Three-point play: Devon Dotson's defense on Barry Brown key to KU's 64-49 win over Kansas State
Kansas freshman Devon Dotson found out during Sunday’s film session that he was going to be tasked with guarding Kansas State senior Barry Brown.
In the first installment of the Sunflower Showdown, Brown scored 18 points and recorded five assists to lift the Wildcats to a 74-67 win over the Jayhawks in Manhattan on Feb. 5. Brown has since garnered plenty of buzz as a serious candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year.
With KU’s ridiculous streak of conference titles on the line, head coach Bill Self knew slowing down Brown was going to be essential. And he trusted Dotson’s on-ball defense to get the job done, as Kansas took down K-State for a 64-49 victory Monday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
Brown was held to just 4 points in 35 minutes. It was not only the lowest offensive output by Brown this season, but it was also the first time since Jan. 2 that he didn’t notch double figures. Brown has only failed to reach double figures five times this season.
“We switched a lot, but (Devon) probably had him 80 percent of the time,” Self said. “(Brown is) a terrific player, we let him get downhill a couple times and he didn’t finish. He didn’t get a lot of wide-open looks, I thought we really defended for all 40 minutes.”
Brown netted just one basket, his lowest number of made field goals in a game where he played more than one minute since Feb. 3, when Brown went 0-for-3 in 31 minutes at West Virginia.
Against KU, Brown attempted eight shots from the floor, finishing with a 12.5 shooting percentage. To put that in comparison, Brown’s season average is 45.4 and he has shot less than 30 percent in a game just five other times this season.
“I knew he gave us troubles the first game, so we made an adjustment and coach said I got him this game,” Dotson said. “I didn’t want to let him get comfortable, because when he gets comfortable, he can get in a groove.”
Brown’s lone bucket of the game was actually the first basket of the contest, which took place at the 18:23 mark. K-State ran a high-ball screen on the left wing with Dean Wade, and Brown took advantage of KU’s switch by hitting a long mid-range jumper on Dedric Lawson.
That means Dotson never gave up a field goal on his biggest defensive assignment to date. Dotson kept Brown in front throughout the night, holding the veteran guard in check with tenacious on-ball defense. Dotson fought through screens when necessary, but KU mostly switched everything.
“It was a team effort to keep all the guards out of the lane,” Dotson said. “I just wanted to stay in front and put pressure on him.”
Still, Dotson’s defense on Brown is just the latest example of a potent freshman campaign for the KU point guard. Dotson has embraced an important role in his first collegiate season, and is demonstrating on both ends of the floor why he’s one of the best freshman players in the country.
Dedric Lawson fixes KU’s ball-screen defense
Self was not happy with his team’s ball-screen defense during its 91-62 blowout loss at Texas Tech.
Just 48 hours later, though, the Jayhawks looked like a completely different team in that area. Self said they spent 10 minutes during Sunday’s practice going over a way to fix it, which was to switch everything on ball screens.
It is important to note that Kansas showed the ability to do this in the second half of its 80-76 win over Iowa State. Self made the adjustment at halftime, telling his players to switch everything other than when Dotson was on ISU’s Nick Weiler-Babb.
This time around, however, there were no stipulations. Self wanted his team to switch everything, and Dedric Lawson was the key to it all working out. Lawson guarded more on the perimeter, and it was evident early that he was willing to defend K-State’s guards.
“I thought it went good, that’s something we haven’t done a lot with him on the perimeter,” Self said. “He’s so smart, he can figure stuff out.”
Lawson deserves a ton of credit for this working out, even though he did give up an early jumper to Brown. Lawson did a good job of not getting beat off the dribble by quicker guards, and the Wildcats never seemed to get into any rhythm offensively.
After the game, Self said he thought the Wildcats scored five points off ball-screens Monday compared to Texas Tech’s 20 points over the weekend.
Mitch Lightfoot nets first triple of season
Lightfoot stole the show Monday night with his superb play off the bench. Matt Tait wrote plenty about him, so I won’t go into too much detail here.
That being said, Lightfoot’s first 3-pointer of the season was worth a mention in the latest edition of three-point play. Lightfoot drilled a triple from the top of the key with 6:35 left in the first half, giving the Jayhawks a 23-17 advantage at the time.
Lightoot’s first triple of his junior season was especially noteworthy, because he spent the summer bulking up and improving his shot. During summer scrimmages, Lightfoot showed the ability to hit the long ball. I actually thought it was going to be an added element to his game this season.
Now, of course, part of it is that Lightfoot really hasn’t had much opportunity to play until the roster became rather thin. But Lightfoot, at least, has the ability to hit some shots from downtown, forcing defenders to respect him.
As a team, KU went 8-for-24 from long range. It is the seventh consecutive game that the Jayhawks have attempted at least 20 3-pointers, which began when former KU guard Devonte’ Graham told the team to shoot more ahead of the Texas Tech game.
Prior to Graham’s message, Kansas attempted 18 or fewer long balls in three of the previous four games.