which doesn't help either.

Luke Smith 4 months, 1 week ago

Self knows David is messing up the flow on offense and defense. So he used this game to get him back in the flow. But the only way we win this year is a 5-guard set. Bill knows it but doesn’t like it. So he’ll force David in there for a while. But he will have to give up. I actually really like McCormack. But something is not right when he is in there. 5-guard set won both of our tougher games this year so far and will continue to do so.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months, 1 week ago

Yeah, we'll see the small-ball stuff officially take over after Christmas break when the offense gets installed for it. With 6 games in 10 days to start the year, there is no time to install a new offense yet. For now Bill is trying to get Dave to figure it out for the handful of games we've got left against teams with quality bigs (Texas & WV mainly, maybe Baylor) where we will need Dave to play to his potential.

Dane Pratt 4 months, 1 week ago

IDK if NDSU is even considered a mid-major but this is an argument for playing more teams like them. Bill has lost to a mid-major 5 times in the tournament.

Shannon Gustafson 4 months, 1 week ago

KU has scheduled mid-major teams who are expected to win their conference for at least 3-4 years now. It's one of the tricks to having such a great strength of schedule year after year.

Mallory Briggans 4 months, 1 week ago

You would think that starting Jankovich Teahan Jossell Muscadin and the drummer from the KU band yesterday would been enough to take down NDSU .......given the score you would think that was the lineup . It was too close for comfort and also worrisome at the same time. Self is playing Yahtzee with the lineup trying to get the right combination and he will David " Edward Scissorhands " Mccormack is the only true big and come big 12 play we will have problems with teams with size ......time will tell

When the football team almost wins ........and the basketball team almost loses on the same day ...........2020 is still full of surprises

Marty Sedlacek 4 months, 1 week ago

Self's postgame pressers are very insightful.

Excellent and fair questions by the media. And HCBS answers every question. No dodgeball in that presser. Although, KU certainly dodged one on the court.

The late game execution by KU is up there with anyone. Very similar to what Jay Wright (Nova) is able to consistently do in crunch time.

Brett McCabe 4 months, 1 week ago

This is not a good basketball team. Self is wandering around in the woods asking: What would Steve Kerr do?

He should be thankful he coaches in such a weak conference.

Steve Zimmerman 4 months, 1 week ago

I'd like to hear your constructive comments rather than just a negative statement. We can all benefit from them, Brett. I think you have lots of ideas. Let's hear them out.

Joe Black 4 months, 1 week ago

Yes it is a very weak conference with Baylor and KU in the top ten and WV right there close. Texas Tech and Texas both in the top 17 teams in the country. That sure sounds like a weak conference.

Steve Zimmerman 4 months, 1 week ago

WV looks legit. Even without fans. Surprisingly.

Benjamin Shear 4 months, 1 week ago

Obiter dictum:

*Self is the best coach in America when games are decided by 5 points or less. This is not my opinion, it's statistically true.

*How many times has Garrett been blocked? I believe he has had more shots blocked than assists so far in the season.

*Small ball is exciting but scary.

*With no fans, it seems that home court has absolutely no advantage. KU players need to think of the game as neutral.

Thomas Harrison 4 months, 1 week ago

KU has no inside game! That will not allow a Championship Season! Can’t believe how bad McCormack Looks! I would give Enanura a shot of playing inside!

Joe Black 4 months, 1 week ago

We need a big for defense more than offense. Enanura would be pushed all over the place by even an average big man. He doesn't have enough meat on his bones to hold his ground. The problem is we really don't have a true quality big man. McCormick would be better for defense but needs to pass the ball better and not necessarily think about scoring unless its an easy basket.

Mallory Briggans 4 months, 1 week ago

Beep.....Beep .......Beep......Beep......Beep......... Troll alert.........troll alert ..........Brett McCabe has set off the troll alert alarm..!!!!!!

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