For a brief period of time this spring, shortly before he was scheduled to pack up and move to Lawrence to embark upon his college basketball career at Kansas, Issac McBride found himself at least a little preoccupied with the future of another Jayhawk.
While working diligently with his trainer in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., McBride plugged away keeping in mind that he might arrive at KU not as a teammate of starting point guard Devon Dotson, but as his replacement.
Dotson, of course, was exploring his NBA chances, and it wasn’t until the May 29 draft deadline for withdrawing that Dotson ultimately decided to remain with the Jayhawks.
“That was something that we pondered on every day,” McBride said of Dotson’s decision process and the impact it could have on McBride’s role as a freshman, “considering he might not be able to or might not be coming back. And after we saw his draft combine, he did really well and played very great. And we expected that, because Devon’s a really talented player.”
With Dotson potentially keeping his name in the draft, McBride prepared for a scenario in which he could have ended up being asked to take over KU’s starting point guard duties as a freshman, just as Dotson did this past season.
Enhancing his pick and roll skills immediately became a priority for McBride as a result, with both his trainer and KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend telling the soon to be freshman he needed to become more effective in those situations.
“We didn’t know if he was coming back or not,” McBride said of Dotson, “but we studied it real closely and then we worked according to if Devon’s not going to be able to come back. But we have him back and that’s going to make our team even more dangerous.”
When McBride discussed Dotson returning to KU he did so not as a player wishing the starting job and/or more playing time would be heading his way this coming season, but as a team-first guard excited to learn from Dotson. McBride said ever since he first committed to KU that Dotson treated him as a teammate, and that Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett really made him feel welcome, too, even before officially joining the roster this summer.
Ultimately, McBride anticipates benefiting from Dotson’s presence over the course of the coming months.
“Having him back is going to be something different, of course. Guarding someone every day that fast, that quick, that strong and that smart,” McBride explained. “It’s only going to make me a better defender and a better player and a tougher competitor.”
McBride could still end up becoming Dotson’s replacement, but that won’t come for at least another year now. Until then, McBride can play against Dotson at practices, pick his brain when the freshman is looking for advice and ease into the spotlight of playing in the backcourt for a nationally renowned program.
“Having someone like that will be a blessing,” McBride said of teaming with Dotson, “and not even a blessing in disguise but just out there. That’s someone that can help not only me, but our whole team. That’s a whole different dynamic to our team.”
Indeed, the Jayhawks will fare far better with Dotson in 2019-20 than they would have without the blur of a point guard. The fact that McBride is so ready to recognize that speaks to his maturity and desire to win.
McBride made sure to ready himself for a season without Dotson, but now that they’ll be teaming up — and with McBride comfortable playing off the ball the duo could give KU an ultra-quick backcourt in spurts — McBride will be even better set up for longterm success with the Jayhawks.
Topeka — Between Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, manning the paint should be a non-issue for next season’s Kansas basketball team.
There’s no doubt the Jayhawks’ bulky frontline of 6-foot-8 to 7-footers will be one of the team’s substantial strengths.
But who among their KU teammates are capable of providing the team with reliable 3-point shooting in 2019-20?
It’s a question that might not totally be answered until some of the program’s newest members prove themselves worthy of playing time.
This past season, 3-point shooting was more of a mixed bag for Kansas than a dependable source of offense. KU shot 260-for-743 on 3-pointers (35%, ranking 143rd in the nation) over the course of its 26-10 campaign. What’s more, this coming season, with the 3-point line moving back to 22 feet, 1.75 inches for Division I play, KU will be without its three most productive shooters from the 2018-19 roster.
Lagerald Vick, who only played in 23 games before leaving KU in early February, made a team-best 66 3-pointers on 145 attempts (44.5%). Quentin Grimes shot 54-for-159 (34%) and Dedric Lawson was 35-for-89 (39.3%). Of course, Grimes, after testing the NBA Draft waters this spring, withdrew his name from professional consideration and entered it into the NCAA’s transfer portal, while Lawson, as expected, decided to stay in the draft following his redshirt junior season.
Taking a stab in June at which Jayhawks will be asked to carry the 3-point load in November through March, the list of candidates is both obvious and alarmingly succinct: Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji.
Dotson, who connected on 33 of 91 3’s (36.3%) as a freshman, becomes the de facto top returning shooter for the Jayhawks. Agabaji, who played in only 22 games in his debut season, wasn’t too far behind, knocking down 23 of 75 3’s (30.7%).
Kansas may need much more 3-point production from both guards during their upcoming sophomore seasons. Agbaji said while speaking with reporters at Brett Ballard’s Washburn University basketball camp this week that measures already are being taken with that in mind.
“Our coaches really emphasize how much we’re in the gym shooting,” Agbaji said. “And when we go to workouts later, that’s what we’ll be doing, just getting shots up — bigs, too — and all of that. Shooting’s definitely something we’re going to focus on in this offseason.”
Good thing, too. Beyond Dotson and Agbaji, the Jayhawks don’t have much proven fire power in place for the 2019-20 season. Dotson and Agbaji account for 56 of the combined 72 made 3-pointers among KU’s returning players.
This past season, Marcus Garrett shot 12-for-49 (24.5%), Lightfoot converted 2 of his 10 3-point tries (20%) and walk-on Chris Teahan went 2-for-5 (40%). Neither McCormack nor Azubuike as much as attempted a 3. Nor are those two bigs expected to transform into 3-point shooters between now and November.
So from whose hands might some additional 3-pointers originate?
“Right now it’s so early you can’t really tell,” Teahan admitted. “Everybody’s going to be working hard, and I think everybody’s going to be getting their shots up and we’ll continue to progress. But if I need be out there to shoot, then I’m going to be ready for it.”
All three incoming freshmen in KU’s 2019 recruiting class have a chance to contribute in this area of need. And while 6-9 forward Tristan Enaruna, 6-6 wing Christian Braun and 6-foot guard Issac McBride all arrived on campus earlier this week, they’re still miles away right now from demonstrating they can make up for KU’s dearth of shooters.
“I think they all can stroke it,” Teahan said of the trio of freshmen. “I think it just depends on whose day it is and if they can shoot consistently.”
Agbaji also pointed to Braun and McBride in particular as potential 3-point threats in the season ahead.
“I would hope to see that Marcus has developed a little bit some moving forward,” Agbaji added of Garrett, a career 25.5% 3-point shooter 69 games into his college career.
Even teams capable of dominating inside need some trustworthy shooters to space the floor. Perhaps Braun, McBride and/or Enaruna can emerge in that role. Or maybe head coach Bill Self and his staff will fill one or more of the team’s current three open scholarship spots with someone who can knock down shots on the perimeter.
At this stage of the offseason, though, only two Jayhawks could be considered sound options from downtown.
“You haven’t really seen any in-game competition stuff,” Teahan said, when asked to identify KU’s surefire shooters, “so that’s kind of hard to say. But I trust Devon and I trust Ochai, because I’ve seen them shoot the ball.”
Even so, will KU have enough shooting overall?
“Yeah, yeah, I think so,” Agbaji contended. “I’m confident in all my teammates to hit shots and all of that. I think we’ll improve and we’ll definitely be better.”
A Devon Dotson-less Kansas basketball team would have figured out some way to succeed in the 2019-20 season — Bill Self is still the Jayhawks’ head coach after all. That alternate reality isn’t one even the most diehard KU follower could stomach in fan fiction form, though.
If Dotson had decided to go ahead and keep his name in this year’s NBA Draft, maybe Quentin Grimes would have tried to return to KU and play some point guard instead of entering his name in the transfer portal. Perhaps incoming freshman Issac McBride would have emerged as the team’s primary ball handler. More likely, junior Marcus Garrett would have served as a large floor general.
The truth is none of those alternatives could be characterized as ideal. Had Dotson not saved KU from that actuality with his decision to return, observers would constantly have wondered how much better the Jayhawks would have looked with the point guard from Charlotte, N.C., running the show.
The Jayhawks should be what-if free next season, though, with Dotson back and Silvio De Sousa cleared. KU even projects as strong enough with its veteran heavy lineup to keep people from wondering how R.J. Hampton would have looked in a KU uniform.
With Dedric Lawson trying to carve out a spot for himself in the NBA and Hampton playing in New Zealand, this will be Dotson’s team. And maybe that played some factor in his decision to put his NBA career on the back burner for one year. (See Self’s statement on Dotson: “We feel like we have a very high draft pick in next year's draft returning as our point guard.”)
It looked like Dotson would have been a late second-round pick this year. Now he has a full season of starring for what looks like a legit Final Four contender ahead of him. More national television exposure and countless opportunities to showcase what kind of growth he has made as a playmaker, shooter and finisher after averaging 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman, when he made 48.2% of his shots and 36.3% of his 3-pointers.
Dotson won’t have to lead KU in scoring — a healthy Udoka Azubuike would be more than capable of that — but he could. Dotson had the best free throw rate (.482) among KU starters this past season and he became more adept at getting into the paint and drawing contact as his first college season progressed. He’ll be even more comfortable, not to mention stronger, by the time his sophomore season begins, and Dotson is dedicated and competitive enough to become a more effective scorer off the dribble, whether that’s at the rim or at the foul line.
And you know he’ll spend the offseason working on his 3-point shot and trying to improve his ability to drive to set up shots for his teammates, because those are two qualities that will better his chances of getting drafted early in 2020 like Self thinks he can.
A leader in waiting and as obsessed with winning as anyone on KU’s roster this past season, Dotson can now smoothly step into the spotlight, while assuring the Jayhawks play with speed, as well as some confidence and passion. Next year’s KU team won’t look much like its predecessor. Not with a driven Dotson back and taking on an even larger role.
With Dotson, Azubuike, Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot, Kansas has a core of rotation players that looks on paper like a Big 12 title-winning lineup and a top-five team in the country. Their ceiling could go even higher if some combination of freshmen McBride, Tristan Enaruna and Christian Braun prove themselves ready. Plus, with three open scholarships at this point, there’s a chance Self and his staff could still add even another player or two capable of contributing right away.
As talented as all those individuals are, each of their jobs would have been more taxing without Dotson around. His presence changes everything for the better for KU, and saves everyone invested in the program from wondering what if.
Since the Kansas basketball team’s loss to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks have been steeped in decision season.
Which players would decide to declare for the NBA Draft? Whom among the 2018-19 Jayhawks would elect to transfer? Would five-star prospects such as Matthew Hurt, Precious Achiuwa or R.J. Hampton choose to play at KU? What would the NCAA’s Student-Athlete Reinstatement committee determine about Silvio De Sousa’s appeal?
While it may seem KU head coach Bill Self and his staff have experienced fewer victories during decision season than the program’s rabid fan base would deem acceptable, this all-important portion of the offseason isn’t over yet.
One of the biggest resolutions capable of impacting next season’s roster will be reached by Wednesday night. That’s when the deadline arrives for every college player who entered the NBA’s pre-draft process and attended the combine but hasn’t yet decided whether to keep his name in the draft pool or return the college ranks for at least one more go-round.
And that’s when Self and the Jayhawks will find out whether high-speed point guard Devon Dotson will be blurring up and down the court at Allen Fieldhouse this coming season or embarking on his professional career.
The verdict is one Dotson will reach with his family, and they will do so from a well informed position now that the 6-foot-2 (in shoes) point guard has spent the past several weeks working out in front of and receiving feedback from NBA executives, coaches and scouts.
While it seems Dotson improved his stock through this process, his NBA future remains no sure thing. Unless there is some franchise who fell in love with Dotson and assured him he will be picked at the end of the first round or beginning of the second, it appears he could add further value to his draftability by returning for his sophomore season. As of Tuesday morning, ESPN’s list of best prospects available ranks Dotson 59th overall for the 60-pick draft. Quentin Grimes, who also has yet to announce his staying or going status, ranked 73rd on the list, while Dedric Lawson was 67th.
Self will find a way to get by without Dotson if the point guard’s ultimate choice is to remain in the draft. But Dotson resolving to come back to KU would qualify as a massive decision season win for the Jayhawks.
If Dotson announces he’s sticking around, it helps lessen the blow felt by Hampton’s Tuesday announcement that he’ll play professionally in New Zealand, as well as his subsequent declaration on “The Yak” radio show that he would’ve chosen KU had he decided to play college basketball.
Much more importantly, though, Dotson choosing the known of starring at Kansas over a murkier immediate future likely involving a lot of time next season in the G League would solidify KU’s standing as one of college basketball’s top teams in 2019-20.
More decisions that will impact KU’s next roster will come, including one from four-star forward Jalen Wilson, set to visit later this week.
But no conceivable conclusion at this juncture can do for the Jayhawks’ 2020 Final Four chances what Dotson could by deciding to run it back in a KU uniform.
Since the day he accepted the position 16 years ago, Bill Self’s job title at the University of Kansas has been head men’s basketball coach. But it might as well be general manager, CEO, president of basketball operations and czar of roster engineering, too.
Sure, his assistants help Self a great deal in both discovering and zeroing in on talented prospects on the recruiting front, but it’s ultimately up to the commander in chief of KU basketball to determine the composition of KU’s roster each and every season.
Through the years, Self has even often mastered the art of college basketball’s version of the waiver wire, with more than a dozen players transferring in and even more transferring out during his tenure. All the while, he’s adding high school prospects and often dealing with the possibility of any number of current players deciding to leave Lawrence early in pursuit of their NBA dreams.
As well as Self has handled that juggling act, tweaking KU’s roster has now become more difficult than ever. Rules currently in place allow college players to declare for the draft as underclassmen, do so with the help of an NBA-certified agent, receive feedback about where they may land in the first or second round and then decide whether it’s in their best interest to return to school or stay in the draft.
These rules exist to help each player make the best possible decision for his future. And that’s the way it should be.
This revamped pre-draft process just happens to make it extra challenging for high profile college basketball head coaches/general managers to plan in April for the following year’s roster.
Nine rotation players appeared in KU’s season-ending loss to Auburn in the NCAA Tournament’s second round. Most likely, at least four of them — Dedric Lawson (draft), K.J. Lawson (transfer), Charlie Moore (transfer) and Quentin Grimes (draft) — will be gone.
Five others — Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot and possibly Devon Dotson (draft) — could be back.
Then, as of Tuesday night at least, there’s the who knows category, occupied by ineligible through next season Silvio De Sousa and injured Udoka Azubuike.
If both of those bigs decide to go pro, too, Self and his staff, in a doomsday scenario, could have as many as six or seven scholarships to fill for next season, with only two Class of 2019 recruits — Christian Braun and Isaac McBride — currently on board.
And with those dipping their toes into the NBA Draft waters, there’s always the new possibility, even if they have an agent, that they could decide to come back by withdrawing from the draft.
“I think the new rule, maybe it’s a good rule, maybe it’s not,” Self said Tuesday night, following the team’s end of season banquet. “I think time will tell. But I do think it makes it hard to manage rosters, because it’s much easier to say ‘I’m gonna try something.’”
If anybody can pull off this dance, it’s Self. He made it clear that KU’s staff won’t sit back idly, waiting to hear what each potential draftee will decide.
“But the thinking of it is that if you open yourself up to try, then certainly you’re telling us that it’s OK to go sign somebody. So that’s probably not the ideal situation to be in. But I’d much rather have too many than not enough,” Self said.
It appears Dotson is using the early entry rules the way every talented player should, as an information-gathering tour that will set him up someday down the line for a successful NBA career. So at least some semblance of stability (probably) exists on that front.
But how will KU fill the rest of the roster with rotation-level players when the coaches don’t yet know how many spots they have to fill?
The man in charge, as you might have guessed, hardly seemed worried.
“So we’ve got some things that we’re working on to do,” Self said. “But I think in the next 10 days a lot of this is gonna clear up.”
As much as the Kansas basketball players who lived through Saturday’s second-round NCAA Tournament encounter with Auburn would like to wipe the night full of lowlight memories from their heads, that’s not the way season-ending defeats work.
These types of losses frustrate, linger and fester. But eventually the mental wounds begin to heal, and when that happens they can fuel players, too. For all the pain and disappointment that dominated the Jayhawks’ thoughts inside Vivint Smart Home Arena, first as Auburn ran away to advance to the Sweet 16, then in the locker room when the season’s finality hit the team’s leaders with an emotional knockout punch, their psyches will recover in the days ahead.
For the KU players who are both driven and plan on returning for another postseason run in 2020, this 14-point loss to Auburn in a game that felt like a 30-point Tigers lead much of the night has the potential to be a launching pad for an offseason of growth and improvement.
That’s really the only good thing about such brutal losses. Even when the sting downgrades from a 10 to more manageable level, it won’t go away for competitors. And because it will always be there for certain players, they’ll be reminding themselves the entire offseason that they need to push themselves harder in order to make sure this brand of heartache that they confronted in Slat Lake City doesn’t devastate them again.
Five-star prospects don’t sign with Kansas to lose in the tournament’s first weekend. This wasn’t what Devon Dotson envisioned for his first taste of March Madness. And when he couldn’t will the Jayhawks to some semblance of a rally versus Auburn, it crushed him.
The toll of goals unrealized first weighed on KU’s freshman point guard late in the inevitable defeat, as he sat on the bench and did his best to fight off tears — covering his mouth with a towel, attempting mask the raw emotions of the moment.
But Dotson couldn’t escape those feelings by leaving the floor after the final buzzer. They hovered over him in the postgame locker room, too. Upon taking his seat, Dotson slumped over. A towel soon draped over his head, as he powered through answers to reporters’ questions, pausing on several occasions to find some composure when the tears wouldn’t stop falling form his eyes.
“We’re all brothers. This team has an unbelievable bond,” Dotson said regarding the visibly shaken look the Jayhawks wore in the aftermath of the defeat. “We’d do anything for each other. At the end of the day, we just wanted to play for each other. It just hurts.”
Dotson must’ve uttered some variation of that last word at least a dozen times during postgame interviews, repeatedly shaking his head in disbelief, covering his face with his hand at times, and his eyes downcast most of the session.
While the future of his teammate Dedric Lawson is unknown at this juncture — Bill Self said after KU’s loss to Auburn that Lawson and others will have decisions to make regarding their chances of going pro — Lawson summed up the mood inside the locker room perfectly, describing the NCAA Tournament as something he and his teammates grew up dreaming about.
“And it went away so quick,” Lawson said.
The Auburn Tigers know that feeling. In 2018, their dreams of a March run were dashed by Clemson in the second round with a 31-point loss.
A year later, they were the experienced team crushing a second-round foe for a berth in the Sweet 16. The Tigers looked not only fast, but also experienced, as they buried the Jayhawks in the first half.
For Dotson and other members of the KU rotation who return, this dismantling at the hands of Auburn, impossible as it may have seemed while they endured it, could end up becoming a driving force within the team’s DNA when the Jayhawks try to redeem themselves in the 2020 tournament.
“It’ll definitely be beneficial,” Dotson said of the admittedly upsetting circumstances. “You know, us growing as a team and taking that next leap next year.”
While Dedric Lawson and his brother, K.J., and Quentin Grimes didn’t want to get into on Saturday whether they will be back for another go-round at The Big Dance, it doesn’t look like Dotson is going anywhere.
“I’m just heartbroken from this loss,” Dotson said, when asked what’s next for him, quickly adding he would turn his focus to the offseason and “getting better.”
If Dedric Lawson were to leave to pursue a professional career, this would immediately become Dotson’s team. Regardless of the pecking order, the point guard already is a program leader, and he’ll continue to grow in that role in the months between now and the start of his sophomore season.
Dotson is the most competitive player on KU’s roster. And now that he’s felt what an early exit from the NCAA Tournament is like, he’s not the type of athlete to let it happen again. If he has to become the lead guard who carries the Jayhawks he’ll do it. If he has to motivate his teammates as they work together toward something greater, he’ll do that, too.
The Jayhawks won’t ignore or forget their March shortcomings anytime soon. And if they try to, Dotson will be there to remind them that’s not an option.
Salt Lake City — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 87-53 win over Northeastern on Thursday at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Though the Jayhawks missed shots in the opening minutes, they were able to get out in front by securing second chances on the glass and getting out in the open floor for transition opportunities.
The Jayhawks’ burst of 7 consecutive fast-break points helped them lead 18-11 a little more than 8 minutes in.
KU’s clear advantage inside assured the No. 4 seed and favorite of easy points much of the first half.
After a low-turnover opening 20 minutes, KU coughed it up three times in the first three minutes of the second, allowing NU to trim KU’s lead to 7 quickly. However, the Jayhawks gave the Huskies a dose of their own medicine after a timeout, as both Quentin Grimes and Dedric Lawson drained a 3-pointer, and Lawson got back to work inside to give KU a 15-point advantage, its largest lead of the game at that point.
The Jayhawks dissected NU’s defense, shooting 56 percent from the field in a win that advanced them to a Saturday matchup with Auburn.
The Huskies’ 3-point attack proved effective right out of the gate in the first-round matchup, with Jordan Roland draining a couple and big man Tomas Murphy another to give the Vegas underdogs the start they wanted and a 3-for-5 mark from deep early.
Bill Self didn’t stick with his starting lineup or two-big look for long, though, and with four guards capable of defending the perimeter on the court, KU did a solid job in the first half of keeping Northeastern from getting hot from long range.
While the Huskies were able to get inside for looks, KU’s bigs did a nice job of staying active and making it less than automatic for NU in the paint, and the CAA postseason champs went 1-for-9 on layups and dunks in the first half.
NU’s season ended as KU limited the would-be Cinderella to 6-for-28 3-point shooting and 28-percent shooting overall.
Other than a defensive misstep here or there in the first half, Dedric Lawson gave KU exactly the type of first half it wanted out of its best player.
Lawson had 16 points and 7 boards by intermission, as well as a block and a steal as KU led 37-25 at the break.
KU’s go-to big entered the second half ready to resume his takeover. And once the Jayhawks got back on track by following his lead, Lawson was able to rest longer than usual for a stretch in the second half, en route to experiencing his first NCAA Tournament win in style, producing 25 points and 11 rebounds.
David McCormack started the game but only logged 11 minutes, many of them with the game basically over. KU played variations of its four-guard lineup through much of what turned into a rout and didn’t need its freshman big man much.
McCormack went scoreless but provided 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
It became evident within a few minutes that NU didn’t have a defensive answer for Devon Dotson, especially in the open floor.
The freshman point guard’s confidence and assertiveness with the ball in his hands allowed KU to avoid any real first-half scare or nerves.
Dotson routinely sped by defenders, both in transition and in the half court. Just the threat of what he could do opened up the floor for his teammates, as well.
Though Quentin Grimes went scoreless in 18 first-half minutes, his defense was usually spot on and he continued to be an important passer offensively. The freshman shooting guard finished 1-for-5 from 3-point range and provided 3 points and 3 assists.
Ochai Agbaji’s best energy plays came when he crashed the offensive glass for tip-ins in the second half as KU was in the process of putting Northeastern away.
While Agbaji started, he played 20 minutes, coming through with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
Marcus Garrett didn’t start, but it only took a couple minutes for Self to turn to his team-first glue guy and sixth man. One of KU’s smarter players on both ends of the court, Garrett gave the Jayhawks their first separation of the afternoon when he scored back-to-back layups, the second of which he created by stealing the ball near midcourt.
While Garrett (8 points, 5 rebounds) was solid it was K.J. Lawson who stole the show off the bench.
K.J.’s first few minutes off the bench weren’t great, but that didn’t discourage him one bit. His assertiveness picked up when NU totally ignored him on a fast break for an easy layup in the first half and that seemed to empower him.
KU needed an offensive boost from someone off the bench and, boy, was K.J. the man for that job. The tough-nosed redshirt sophomore contributed 13 points and 3 rebounds.
KU’s old man, junior big Mitch Lightfoot, gave the victors 5 points and 7 rebounds.
Kansas City, Mo. — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 78-66 loss to Iowa State on Saturday night in the Big 12 title game.
KU couldn’t immediately settle in offensively in the first half, with a rowdy bunch of ISU fans screaming in support of every play that went the Cyclones’ way. The Jayhawks didn’t appear anything close to rattled. But they definitely weren’t crisp, and ISU jumped out to a 13-8 lead.
Still, the slow offensive start seemed contagious at times, as KU missed layups, 3-pointers and free throws throughout most of the first half. With 4:12 left before halftime, the Jayhawks were 10 for 31 from the floor (8 for 16 on layups), 0 for 7 on 3-pointers and 1 for 6 at the foul line. At that point, ISU led 27-21.
The Cyclones’ lead would grow to 11 before KU could get out of the miserable half and head to the locker room. The Jayhawks went almost 6 full minutes without even scoring late in the half, before Dedric Lawson went 1-for-2 at the foul line with 0:38 to go. Devon Dotson accounted for the last field goal of the half with 6:34 on the clock.
KU shot 10 for 36 in the first half, turned it over 7 times, was 0 for 9 on 3-pointers and 2-for-8 on free throws. In summation: ouch.
Down 32-22 entering the second half, KU’s offense improved. But how could it have been worse?
Even though KU made much better use of its trips into the paint in the second half, they spent basically the entirety of the half trailing by double figures, because it was going to take a borderline miraculous offensive display to catch up once the Jayhawks squandered a handful of early possessions out of halftime.
KU finished the loss 39.4% from the floor, 3 for 18 on 3-pointers and 7 for 13 at the foul line.
Early on the defensive energy came in the form of blocked shots from Quentin Grimes and a steal and layup for Devon Dotson. In the meantime, the Jayhawks often were fortunate that ISU missed some open looks from 3-point range.
Luckily for KU, and you have to give at least partial credit to the defense for this, the Cyclones weren’t exactly on point offensively in the first half either. ISU has the potential to explode with 3-point shooting and strong guard play. But the Cyclones were 3 for 11 from deep and 13 of 31 overall before intermission.
The defense just wasn’t there in the second half, though. The Cyclones led by as many as 17 points fewer than 3 minutes into the half.
ISU spent much of the decisive half scoring at will and shot 56.5% in the final 20 minutes, while making 4 of 8 3-pointers.
Although Dedric Lawson scored a couple of baskets in the first few minutes, he hit a serious funk soon after, even short-arming a wide-open layup attempt. He finished the half 2 for 11 and didn’t get his third hoop of the night until making an and-one layup inside with KU down 17, minutes into the second half.
Lawson finished a forgettable night with 18 points, 8 rebounds and shot 8 for 21.
Freshman David McCormack, meanwhile, was hardly a factor much of the game. ISU’s four-guard lineup made it difficult for Kansas to play both Lawson and McCormack, because one of them would inevitably be a defensive liability from a matchup standpoint.
McCormack contributed 4 points and 2 boards in 8 minutes.
Dotson was the only player in a KU uniform consistently making winning plays on both ends of the floor for much of the title game.
The freshman point guard’s solid efforts (17 points, 3 rebounds) couldn’t make up for the way the team played as a whole, though.
After a hot shooting night in the semifinals, Grimes couldn’t keep it going in the title game, finishing with 10 points and going 0 for 6 on 3-pointers.
Ochai Agbaji, too, struggled more than he prospered, providing the most help he could with his 6 rebounds, while scoring 5 points.
Marcus Garrett deserved a ton of credit for ISU not completely running away with this game, and he played so well that Bill Self started him in the second half instead of McCormack.
Garrett killed it on the defensive glass, and had 9 total rebounds by halftime. The sophomore guard finished with 7 points, 15 boards and 4 assists while also providing his characteristically smart and effort-driven defense.
When Dotson got into foul trouble in both halves, Charlie Moore came through with a few positive moments, and totaled 5 points and 1 assist in 14 minutes.
Kansas City, Mo. — Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 88-74 win over West Virginia on Friday night in the Big 12 semifinals.
If KU hadn’t turned the ball over 16 times there wouldn’t have been much to complain about on the offensive end.
The Jayhawks scored 46 points in the paint, shot 40% from 3-point range (8 for 20) and made 52.4% of their field goal attempts overall.
Bill Self hated KU’s defense on this night, harping on WVU’s ability to easily score early on in the first half.
The Mountaineers shot 27.3% on 3-pointers and only scored 9 second-chance points. But they did make 43.5% of their shots overall, scored 40 in the paint and turned the ball over 11 times on the night.
David McCormack didn’t dominate in stretches like he did in the quarterfinals versus Texas, but the freshman big man still had his effective moments on offense, on the glass and with his effort, finishing with 7 points and 8 boards.
Dedric Lawson, on the other hand, was just as efficient as anyone could hope for. The junior forward shot 9 for 13 from the field, made 2 of 3 from 3-point range and connected on all 4 of his free throws.
Quentin Grimes caught fire in the first half, giving KU the momentum it needed to advance. Grimes drilled 5 of 8 3-pointers on the night and added 8 rebounds and 4 assists for a remarkable evening overall.
Devon Dotson, too, proved more than WVU defenders could handle on several occasions, and finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
Ochai Agbaji went for 9 points and 3 boards in 21 minutes.
Marcus Garrett keeps looking more mobile and comfortable on the ankle that hobbled him earlier this season. His defense and drives to the paint made him as valuable as anyone for KU, as he finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Mitch Lightfoot also had his moments, though not as often as Garrett. The junior blocked 4 shots in just 15 minutes and scored 4 points.
Kansas City, Mo. — Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 65-57 win over Texas on Thursday night at Sprint Center.
The offense was at its best when Devon Dotson was blowing past perimeter defenders to get to the paint, but not even his flashes of dominance were enough to keep Kansas firing on all cylinders for a full 40 minutes against a Texas team operating in NCAA Tournament bubble territory these days.
Remarkably, KU outscored Texas 17-0 in fastbreak points. It often had Dotson to thank for those high-percentage, energy-lifting scores.
Those numbers also set the Jayhawks up for a 34–20 advantage in points in the paint.
Kansas shot 41.8% from the field and only made 3 of 11 3-pointers, but helped itself out by going 16 of 22 at the foul line.
UT big Dylan Osetkowski (18 points, 3 for 7 on 3-pointers) was the only Longhorn that seemed too much for KU to handle.
The other Longhorns combined to shoot 14 for 43 from the floor.
It seemed UT would need to catch fire from long range to pull off a quarterfinal victory, but the Jayhawks held them to 8 for 25 on 3-pointers.
David McCormack spent stretches of his Big 12 tournament debut posting up like a man possessed, and with him overpowering UT bigs at times, his 13 points and 9 boards were critical components of the win.
Dedric Lawson didn’t have his most efficient night, shooting 6 for 15 on the way to 16 points. But he’s the type of offensive threat that just his presence on the court benefits those around him. And he hit a timely 3-pointer as a trailer during the second half, plus he chipped in 6 boards and a couple of steals and one block.
Dotson (17 points, 4 assists) controlled the game more often than not offensively, and his assertiveness propelled KU into the semifinals.
Grimes’ shot was off much of the night (2 for 10). But he reached double figures with the help of a crucial second-half 3-pointer and a 7-for-8 showing at the foul line.
Ochai Agbaji was the low scorer among the starters, finishing with 2 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in 26 minutes.
Marcus Garrett accounted for all 5 of KU’s bench points and drew the praise of Bill Self after the win. Garrett also pitched in 8 rebounds and an assist in 20 minutes.