Marcus Garrett’s stellar defense on TCU’s Alex Robinson was latest example of his invaluable versatility
Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett is up for the task of guarding anyone on any given night.
Garrett’s combination of length and athleticism allows him to defend just about any position on the floor. Garrett is more than capable of hanging with stretch forwards, and he can be overwhelming against opposing guards.
But there is one player that Garrett doesn’t actively seek to defend. Garrett is not a fan of trying to guard Dedric Lawson.
“Oh yeah I get a chance to guard him in practice. But I’m not going for him,” Garrett said.
The reason? Lawson can be deceptive, even for a distinguished defender like Garrett.
“A lot of people think he’s slow,” Garrett said. “But when you actually get out there and guard him you see how quick his first step and spin move, all that is.”
Fortunately for Garrett, he gets the opportunity to be on the same side as Lawson in the games that matter. The latest of which occurred Wednesday night, when Lawson scored 31 points to lead KU to a 77-68 win over TCU in Allen Fieldhouse.
But fortunately for the Jayhawks, Garrett appears to be up for the task of defending anyone else in the Big 12. And he’s become potent on that end for Kansas, which improved to 13-2 (2-1 Big 12) after last night’s win.
Due to foul trouble, Garrett was asked to defend TCU point guard Alex Robinson for an extended stretch late in the first half.
Garrett kept Robinson out of rhythm, which halted the flow of the Horned Frogs’ offense. Entering Wednesday, Robinson was second in the nation with 8.7 assists per game. Robinson registered just four against KU.
“I know how good of a passer he is and how he’s like a pro when he gets by his man,” Garrett said. “I was basically just trying to keep him in front with high hands to try and make him make a lot of passes.”
At first, starting point guard Devon Dotson earned the assignment of defending Robinson. He picked up a pair of early fouls, and sat for much of the final 10-plus minutes. Not long after, Garrett assumed the role as the team’s point guard.
He started things off with an alley-oop to freshman Quentin Grimes in transition.
“I’m very comfortable in that role,” Garrett said. “It is the only role I have played my whole life. I feel very good playing point guard.”
The very next defensive possession is when Garrett took on the responsibility of keeping Robinson in check.
Over the final nine minutes, Garrett rarely left Robinson on the defensive end. It was evident that Robinson, who is 6-foot-1, was bothered by Garrett’s size. On this play, Garrett’s arms prevented Robinson from seeing an angle to make a pass.
“He’s just so good with the ball,” Garrett said. “He’s going slow and then he can change speeds.”
Garrett also picked up Robinson sooner than most of the other defenders. Garrett almost always started guarding Robinson near half court, forcing the Horned Frogs to bring out screeners father away from the basket.
Garrett even sprinkled in some full-court man defense every now and then to make Robinson work harder to set up an offense.
“I think he’s smarter (than other guards),” Garrett said. “With him being a senior, he knows how to pick spots.”
When Garrett was switched off Robinson, he was quick to provide help defense to keep Robinson from getting in the lane.
The entire Kansas defense emphasized keeping Robinson out of the lane, as he has a knack for finding the open man when opposing defenders help over.
Yet, it was just the latest example of Garrett’s versatility as a defender.
Last month, Garrett was sticking with Villanova’s 6-foot-6 forward Eric Paschall, who can stretch the floor with his ability to shoot from long range. Last night’s win proved Garrett can also shutdown a quick facilitator to help halt an entire offense, even if the plan wasn’t originally for him to guard Robinson.
And that’s a byproduct of Garrett’s ability to understand each opponent before every game.
“I just stick to the scouting report,” Garrett said. “Most of the time, I be watching Big 12 games. I just look at what guards like to do and what bigs like to do when they catch the ball.”
In a matter of months, Devon Dotson has displayed a ton of growth during his freshman campaign with No. 7 Kansas.
But as special as he’s been this season, especially from a consistency standpoint, Dotson proved he still has room to grow during a 77-68 win over TCU Wednesday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
In the win, Dotson went 0-for-6 from the floor, finishing with five points and three assists in 27 minutes.
Think back to the most previous three-point play, in which I highlighted a 5-on-1 fast break that the Jayhawks (13-2, 2-1 Big 12) failed to convert on during a 77-60 loss at Iowa State. On that play, I highlighted that Dotson did not make an ISU defender commit before passing the ball. So while multiple players were responsible for the blunder, Dotson made the first mistake on that particular sequence.
Dotson displayed similar struggles in transition, which will be the first thing I mention in today’s three-point play. As a reminder, I plan to highlight three takeaways the day after each KU game. If you ever have a suggestion, feel free to reach out on Twitter.
Growing pains for Dotson
Following a basket by Dedric Lawson, KU took a seven-point lead with less than 17 minutes remaining.
Freshman Ochai Agbaji immediately gifted the Jayhawks another possession by getting in the passing lane to record a steal. He swiftly moved up the court before giving the ball to Dotson, who then tried to make something happen.
The sequence led to a turnover, as Dotson made the wrong pass and it was evident that Kansas coach Bill Self was not pleased with his freshman point guard.
“He made a bonehead play when he tried to go one against two in transition with nothing there,” Self said after the game. “I got on him then.”
Part of Self’s message was that Dotson has to learn to make the safe play sometimes, which he actually did moments later.
Leading by three points, Kansas sophomore Marcus Garrett managed to net a steal near half court around the 11-minute mark. Garrett tossed the ball over to Dotson, who then pushed the ball in transition.
Dotson had another numbers advantage, though this time it was just 3-on-1. Dotson elected to dump the ball off to K.J. Lawson on the left side, rather than lob it up to Agbaji on the right side.
“Right after that, he’s got Ochai wide open for an uncontested lob and he makes the safe play to K.J.,” Self said. “I go, ‘What are you doing?’ He’s like, ‘You told me to be safe.’”
After the game, though, Self credited Dotson with making a “couple winning plays” by pulling the ball out in transition when he didn’t need to attack and having active hands on the defensive end.
Still, those two specific plays illustrated that Dotson has plenty left to improve on. And that he's capable of doing so on the fly in a game.
Jayhawks show full-court pressure defense
There were many questions about what life would be like without Udoka Azubuike, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season.
When Self spoke to reporters Monday afternoon, he didn’t quite have all the answers. In some ways, he was going through the different ideas out loud during his media availability.
“If you stop think about it, can we become totally opposite of what we've been? Can we become a charge-taking team?” Self rhetorically asked at his press conference. “Since we don't have shot blockers, can we become a team that's better positionally, that you can't get beat as much because you don't have the guy behind? Could we be a team that maybe soft presses and do some things to create activity?”
Kansas fans got a glimpse of what this team is capable of doing during small stretches on the defensive end without its starting center. After Grimes missed the second free throw with 13:51 left in the first half, the Jayhawks immediately went into a soft full-court press.
The Horned Frogs were thrown off by this different look, and ultimately ended up turning the ball over on a 10-second violation.
The Horned Frogs finished with 20 turnovers, which marked just the second time this season that they finished with more turnovers than assists (12) in a game. And it was a credit to KU being able to throw different looks at TCU, while using athletic guards to create more pressure in passing lanes.
Vick continues to be careless with ball
The entire KU team was forced into abundance of mistakes against Iowa State, as it finished with 24 turnovers in the 17-point loss.
As a team, the Jayhawks turned it over just 12 times against the Horned Frogs Wednesday night. Vick was the main culprit for these miscues, as he ended up with six of the team’s dozen turnovers.
It marked the third consecutive game that Vick has recorded at least four turnovers. To put that in comparison, Vick never had more than three turnovers during nonconference season. Prior to Big 12 play this season, Vick’s highest number of turnovers in a game was five, which he did just once in his career.
During league play, Vick has committed a combined 17 turnovers in 90 minutes. Over that span, Vick has went 12-for-30 from the floor, including 6-of-20 from long range. He’s also recorded a total of six assists over the previous three games for Kansas.
Previous three-point play posts:
The No. 7 Jayhawks would like to put last weekend behind them.
Kansas can do just that when it welcomes No. 25 TCU into Allen Fieldhouse Wednesday night. It marks KU’s third ranked foe in as many games to begin Big 12 play. Kansas (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) suffered a 77-60 loss to Iowa State Saturday, and then announced the next day that starting center Udoka Azubuike would miss the remainder of the season.
TCU, meanwhile, is coming off an 85-81 victory over Baylor in the Big 12 opener. The Horned Frogs (12-1, 1-0) will likely be without Jaylen Fisher, who is averaging 12.1 points per game and missed the conference opener with a right knee injury. Fisher led the league with a 44.1 percent clip from 3-point range during nonconference season.
Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.
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BREAKING DOWN TCU
No. 25 — G Alex Robinson | 6-1, 180, sr.
Iowa State may have the best backcourt in the league, but TCU’s perimeter presence is no joke. And that is mostly due to the play of Robinson.
Robinson ranks second in the nation at 8.7 assists per game. He is No. 2 all-time at TCU with 531 career assists. Robinson was Preseason Honorable Mention All-Big 12 and on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the Year award.
This season, Robinson has an assist rate of 44.5, which ranks fourth in all of college basketball.
No. 1 — G Desmond Bane | 6-5, 215, jr.
Behind 22 points from Bane, the Horned Frogs led for all but 21 seconds against the Bears in the Big 12 opener.
Bane is one of three players in the Big 12 to rank in the top 20 in scoring (7th), top 20 in rebounding (17th) and top 15 in assists (10th). Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech and Talen Horton-Tucker of Iowa State are the other two players to do so.
Bane’s true shooting percentage of 64.3 ranks 82nd in the nation, per KenPom.com.
No. 15 — F JD Miller | 6-8, 235, sr.
Miller is fifth on the team in scoring with an average of 11.5 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds per contest.
But Miller’s most impressive feat is his durability. Miller has played in every possible game of his three-year career. If Miller plays in all possible 32 games this season, he will match Brandon Parish’s TCU record of 136 games played.
According to KenPom, Miller boasts a 127.0 offensive rating. That is second on the team behind Bane, but ranks 64th in the nation.
No. 21 — C Kevin Samuel | 6-11, 250, r-fr
Life is much easier for opposing centers without Azubuike manning the lane.
Samuel should have less resistance without KU’s big man defending him. The redshirt freshman is averaging 8.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Samuel has made 73.8 percent of his 2-point attempts, a mark that ranks ninth in the nation.
ONE THING TCU DOES WELL
TCU shoots the ball effectively. The Horned Frogs are shooting 58.4 percent on 2-point shots, which is the seventh-best clip in the country. They are also boasting a 56.3 effective field goal percentage, a mark that ranks 18th in the nation.
ONE AREA TCU STRUGGLES
For the second consecutive game, I’m going to highlight that KU’s opponent is not known for its 3-point shooting. The Horned Frogs are shooting just 35 percent from long range, which is 134th in the country. Of course, Iowa State wasn’t known for its ability from long range and then proceeded to knock down 13 triples against Kansas.
MEET THE COACH
TCU is coached by Jamie Dixon, who is 57-28 in his third season at TCU and 385-151 in his 16th season overall. TCU leads the Big 12 in field goal percentage (49.9) as well as assists (20.2) per game this season.
According to Action Network, Kansas is a six-point favorite as of Wednesday afternoon. In this series, seven of the last 10 matchups have been decided by seven points or fewer. Even if Fisher doesn’t play, I’d expect this to be a close game. The Horned Frogs will cover, but the Jayhawks get the win.
My prediction: Kansas 76, TCU 71
Record against spread: 5-9 (1-1 Big 12)
Following its second loss of the season, Kansas dropped two spots in the latest AP poll, which was released Monday afternoon.
The Jayhawks (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) are No. 7 in the latest rankings, falling from No. 5 after splitting their two games last week. Kansas defeated Oklahoma by a 70-63 margin in the Big 12 opener before dropping a 77-60 decision at Iowa State this past weekend.
One day after its loss to ISU, Kansas announced that starting center Udoka Azubuike would be out for the rest of the season. In addition, the No. 7 ranking is KU’s worst of the season, meaning this has been a pretty forgettable three-day stretch for the Jayhawks.
With that being said, let’s dive into this week’s top takeaways from the latest AP poll:
No first-place votes for Kansas
For the first time all season, Kansas did not receive any first-place votes in the latest AP poll. KU's highest ranking this week was actually No. 5, which was courtesy of two different AP voters.
A total of four teams were given first-place votes, including 37 for No. 1 Duke. Despite being No. 3, Tennessee actually received the second-most votes with 13. No. 2 Michigan was given nine such votes, while No. 4 Virginia earned five.
Since falling from No. 1 after its loss at Arizona State, Kansas had received four first-place votes in each of the previous two polls. Prior to that, the Jayhawks had earned 57 and 56 first-place votes in Week 6 and Week 7, respectively, during their two-week stretch at No. 1.
KU had double-digit first-place votes in all but one week between the preseason poll and Week 5.
But this is the first time since last season that Kansas did not get any consideration for the top team. In fact, Kansas earned only three first-place votes all last year, two of which came in the second week in the season. The lone other first-place vote was given to the Jayhawks in the preseason poll.
It remains to be seen whether or not Kansas will earn another first-place vote this season, though that may be difficult given how top-heavy college basketball is this year. Still, the nine weeks of first-place recognition marks the most for the Jayhawks in a single season since they earned first-place votes in 14 of the 19 weeks during the 2015-16 campaign.
TCU enters AP poll ahead of tilt with KU
There are no easy nights in the Big 12, particularly for the start of the conference play for the defending champs.
Following its first league loss of the year, Kansas will get its third ranked foe in as many games to start Big 12 play when it plays host to TCU at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The Horned Frogs returned to the poll Monday, earning a No. 25 ranking following their win over Baylor this past weekend.
TCU is a nine-game win streak since dropping a 73-64 decision to Lipscomb at home, which dropped the Horned Frogs from No. 18 to unranked in the AP poll. This week, TCU is back and was even listed as a high as No. 17 on one ballot.
Other Big 12 teams in the rankings are Kansas (7), Texas Tech (8), Iowa State (20) and Oklahoma (23). Texas is also receiving votes.
Jayhawks higher in AP poll than analytical rankings
Computers or sports writers? Which side are you on?
Just hours before the newest AP poll came out, I chose to look at the different rankings in the advanced metrics world. It is no secret that this particular KU team can be hard to figure out, which was evident in all the different analytical rankings.
The Jeff Sagarin rankings had the Jayhawks the highest among the computer rankings at No. 9. Ken Pomeroy has dropped his preseason No. 1 team all the way down to No. 10 over at KenPom.com.
Bart Torvik has KU at No. 16 in his most recent update, while Haslametrics is the lowest on Kansas with a No. 30 ranking on its website. All this is to say that not even the computers can quite pinpoint where Kansas belongs in college basketball.
None of this means much for which team is going to cut down the nets in April, of course. To me, it is just fascinating that the AP voters are higher on the Jayhawks than the computers at this point in the season.
Kansas coach Bill Self joked that he may not rewatch Saturday’s 77-60 loss to Iowa State in his postgame press conference.
Of course, I’m sure Self was not being serious, seeing as there are many things Kansas could potentially learn from its first conference loss. After all, KU led for just 5:55, the shortest amount of time it has led this season and the fewest since the Jayhawks never led in a loss at Oklahoma State last season.
But on the off chance he was being serious, I went ahead and rewatched the game on the drive back to Lawrence from Ames, Iowa for the latest edition of three-point play. In case you weren’t aware, I started this new blog following the Big 12 opener. It is to point out a few specific takeaways the day after each game, which will almost always include gifs or stats.
On a day where many things went wrong for Kansas, here are a few particular things that stood out to me.
KU was a non-factor in transition
Perhaps the best play to illustrate everything that went wrong during KU’s 17-point thumping at Iowa State occurred with seven-plus minutes left in the first half.
Freshman Devon Dotson ripped the ball from Nick Weiler-Babb early in the possession, a trait Dotson has demonstrated many times already this season. After that, Dotson was off to the races to get a bucket in transition. But he wasn’t alone either.
All four of his teammates followed suit, as freshman Quentin Grimes filled the middle of the lane and Marcus Garrett went right. Dedric Lawson and Charlie Moore were trailing the trio, but were still closer to the ball than the Cyclones.
In fact, only Talen Horton-Tucker stood in the way from an easy bucket by KU. The Jayhawks, though, would not capitalize on the distinct advantage. And multiple parties were to blame for the fastreak blunder.
Dotson drove to the left side, but the dished the ball back to Grimes in the middle too soon and didn’t force the lone defender to commit. Grimes, meanwhile, was trying avoid a charge after being called for one just a minute earlier. So he quickly pitched it to Garrett who mishandled the pass and KU was forced to set up an offense rather than take advantage of the easy basket.
Of course, Iowa State prioritized keeping Kansas from getting transition buckets throughout Saturday’s tilt. The Cyclones rotated their guards back to defense following most shots, in order to have a body between the Jayhawks and the rim.
KU, which produced 16 fast break points against Oklahoma in the Big 12 opener, finished with just four such points at ISU. It marked the team’s fewest points via fast break in a single game this season.
“Our biggest thing (was) transition defense,” ISU coach Steve Prohm said. “Don’t let them beat us in the paint and let’s keep them in front and contest shots.”
Iowa State deserves credit for its job against KU in this area, though this particular play was more due to KU’s own miscues.
KU continues to struggle defending the 3
The Jayhawks have struggled to defend the triple this season, which was a talking point for much of the nonconference slate.
Iowa State wasn’t supposed to be a huge threat from deep, however. Entering Saturday, the Cyclones were shooting just 34.9 percent from long range, which ranked 142nd in the nation at the time. ISU was getting just 31.6 of its point production via the 3-point shot.
Saturday’s numbers? Much different. Iowa State shot 52 percent from long range, hitting 13-of-25 from deep. Over 50 percent of the Cyclones’ points against the defending Big 12 champs came via the long ball. It marked ISU’s highest clip from deep in any game this season and was the team’s highest rate of points coming from beyond the arc in any contest as well.
And it was evident early that KU’s defensive woes in this particular area were going to continue.
Senior Lagerald Vick left his feet to defend a 3-pointer, but Iowa State’s Marial Shayok knew what to do. With Vick in the air, Shayok took one dribble to his left and then proceeded to fire up a wide-open triple to drill the team’s first 3-pointer of the game.
Give the Cyclones credit for knocking down shots, but the Jayhawks struggled to defend most of the made 3s all day.
Moore was late to get to the corner on ISU’s second 3-pointer, which came with 9:58 left in the first half. KU’s rotation defense was poor on the third triple of the game, when Shayok connected on an open look from the top of the key.
Kansas lost Tyrese Haliburton in transition, as he buried a shot from long range with three seconds remaining in the first half. And a majority of the nine second-half 3-pointers by Iowa State had a similar theme.
Death, taxes and Self’s brilliance ATO
It is no secret that Self is a wizard with his designed sets after timeouts.
In order to have one positive takeaway in this blog, I figured we’d highlight the two sets that stood out to me in the second half. At the time, I honestly though they were going to be crucial possessions, but the Cyclones eventually broke the game open to bury these ATO gems by Self.
The first occurred following the media timeout at the 14:52 mark in the second half. Self, of course, likes to create angles for his posts, which is especially critical when Lawson is the focal point of the offense with Udoka Azubuike sidelined.
On this particular play, Kansas accomplished just that as Dotson threaded a pass to Lawson before Moore’s defender could help over. It is hard to tell by the end of this gif, since there is a size limit on the file, but it appears Dotson points to the bench after Lawson’s bucket.
Perhaps the best ATO play, though, took place after the timeout at the 12:21 mark. And it was for Garrett of all people.
Garrett scored on a slip screen via a perfect pass from Dotson, who hit his teammate in stride. The lane was cleared out by Grimes, who it appeared the play might have originally been set up for as he headed to the top of key behind a pair of screens.
It is also worth noting that Dotson finished with three assists, two of which came on designed sets following timeouts by the KU coaching staff.
Talk about a start to the Big 12 conference slate.
No. 5 Kansas outlasted No. 23 Oklahoma, 70-63, in the conference opener. Now, the Jayhawks have to head to one of the tougher places to play in the league for the league road game when they travel to Iowa State, which is coming off a win over Oklahoma State.
Even without their best player for most of their nonconference slate, the Cyclones enter Saturday’s clash with a 11-2 record and are ranked No. 16 via KenPom.com.
“You can make a case that Iowa State has had as good a preseason as anybody (in the league),” KU coach Bill Self said. “They’re back to being healthy and Steve (Prohm) has done a great job of winning some games that were hard games. Now they have their full complement of guys and it will be a great game and atmosphere (in Ames, at Hilton Coliseum).”
Whenever these two teams meet up recently, it has been a intense battle to decide a winner. The series is tied 5-5 over the last 10 meetings with seven of those outcomes being decided by seven points or less and five by five points or fewer.
Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m.
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BREAKING DOWN IOWA STATE
No. 5 — G Lindell Wigginton | 6-2, 189, so.
Make no mistake, Wigginton is Iowa State’s most-talented player.
Wigginton has only played in three games this season after missing most of nonconference season with a left foot injury. Wigginton played 30 minutes off the bench in the Big 12 opener, scoring 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
As a freshman, Wigginton averaged 14.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest. He also added 2.7 assists per outing. If Wigginton is healthy, and that appears to be the case, the Jayhawks will have their hands full this afternoon.
No. 3 — G Marial Shayok | 6-6, 198, sr.
The Cyclones did not miss a step after Wigginton went down, mostly because of the play of Shayok.
Shayok is the Big 12’s top scorer this season, notching double figures in all 13 games. Shayok averaged 19.8 points per contest, and has scored over 20 points in six outings thus far. This season, Shayok is shooting 50 percent from the floor and has taken 188 total shots.
The transfer from Virginia became the first Cyclone since Dedric Willoughby in 1995-96 to score 200 points in the season’s first 10 games,
No. 12 — F Michael Jacobson | 6-9, 230 jr.
Jacobson is third on the team in scoring and is one of four Iowa State players averaging in double figures.
Jacobson, who transferred from Nebraska, leads the Cyclones in rebounding and is shooting 63.1 percent from the field. Jacobson has reached double figures in 11 games. His scoring average is sixth in the Big 12 this season.
Still, the jump in production at his new stop has been drastic.
At Nebraska, Jacobson averaged 5.3 points per game over two seasons. Fast forward to this year and he is third on the team averaging 14.5 points. In fact, Jacobson has a better field goal percentage, three-point percentage and is rebounding at a better clip than he was before transferring to ISU.
No. 11 — G Talen Horton-Tucker | 6-4, 233, fr.
Despite being just a freshman, Horton-Tucker has found a way to make an immediate impact.
Horton-Tucker leads all Big 12 freshmen in scoring with an average of 13.6 points per game. He has dropped three different 20-point outbursts. Horton Tucker has also dished out 10 assists to one turnover over his previous two games.
In addition, Horton-Tucker leads the Cyclones with eight charges taken.
ONE THING IOWA STATE DOES WELL
The Big 12 features several strong defensive squads, but Iowa State’s identity is its offense. The Cyclones are shooting 57.9 percent on 2-point shots in their four guard lineup. According to KenPom.com, that clip is ranked 13th in all of college basketball.
ONE AREA IOWA STATE STRUGGLES
The four-guard lineup doesn’t necessarily mean the Cyclones are a legit threat from deep. Iowa State is shooting just 34.9 percent from long range, which ranks 142nd in the nation. ISU is getting just 31.6 of its point production via the 3-point shot.
MEET THE COACH
The Cyclones are coached by Steve Prohm, who is 71-43 in his fourth season at ISU and 175-72 in his eighth season overall. Iowa State is 7-0 at Hilton Coliseum this season with a +28.3 scoring margin on it home floor.
Iowa State is a 1-point favorite, so this game is essentially a toss-up. It remains to be seen if the KU newcomers can handle the atmosphere in Hilton Coliseum. But unless the Cyclones shoot well from deep, which they haven’t really done, I don’t see how they lose to the Jayhawks. And ISU doesn’t have anyone that can stop Udoka Azubuike.
My prediction: Kansas 76, Iowa State 72
Record against spread: 5-8 (1-0 Big 12)
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Some people made their 2019 resolution to go to the gym more or to drink less soda.
I clearly don’t care about my health, but I do care about providing coverage for the loyal readers of KUsports.com. So with the start of the new year, and the start of a new Big 12 season, I have decided to introduce a new blog.
Three-point play will be a blog that I try to post the day after every game, where I try to expand on three key takeaways from the previous contest. Sometimes it will be a look at key plays, which will almost always include gifs. Sometimes it will be a look at a statistical trend or just some excuse to post nerdy numbers. Maybe I’ll just use this platform to spit out my hot takes.
As always, feel free to reach out to offer suggestions along the way. I’m really making this up as I go.
With that being said, let’s dive into the first such post of three-point play, which begins with how a struggling freshman made his best play of the season in the final minutes of KU’s 70-63 win over Oklahoma Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
But only after he made a costly error first.
Floor burn for Quentin Grimes
Oklahoma used a 9-2 run to trim the deficit to just six points with less than three minutes to go.
Kansas turned to chop, and freshman Quentin Grimes eventually got the ball on the right wing and saw an opening. Grimes charged through the Sooner defense with his left hand before the ball was poked away from a trailing defender.
Rather than give up, though, Grimes immediately poked the ball loose from OU near the left block. The ball rolled to the top of the key, and Grimes slid through two different Oklahoma players to jump on the loose ball.
To top it off, Grimes found fellow freshman Devon Dotson from the floor. Dotson then attacked the rim before the Sooners could recover, finishing a tough layup through traffic to take an eight-point lead with 2:35 left in the game.
On the broadcast, color analyst Fran Fraschilla lauded Grimes for his effort and admitted that OU coach Lon Kruger would use that sequence in the film room.
“Quentin Grimes made that play because of his hustle,” Fraschilla said. “When you show the film tomorrow in that Oklahoma film room, you have to tell your guys, ’If we are going to win in this arena, you have to sell out completely.’”
“That was the best play he’s made all year,” KU coach Bill Self said. “The reason it was a great play was because he turned it over and got it back. You guys remember Russell Robinson. Whenever he turned it over, that was when he was most dangerous.”
More than that, though, the play demonstrated the growth of Grimes.
It has been a lackluster start to his freshman campaign for the perceived lottery pick in the 2019 NBA draft. Grimes has struggled with confidence, and has been placed on the bench in key moments of multiples games.
Grimes scored 14 points in the Big 12 opener, which marked his second consecutive double-digit outing after scoring 16 points against Eastern Michigan. He appears more comfortable than he’s ever been this season.
And even when he does make a mistake, Grimes has shown the composure to keep playing.
“It goes from them being in transition with a chance to score in numbers to us getting an and-one,” Self said. “It could have been a five-point swing on just that one play. It was a great play.”
Marcus Garrett credited with best pass of Big 12 opener
KU sophomore Marcus Garrett made just one shot from the floor, but he had a significant impact as a facilitator.
With Dotson in foul trouble, Garrett was forced to serve as backup point guard during a stretch in the second half. Dotson ultimately finished with five assists, which matched his season-high. He also only committed one turnover against OU’s strong defense.
But the highlight of the game for Garrett occurred with over nine minutes left in the contest. Junior Dedric Lawson threaded a pass to Garrett in the lane. Garrett wasted no time, flinging a kick-out pass to Dotson on the left corner.
“He made the best pass of the game,” Self said.
The criticism for Garrett’s shooting ability is absolutely fair, especially on nights like Wednesday. But Garrett continues to prove he can contribute even when his shot isn’t falling.
Dedric Lawson thrives in small-ball lineup
Even before Udoka Azubuike went down with an ankle injury in early December, there was a certain clunkiness to the two-big lineup. It is why I thought the injury was the biggest concern regarding this team, because Lawson and Azubuike needed to work on playing together ahead of conference play.
Fast forward to the start of Big 12 play, and fans are seeing exactly that. It is clear that Azubuike is the go-to option when he’s on the floor, and he’s certainly the toughest matchup for an opposing team. It is also evident that Lawson thrives when he’s the big man, and has space to go to work inside.
Clinging to a 49-44 lead, Self turned to the latter lineup with Lawson at the five. Senior Lagerald Vick, Garrett, Grimes and Dotson were also on the floor with him. On the first possession, which came after a timeout, Kansas got an angle on the left side and Grimes immediately lobbed a pass inside to Lawson, who netted the layup.
Lawson posted up Oklahoma’s Brady Manek on the second possession before turning around hitting a jumper in Manek’s face.
The third possession was the Dotson triple, which Lawson deserved at least a hockey assist on. On the fourth trip, Lawson didn’t need anyone to feed him the rock. He went the length of the floor to finish on the other end to stretch KU’s lead to double digits.
Kruger called a timeout to take Manek out of the game, but the damage had been done.
It remains to be seen if the two Kansas posts will learn to play together, though I think it will look much better next month. At the very least, KU has shown the ability to use different combinations depending on the matchup.
And that is a luxury that Self didn’t have last year.
The Big 12 season has finally arrived.
Kansas was nearly flawless through it 12 nonconference games in 2018, posting an 11-1 clip. The lone loss dropped the preseason No. 1 team to No. 5 in the AP poll, where it remains ahead of the start of conference play. The league slate begins with a home tilt against No. 23 Oklahoma.
The Jayhawks have now won the league in 14 consecutive seasons, which is an NCAA Division I record for consecutive conference regular-season titles. Kansas has also won 27-straight conference openers dating back to the 1991-92 season. The last time KU lost a conference opener was at Oklahoma, 88-82, on Jan. 8, 1991.
“I don't know if you talk about the league race getting off to a fast start,” KU coach Bill Self said. “You just talk about playing well early. It's such a long grind, 18 games is a long time. You don't want to put too much emphasis on one game."
The Sooners (11-1) lead the Big 12 in rebound average at 43.2 boards per game and ranks in the top three in the conference in field goal percentage defense (37.5), 3-point field goal percentage (36.9) and rebound margin (+6.0).
"Statistically, they are very good defensively,” Self said. “They are a very good rebounding team. They are bigger than what you think.”
Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m.
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BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA
No. 0 — G Christian James | 6-4, 218, sr.
Self believes James would be the favorite for the most-improved player in the league.
In nonconference play, James averaged 17.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He leads the team in scoring, and ranks second in rebounding. James has scored in double figures in all but one game, amassing 20 points in four of his 12 games.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, James is considered very good in isolation and excellent at cutting off the ball. He’s scored 24 points in 25 possessions of isolation, while notching 24 points in 13 positions of cutting to the basket.
No. 3 — G Miles Reynolds | 6-2, 170, sr.
Reynolds is second on the team in scoring after a strong nonconference showing.
Reynolds is averaging 10.9 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting in his first season with the Sooners. Reynolds, who transferred in from Pacific, has started in four of his 12 games and is averaging 25.3 minutes per contest. Prior to his lone season with Pacific, Reynolds spent two years at Saint Louis.
This season, Reynolds has done most of his damage in spot-up situations. According to Synergy, Reynolds is averaging 1.085 points per possession in such plays by scoring 51 points on 47 possessions.
No. 35 — F Brady Manek | 6-9, 215, so.
Manek is the third Sooner to average in double figures through 12 games.
The sophomore is averaging 10.8 points per game thus far to go along with his team-high 7.5 rebounds per contest. Manek scored 14 points against KU in the first meeting between these two teams last year before finishing with just two points in the second clash in Allen Fieldhouse.
This season, Manaek has reached double figures in seven of his 12 games. He’s finished with a season-high 18 points in two different outings.
No. 2 — G Aaron Calixte | 5-11, 175, sr.
Calixte is fourth on the team in scoring with an average of 8.7 points per contest.
In his first season with the Sooners, Calixte has started in all 12 of his outings and is averaging 23.7 minutes per game. Calixte came to OU after spending four years with Maine, one of which he only played five games.
With Oklahoma, Calixte is shooting 46 percent from the floor, including a 35.5 clip from downtown.
ONE THING OKLAHOMA DOES WELL
The Sooners can flat-out defend this year. They have the seventh-best defensive efficiency via KenPom.com. Oklahoma is holding teams to a 40.9 percent clip on 2-point shots, which ranks sixth in all of college basketball.
ONE AREA OKLAHOMA STRUGGLES
If this game is close down the stretch, Kansas could pull away at the free throw line. Oklahoma is shooting just 66.9 percent from the charity stripe, which is ranked 257th in college basketball. The D1 average as a team is 69.8 percent from the free throw line.
MEET THE COACH
The Sooners are coached by Lon Kruger, who is 151-92 in his eighth season at OU and 630-396 in his 33rd season overall. Oklahoma is 11-1 on the season and brings a seven-game winning streak into its Big 12 opener at Allen Fieldhouse.
According to Action Network, Kansas is an 8.5-point favorite as of Wednesday morning. I’m hoping my picks get better now that the spreads are smaller and I know these Big 12 teams more than the nonconference foes. However, I’m not entirely confident just yet. I’ll take Oklahoma to cover, but Kansas should still win this game by six or seven.
My prediction: Kansas 77, Oklahoma 71
Record against spread: 4-8
Not much changed in the final AP poll of 2018, which was released Monday.
Kansas (11-1) remained at No. 5 following its 87-63 win over Eastern Michigan Saturday afternoon. The Jayhawks received four first-place votes, all of which were from the same AP voters. Seth Davis, of The Athletic, Scott Richey, of The News-Gazette, and Kevin McNamara, of The Providence Journal, all kept the Jayhawks at No. 1 after listing them there last week.
In addition, all four teams ahead of Kansas received first-place votes in the latest poll. No. 1 Duke earned 35 first-place votes, while No. 2 Michigan netted nine first-place votes. No. 3 Tennessee received 12 first-place votes, and No. 4 Virginia was given four such votes.
Let’s get into this week’s biggest takeaways from the latest ballot:
One voter dropped KU to No. 7 following win over EMU
For the first time since the third week, Kansas was listed at No. 7 on one ballot. It marks the team’s lowest ranking, aside from Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal, who is electing to leave collegiate programs unranked until they play a true road game.
This week, though, Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News dropped Kansas from No. 6 to No. 7 in his ballot after the team dominated Eastern Michigan. The Jayhawks rolled to a 24-point win in the first game with their starting center Udoka Azubuike back in the lineup.
Yet, Wolf elected to propel Gonzaga one spot ahead of KU in his latest ballot.
And I’m struggling to understand the reasoning, since both teams won its only game this past week. Gonzaga claimed a 45-point victory, but it was against North Alabama, a team ranked No. 326 on KenPom.com. Eastern Michigan, meanwhile, was considered KU’s easiest opponent by being ranked No. 190 on KenPom.
In fact, six of Gonzaga’s 12 victories have come against opponents ranked worse than Eastern Michigan via KenPom. More than that, one of Gonzaga’s two losses came at the hands of Tennessee, a team KU beat.
Based on last week, I have no idea how one would elect to have the Bulldogs leapfrog over the Jayhawks.
Three Big 12 teams ranked ahead of conference play
Big 12 play begins this week, and only three teams are currently listed in the Top 25 via the latest AP poll.
Kansas, of course, is the highest ranked team in the Big 12 at No. 5. Texas Tech (11-1) remained at No. 11, though it was ranked as high as No. 8 by four voters. Oklahoma (11-1) was the only league team to move up in the latest rankings, climbing up two spots to No. 23. The Sooners were ranked as high as 15th by two voters.
But three other Big 12 teams received votes in the latest poll, and will likely find their way into the Top 25 at some point in 2019. Kansas State (10-2) was listed at No. 27, earning 14 votes in the Top 25 and was ranked as high as No. 17.
TCU was ranked No. 30 after a posting a 11-record in nonconference. The Horned Frogs were given nine votes by AP voters, and were ranked as high as No. 20 on one ballot. Iowa State (10-2) netted two votes in the Top 25, including a No. 16 vote, and comes in at No. 32.
Arizona State falls out of Top 25
The Sun Devils handed the Jayhawks their only loss, which ultimately dropped Kansas to No. 5 in last week’s poll.
As a result, Arizona State also leaped up to No. 17 following its best win of the season. Much was made about one AP voter leaving ASU unranked in last week’s ballot following its four-point win over then-No. 1 KU.
However, the Sun Devils were left unranked on 42 of the 65 ballots this week following a 67-66 home loss to Princeton. Still, Arizona State (9-3) was ranked as high as 13th by Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Steele had ASU at No. 13 last week as well.