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Quentin Grimes posts impressive Big 12 debut after inconsistent nonconference season

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Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) gets in for a bucket against Oklahoma during the first half, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) gets in for a bucket against Oklahoma during the first half, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It wasn’t the crispest start for freshman Quentin Grimes in his Big 12 debut.

Grimes misfired on a 3-pointer with 17:47 left in the first half, and then, he was late getting out to his man on the left wing. Brady Manek took advantage, cashing in on a triple to give Oklahoma a 7-0 advantage out of the gate. Kansas coach Bill Self called a timeout to pull Grimes, inserting sophomore Marcus Garrett in his place.

Much like his early collegiate lulls, though, Grimes was able to get back on track by the end of the night. He eventually returned to action, and made a significant impact during KU’s 70-63 win over OU Wednesday night in Allen Fieldhouse.

“I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable with the system,” Grimes said after his 13th collegiate game. “I’m just feeding off how the other players play on the court. I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable and getting back to my old self.”

Self gave Grimes another chance by plugging him back in at the 14:34 mark, with Kansas trailing by an 11-6 margin. The freshman made sure to make the most of it.

With 11:37 left, Grimes gave the No. 5 Jayhawks their first lead of the night with a layup in transition. Grimes demonstrated why he was viewed as a potential lottery pick, using just one dribble to get to the rim with ease.

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Kansas never trailed from that moment on, and Grimes continued to make a difference after seeing the ball go through the net.

“It definitely motivates me to see a ball go through the hoop,” Grimes said. “It definitely opens up the whole arsenal of my game.”

Just over a minute later, Grimes got another transition bucket. Charlie Moore pushed the ball up the court on the right side, and Grimes filled the lane correctly. Moore got near the rim before scooping the rock back to Grimes to finish the sequence off with a layup.

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The fastbreak buckets were essential for Grimes, who has struggled to get much going on the offensive end since the season opener when he hit six 3-pointers. Grimes, like so many young players, has often relied too much on his perimeter shooting rather than trying to attack the rim.

“I thought the first half that we ran well,” Self said. “I do think it helped him to get in open court and get an easy basket or two.”

Two possessions after his second layup, Grimes camped at the left wing just waiting and asking for the ball. Once he got the rock, Grimes let it fly. He hopped up and down as he watched it go through the net.

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It would have been easy for Grimes to let the slow start rattle him, especially after his performance during nonconference play.

Instead, Grimes put together one of his better showings of the season. Grimes scored 14 points, including 11 in the first half, on 6-of-11 shooting. Grimes now has 30 points over his past two games after scoring a total of 20 points in the previous four outings.

Grimes also made the monumental hustle play of the night, which came after his own costly turnover late in the game.

Following a turnover, Grimes followed the ball and poked the rock loose. He then slid through two Oklahoma defenders to regain possession. Grimes found fellow freshman Devon Dotson from the floor, and Dotson finished things off with a tough layup to give Kansas an eight-point lead with 2:35 left in the game.

“I know how the Big 12 is,” Grimes said. “You’ve got to do whatever you can, especially at home, to help the team come out with a win.”

The performance was a testament to Grimes’ work ethic.

Grimes struggled to hit shots against nonconference foes, so he spent extra time in the gym. He was benched during key moments in crucial games. Rather than let it mentally impact him, Grimes just talked with his family. He also heeded advice from older teammates.

As a result, Wednesday’s outing could be just the beginning.

“I don’t think I was ever losing my confidence, I was just trying to figure things out,” Grimes said. “I was just trying to figure out how to insert myself into the offense.”

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