Postgame Report Card: Kansas 63, New Mexico State 60
Kansas City, Mo. — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 63-60 win over New Mexico State on Saturday night at Sprint Center.
The starting lineup didn’t miss Lagerald Vick in the opening minutes versus the Aggies. Charlie Moore came out attacking, as did Quentin Grimes, helping KU jump out to a 12-2 lead.
But that flow didn’t continue for long. With Dedric Lawson missing some bunnies inside and KU turning the ball over on six of its first 20 possessions, New Mexico State eventually took a 22-21 lead with fewer than 6:00 left in the first half.
By intermission, Kansas was shooting 34.4 percent from the floor and turned the ball over eight times on 31 possessions.
The offense remained choppy in the second half, keeping the outcome in doubt into crunch time.
KU shot 43 percent overall and 7-for-21 on 3-pointers.
It was hard to find a ton of fault with KU’s defense in the first half. Sure, there were breakdowns here and there, like getting beat backdoor or showing a lack of help defense. But KU did hold the Aggies to 28 first-half points and 3-for-12 3-point shooting.
The biggest issues in the first half usually led to NMSU scoring inside, where the underdog put up 18 points and KU had only 12.
The Aggies kept getting the shots they wanted in the second half, and extended their lead to 51-44.
NMSU connected on 46 percent of its shots and went 7-for-26 on 3-pointers. And the Aggies won points in the paint, 36-32.
KU’s defense played well enough in the final minutes for the nation’s No. 2 team to leave with a win.
The offense needs to run through Lawson, especially with Udoka Azubuike out with an ankle sprain. But that strategy wasn’t working in the first half. Sometimes teammates threw bad entry passes. Other times Lawson just mishandled the ball on catches or during takes to the rim.
And when Lawson struggles, it doesn’t seem this team yet has someone who will automatically step up and pick up the slack. So the whole offense went ragged as the junior forward tried to work his way through first-half struggles.
Lawson also often ended up out of position trying to defend NMSU big Ivan Aurrecoechea (14 points).
NMSU, on many occasions, outworked KU on the glass, and the final rebound totals read: Aggies 37, Jayhawks 36.
The junior forward’s biggest impact came on the offensive glass, where Lawson grabbed five rebounds.
He finally found some semblance of a rhythm late, scoring back-to-back baskets inside (one on a put-back) to tie the game at 53. His second-chance basket later pushed KU ahead 57-55. The next trip down the floor, Lawson made his first 3 of the night for a 60-57 lead.
HIs drive to the paint to draw contact and get to the foul line with less than a minute to play, gave him two free throws and KU a 62-59 lead.
On a mercurial evening for KU’s best player, Lawson finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Devon Dotson often looks like the team’s most dynamic player with the ball in his hands. But the freshman point guard continues to learn when he can make the most of that ability.
When Dotson (eight points) is driving into the paint, good things tend to happen. And he delivered one of his steal-and-fastbreak layup sequences early in the second half.
But it was sophomore Marcus Garrett who was the team’s most complete guard much of the night. Garrett (10 points,, two assists) even knocked in multiple 3-pointers (2-for-4). His defensive awareness and mostly solid decisions on offense weren’t enough for KU to roll. But they were needed on an often stagnant night.
Freshman Quentin Grimes (five points) looked good early, driving in for a basket inside and hitting a 3-pointer, but failed to provide much offense after that.
Moore, who started in Vick’s place, had a similar drought in terms of making an impact. The typical backup finished with five points on 2-for-7 shooting.
Baskets were scarce for KU at Sprint Center and the team needed Vick to deliver some sort of offensive spark. The senior guard was ineffective most of the night, and finished with five points on 2-for-8 shooting.
Mitch Lightfoot got one of the loudest rises out of the crowd near the 12:00 mark of the second half by running the floor on a Vick steal and getting rewarded with a pass for a two-handed jam that cut NMSU’s lead to 46-42.
Lightfoot, who drew a pair of second-half charges, played with energy and it showed in his stat line: seven points, six rebounds in 18 minutes.
Freshman big David McCormack wasn’t much of a factor, playing only four minutes.
NMSU out-scored KU’s bench 19-15.