Lagerald Vick's best play on Tuesday didn't even show up on the stat sheet. Today’s 1-3-1 blog explains just how the junior guard got some of his mojo back in KU's 83-77 win in Hilton Coliseum, plus what Marcus Garrett did against Iowa State to excite KU coach Bill Self. If you have any plays or sequences you’d like to see GIFed please tweet @ChasenScott or comment below.
Previous breakdowns can also be found at the bottom of this story.
Play of the game: Just get a stop —
In the midst of a late-game meltdown-that-wasn't-really-a-meltdown that prompted KU coach Bill Self to say his team played like it had never been coached, the Jayhawks were still firmly in control of Iowa State.
Despite missing the front ends of two one-and-ones — and fouling twice the other way — KU led by five with less than 20 seconds remaining. The Jayhawks were a stop away from essentially putting the game on ice.
Here's how the ensuing sequence went down.
Lindell Wigginton dribbled down the court and was picked up by Devonte' Graham. With no Iowa State players in the paint — and thus no KU players guarding them there — there wasn't any back-side help, so Graham had to keep Wigginton in front of him, something that has been a problem for KU guards this year.
Unable to get by Graham, Wigginton passed the ball off to Donovan Jackson, who popped off a Cameron Lard screen at the top of the key. Mitch Lightfoot switched onto Jackson, and Lard pulled Lagerald Vick away to make sure he couldn't help.
It was down to a one-on-one matchup and Lightfoot came out on top.
Lightfoot, who most likely played late-game because of his free throw shooting (82.4 percent on the year) as compared to Udoka Azubuike (41.7), stayed on his toes, bouncing around and taking a small hop back as Jackson faked like he was going to drive.
Jackson stepped back and pulled up for a 3. Lightfoot contested the shot, forcing him into an airball that was rebounded by Lagerald Vick, who passed it right out to Graham.
The Jayhawks were far from perfect in their late-game execution, but on the final sequence, just about everything worked to perfection. And considering some of the woes they've had this season, it certainly was a step in the right direction.
A trend: Bouncing back —
Vick's skid since the start of Big 12 play had been anything but under-the-radar. Yet the junior started to show signs of life against Iowa State that should give fans reason to be optimistic moving forward.
Vick, whose activity level on the court drew criticism from Self — and cost him a spot in the starting lineup — made one of the biggest plays of Tuesday's game being exactly that: active.
With right around seven minutes left and KU up seven, Azubuike blocked a shot by Lard, but the ball bounced right to Wigginton. As the ball slid through Wigginton's hands, Vick pounced, breaking away from his box out of Zoran Talley Jr. and getting the tie up.
And what better way to follow up that play than with another on the other end?
The very next trip down the court, Graham dribbled the ball to his left and passed it off to Vick. Vick, who Self said earlier in the season should exploit mismatches and drive more, turned the corner on Nick Weiler-Babb and exploded to the rim, finishing with a tough lay in over Lard.
While there were plenty of plays to choose from, the final one I've highlighted wasn't as flashy as a basket — or even a jump ball. It was simply the effort that Self has demanded of him all season.
With Weiler-Babb pushing the ball up the court in transition, the KU defense wasn't properly matched up. KU's wings were in the right spots, but Graham wasn't in great position and Lightfoot had to slide over to defend a potential shot at the rim.
With Vick's man, Soloman Young, still well beyond the 3-point line, Vick didn't have any guarding responsibilities. So as Weiler-Babb drove toward the hoop, Vick dropped down from the 3-point line and jumped to rebound the ball — above the rim, the way Self wants.
Vick, who scored 16 points on the day, didn't get the board, but he kept Lard from hauling it in cleanly. The ball ended up in the hands of Malik Newman, and KU took it the other way.
Self was more complimentary of Vick's effort after the game, but he stopped short from a ringing endorsement.
"I actually thought they tried to guard," Self said of Vick and Newman, "and their energy level was better."
Regardless, Vick's play was a welcome sign to KU fans — and at least one former player, too.
"Guys are starting to play better," said guard Sherron Collins, whose jersey will be retired in Allen Fieldhouse next week. "Vick is coming back. He's coming along."
One that stood out: 'A play ... that nobody's made all year' —
Speaking of things that don't show up in the stat sheet, Marcus Garrett is the perfect example of a player who may not post big numbers, but can make a big difference on the court. The Iowa State game was in fact a perfect representation of that idea.
Garrett had only three points, one rebound and one assist against the Cyclones, yet he had a plus/minus of +18, more than three times as high as any other KU player.
(A score of +18 given the final score means the Jayhawks outscored their opponents by 18 points when he was on the floor and were outscored by 12 points when he was off it.)
"He made a play the other night that nobody's made all year," Self said, "nobody's made all year for us."
That play — coming late in the first half — showcased Garrett's high IQ.
Garrett was guarding Jackson on the perimeter. Jackson lobbed the ball to Lard (listed 6-9, 225 pounds) in the post, who started to back down the smaller Lightfoot (listed 6-8, 210).
"(Garrett is) guarding a good offensive player, but he knows exactly how far he should dive," Self said. "He waited for him to bounce it, took it on the first bounce or second bounce."
Garrett watched the ball the whole way and swooped in and made a play on the ball. He wasn't finished, though, sprinting down to the other end of the court in transition in a sequence that eventually led to a Newman 3-pointer.
“He’s not scoring 25 points or getting 10 rebounds or anything like that,” said Graham. “Just the little plays.”
Not bad for a freshman.
1-3-1 breakdown: Baylor 80, KU 64
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 71, TCU 64
1-3-1 breakdown: OSU 84, KU 79
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, K-State 56
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 79, TAMU 68
1-3-1 breakdown: OU 85, KU 80
1-3-1 breakdown: KU 70, Baylor 67
It isn’t often a player can score 27 points — a career-high at that — yet the most impressive part of his performance comes elsewhere.
Malik Newman’s outburst against Iowa State, an 83-78 Kansas win, was a welcome sign for KU fans. It was the same way for the redshirt sophomore, who knocked down 10 of his 21 field goal attempts in the win.
“It was a good one,” Newman said of his game. “Yeah, I can say (it was a breakout performance). Maybe.”
Some of Newman's struggles had been overstated. For instance, he had shot a respectable 17-for-35 in the four games leading up to the previous contest, against TCU, far from the numbers you'd expect going off some of the reactions on social media.
Other criticisms, however, were completely valid.
Newman shot 50 percent from 3 in his first six games, but saw his numbers tail off shortly after. In fact, after sustaining a head injury against Arizona State, Newman shot 4-for-19 from 3 over his next six contests. He was held without a made basket twice in that span.
The one thing he did consistently, though? Rebound.
Aside from the TCU game, arguably the worst of Newman’s collegiate career, the 6-foot-3 guard had snagged at least three rebounds in all but one of the Jayhawks' previous outings.
He grabbed four or more rebounds 11 times in KU's first 14 games and five or more rebounds seven times.
For reference, Udoka Azubuike, who is nine inches taller than Newman and outweighs him by nearly 100 pounds, has had the same number of games this year with two or fewer rebounds (two). In 16 games this season, Newman has actually grabbed more defensive rebounds than Azubuike four times, the same number of defensive rebounds twice and one or two fewer than Azubuike an additional five times.
“The reality of it is, Dok and Mitch (Lightfoot have) got to rebound better,” KU coach Bill Self said in a press conference leading up to the TCU game. “Dok gets four rebounds when there are 38 missed shots. That’s not good enough. He’s got to rebound the ball better.”
Said another way, KU has played 16 games this season. In five of them, Newman has posted an even or better defensive rebound rate than Azubuike — meaning he’s grabbed at least the same percentage of available defensive rebounds when he’s been on the court in about one-third of KU's games.
“The thing about it is, with Dok, there are so many more ways to impact the game (than scoring),” Self said after the win over Iowa State. “He’s got to rebound the ball. There were some possessions there in the first half where he never jumped. That doesn’t bode very well when you’re small and your team doesn’t rebound the ball very well.”
Still, if those numbers seem a little fishy to you, the last game provided plenty of visuals as to why they shape out that way.
No rebound illustrated KU’s woes in that area more than Azubuike’s board with 5:12 to play in the first half.
As a shot went up from the right wing, Newman put his body into Iowa State’s Hans Brase, who had a six-inch, 40-pound advantage.
Azubuike, with a decisive size advantage on his man — the 6-9, 225-pound Carmeron Lard — simply held his ground, reached up and grabbed the easy board.
Such a sequence was the polar opposite of the strategy employed by the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, when the team's big men would go out of their way to shield off defenders so that Russell Westbrook, the eventual NBA MVP, could snag easy boards and bring the ball up the court in transition.
But what happened on the KU play wasn’t some kind of a strategy. It was more representative of Azubuike's struggles.
Earlier in the season, Self called Azubuike out for his rebounding, adding that KU doesn’t have enough players rebounding the ball above the rim, which should be a strength of the 7-footer.
If there’s one player who can — and does — rebound above the rim, though, it’s definitely Newman.
One of Newman’s more emphatic rebounds on Tuesday came with just under seven minutes to play in the first half.
After an Iowa State 3-point attempt, Azubuike was too far out of position to get a body on Solomon Young. Devonte’ Graham came off his man to knock Young back just a touch, but it would’ve been an easy Iowa State offensive rebound if not for Newman swooping in and collecting the ball over two big men.
“I just wanted to try to get in there and rebound,” said Newman. “I notice that we’ve been struggling this season with rebounding, so I wanted to get in there and help the big fella’.”
Newman continued to fight for boards into the second half, even as he started to light up the scoresheet.
With just over 16 minutes to play, Lindell Wigginton took a shot from the right side of the key. Azubuike got back toward the hoop, but again just stood around rather than trying to put a body on his man, who ran back into the paint.
Newman, the only KU player to box out on the play, was shoved in the back, but still came up with the rebound.
“He played great,” Graham said. “He was just active. That’s what coach has been asking of him.”
The final highlight rebound of Newman’s day was far more in the Oklahoma City-style.
Five minutes after Newman’s leaping snag, he stood at the top of the key while Lard took a jumper late in the shot clock. Newman ran back toward the hoop and grabbed an athletic, albeit easy, rebound, since Marcus Garrett did his job boxing out Brase.
This time, things came together perfectly.
Newman sprinted down the court to the right wing. He took a step-back 3, perhaps an ill-advised shot given his shooting woes entering the game, but he shot it with plenty of confidence and it fell through the net.
All in all, Newman snagged eight defensive boards, five of which came in the second half. Of those five, the Jayhawks scored on four of the following offensive possessions.
Newman's eight rebounds tied for the team lead against Iowa State and came up one short of a career-best total he notched in a win over Kentucky earlier this season. Yet he was hesitant to declare himself fully back based off just one performance.
“At the end of the day, you just have to keep grinding,” Newman said, “get yourself out of that hole.”