KU freshman Marcus Garrett emerging as more complete player late in season
Easily lost in the farewell performances inside Allen Fieldhouse by seniors Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, as well as the always wide-reaching shadow of center Udoka Azubuike, a freshman backup played as important a role as any of his Kansas teammates in the second half of Monday’s win over Texas.
Head coach Bill Self turned to Marcus Garrett off the bench even before the first post-halftime timeout, and the first-year guard out of Dallas immediately made an impact, setting himself up for an 11-point, 4-rebound, 3-assist showing.
On his first offensive possession of the second half, Garrett, who went scoreless in nine first-half minutes, went right to work, upon catching a pass from Graham in the right corner.
When Texas big man Jericho Sims closed out poorly, Garrett drove past him, forcing help. That left the largest man in the building, Azubuike, uncovered for a jam off a Garrett assist.
Only a few possessions had gone by before Azubuike returned the favor.
Texas finally figured out defending KU’s 7-foot sophomore one-on-one in the post was a lost cause. So the Longhorns tried double-teaming Azubuike on the left block.
Once Garrett’s man left him, he wisely positioned himself right under the basket. UT’s weak-side defender on the play, Kerwin Roach II, hesitated to leave Graham open on the opposite wing,and when Roach didn’t slide over to cover Garrett, the freshman put in a layup with zero resistance.
The basket, the freshman’s first of the night, answered a Jacob Young 3-pointer that had just narrowed the Texas deficit to 6 points. With Garrett’s timely lay-in, UT never got any closer.
Because Texas played a pair of big men, Dylan Osetkowski and Sims, much of the night, the Jayhawks knew they could find mismatches on the perimeter versus either.
A 6-foot-9 freshman, Sims got turned around on one sequence, losing sight of Garrett while stepping into the paint as a help defender.
When Lagerald Vick kicked the ball out to Garrett, Sims didn’t know the 6-5 KU freshman had relocated, and Garrett breezed past him to scoop in a layup.
Desperate for some sort of defensive solution for the Jayhawks, Texas at times implemented a 2-3 zone. When the Longhorns took that route, placing Garrett in the middle of the floor, at the free-throw line, proved to be a useful countermeasure.
The Sims-Osetkowski combo got exposed defensively within the zone when Garrett flashed to the open space above the foul line, forcing Osetkowski to step toward him. Before Sims figured out what was coming, Garrett lobbed an entry pass toward the backboard.
Predictably, Azubuike finished an alley-oop with a two-handed slam.
One quality of Garrett’s that makes him so valuable, even at this early stage of his career, is his defense. Not only does the freshman grasp his responsibilities in various situations, he often forces turnovers with his anticipation.
His second of three steals in the game materialized while guarding Roach on the perimeter. The Texas guard showed the ball while pivoting to face up, and Garrett just took it out of his hands, Kawhi Leonard style.
The KU freshman took off in the other direction for what instantly became a four-on-one fast break.
Garrett looked like a veteran leading the transition attack, swinging the ball over to Mykhailiuk on the opposite side just in time to make Roach react, allowing Garrett to receive a pass right back from Mykhailiuk for an uncontested layup.
Not always the most sure-shooting guard, Garrett (10 for 36 on 3-pointers) even knocked down his lone attempt from behind the arc to cap his 4-for-7 night from the floor.
Texas had just whittled KU’s lead to 8 with 3:39 to go, prompting Self to call timeout. The Jayhawks worked their half-court offense until Graham found a driving angle to create. The point guard spotted his freshman teammate open in the left corner and, without hesitation, Garrett stroked a 3-pointer to push the lead back to double digits.
In the past 10 games, Garrett hasn’t shot 3-pointers often, but he has connected on 5 of 9 attempts.
Garrett’s 11 points were his most since scoring a season- and career-high 13 versus Texas Southern in November, and his team-best 3 steals made him the KU leader in that category for the seventh time during his freshman season.
At the end of a night that shined the spotlight on KU’s seniors, Self identified Garrett and Azubuike as the two best Jayhawks against Texas.
“I thought defensively he was about as good as we had,” Self said of Garrett. “He had three steals, and that’s something we don’t do very well. I was really happy for him. Made a big three when they got it to single figures.”
Garrett isn’t suddenly going to become a consistent double-digit scorer for Kansas, but he operates with increasing confidence the deeper the Jayhawks get into this season. When your role players become more competent, the on-court product is bound to benefit.
Already a proficient defender, Garrett continues to progress as a driver, passer and finisher, while showing signs his shooting might be coming along, as well. With the postseason just around the corner, a player once ignored by opposing defenses now possesses the ability to stimulate the Kansas offense.
This might not be the last time this year we see Garrett emerge from the background to key a Kansas victory.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas
- Senior Night Special: Jayhawks cruise to win over Texas, clinch outright Big 12 title
- Tom Keegan: Jayhawks sidestep several obstacles to 14th straight Big 12 title
- Notebook: Graham, Newman earn Big 12 weekly awards; Texas guard Andrew Jones leaves hospital
- KU basketball’s red uniforms a request of “Number 4”
- The Keegan Ratings: Sophomore Udoka Azubuike tops ratings on Senior Night in victory vs. Texas
- KU seniors shut down fieldhouse for season with 80-70 win over Texas