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Postgame Report Card: No. 2 Kansas 98, UMKC 57

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) gets the attention of Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) gets the attention of Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 98-57 win over UMKC on Saturday at Sprint Center.

Offense: B+

• Throw out the first 8 minutes or so and KU mostly overwhelmed UMKC. The Jayhawks rarely even needed the 3-point line to continually add to their lead.

KU shot 63% from the field in the second half and finished with 52 points in the paint.

Defense: B

• KU didn’t need to do much to disrupt and challenge the Roos, and once the Jayhawks consistently played with some effort the hometown team’s chances of keeping up diminished.

UMKC shot 42.3% overall in defeat, turned it over 22 times and made 9 of 18 3-pointers.

Frontcourt: A-

• On a day that KU should have come out and dominated inside from start to finish, the listless start from the Jayhawks kept the game close early, with UMKC even leading nearly 10 minutes in.

• The interior play for Kansas picked up right about the time that Udoka Azubuike returned from his first breather on the bench. KU had tried its two starting bigs (Azubuike and David McCormack) for a few minutes, then Silvio De Sousa as the lone interior player. None of those looks were particularly effective in front of a low-energy crowd.

But KU, which trailed 11-10 when Azubuike checked back in, steadily built a 10-point lead in the 5 minutes that followed. The 7-foot senior blocked a couple shots, scored inside, grabbed some rebounds, even passed out an assist to Devon Dotson for a layup as KU finally began playing with some focus and gaining control.

Azubuike finished the win with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks.

• When Azubuike headed to the bench for another breather in the latter stages of the first half, KU got some Udoka-like production out of McCormack. The sophomore big was up to 10 points and 4 rebounds by the final media timeout of the half. He hit jumpers, played hard inside and helped KU maintain a double-digit lead.

McCormack made sure KU headed to intermission on a positive note, too, as he provided energy and scoring in the final minutes of the half. He finished with 28 points and 7 rebounds.

Backcourt: B

• One would have figured Dotson, Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett would come out flying around the flooring making life difficult for UMKC’s guards on both end of the court. But it took the trio a while to warmup for this nonconference December matchup.

• Agbaji couldn’t put together the types of shows he had of late, but Dotson and Garrett started producing once KU regrouped.

Oddly enough it was Garrett (13 points, 4 assists), who hit each of his three 3-point tries, who was the only Jayhawk hitting from outside, while also distributing and defending.

Dotson’s obvious speed advantage showed up from time to time, and the longer the game went the more he was able to stand out as UMKC wore down. Dotson contributed 18 points and 3 assists.

Agbaji wasn’t involved much offensively for much of the win, finishing with 5 points on 2-for-3 shooting.

Bench: C

• It wasn’t until very late in the blowout that KU’s reserves really started contributing. Silvio De Sousa was the most effective, especially in the second half. KU’s third big man in its rotation put up 9 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.

This was a great opportunity for the reserves to shine. But KU only had 13 bench points when Chris Teahan checked in late with KU up 39. The reserves finished with 25 points.

Christian Braun provided nice effort on the glass, too, with 7 rebounds.

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Devon Dotson not just a scorer in KU’s offense

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) throws a pass to the wing during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) throws a pass to the wing during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It may come as a surprise to many, including the head basketball coach at the University of Kansas, that the Jayhawks’ starting point guard currently is leading the Big 12 in scoring.

Bill Self called that development “a shocker” for him nine games into Devon Dotson’s sophomore season. But Dotson (19.8 points per game on 49.5% shooting) has done much more for KU’s offense this year than get to the hoop for layups and to the foul line for even easier points.

Coming off a career-high nine assists in KU’s victory over Milwaukee earlier this week, Dotson has proven in Year 2 to be better at setting up his teammates, too. During his freshman season, Dotson looked more like a scoring point guard than a passing one on many occasions. Over the course of 36 games, Dotson finished with five or more assists just nine times. He’s already hit that same mark five times with the Jayhawks (8-1) during the first month-plus of the schedule.

Averaging 5.0 assists an outing thus far as a sophomore, Dotson’s assist percentage has jumped in the right direction, too, compared to his freshman year. Per sports-reference.com, Dotson is assisting on 24.2% of his teammate’s field goals this year, after finishing the 2018-19 season at 19.6%.

The point guard’s distribution is one of many areas where Self has been glad to witness improvement.

“I still think that's another step in the progression,” Self said Thursday, during his weekly press conference inside Allen Fieldhouse. “He's got kind of a bad stat line from assists to turnovers, I think primarily because of two games.”

As Self pointed out, Dotson gave away possession six times during KU’s season-opening loss to Duke in New York, and coughed it up another six times in the Jayhawks’ overtime win versus Dayton in the Maui Invitational title game. Those rougher days as a ball handler currently have Dotson’s season assist to turnover ratio sitting at 1.7.

“So that's a little misleading,” Self said while lauding Dotson for his improvement as a passer. “He should be a three to one guy as opposed to a one and a half to one guy. But I think he is better.”

Although there is still a lot of schedule in front of him, Dotson’s improvements as a passer have accompanied more responsibilities. He didn’t need to lead KU in scoring as a freshman, but now he’s the steadiest scorer on the roster, especially when opponents game-plan to take away Udoka Azubuike as an inside threat.

At roughly the quarter mark of his sophomore year — possibly his last one at KU, after Dotson waited until the last moment to pull his name out of the 2019 NBA Draft — the point guard’s usage percentage is up from 19.4% as a freshman to 25.5%. At the same time, his turnover percentage has dropped from 17.8% a season ago to 15.5% through nine games, while being asked to do more for his team.

Dotson has done all of this while not yet mastering the art of a pass that should result in an assist every time it’s passed.

“The one thing that I don't think he does well at all and I don't think our team does at all yet is throw lobs,” Self said.

If you’re into nitpicking, Dotson’s highlight alley-oop for Ochai Agbaji against Milwaukee might have even been off target, lower than its ideal placement — even though Agbaji reversed it for an insane finish.

Self didn’t even mention that while noting the several times Dotson and his teammates have failed to put a lob pass on the money.

“I don't think we do that quite like our other teams have. That's something we’ve got to improve upon,” Self said. “But I do think Dot has done a pretty good job of getting the ball where it needs to go for the most part. But he's a better finisher than he is passer in tight right now, which is not a bad thing for us at all because we need to score.”

Fortunately for both Dotson and his teammates, he isn’t in a position where he’s the only distributor within KU’s offense. The Jayhawks are averaging 17 assists per game as a team, and Garrett (4.6) is setting teammates up almost nearly as often as Dotson.

“I think a lot of times assists are not really a true evaluation of guys passing the ball because some teams have one guy dribble and make the pass to finish every possession and some teams have it equal opportunity,” Self said.

There is no one player dominating the ball when KU runs its offense, so Self doesn’t expect Dotson to do anything ridiculous, like double up his assist numbers. But the coach doesn’t want the ever-improving point guard to be happy with where he’s at now as a passer, either.

“I think the thing to look at is still team assists on the number, and then of that number, Devon’s number should be above (5.0 per game), though,” Self said. “And it’s not quite there.”

Dotson wants to play and stick around in the NBA once he leaves KU. Continual growth as a passer will make that possible, as will an improved 3-point shot — 13-for-40 (32.5%) this season and 33-for-91 (36.3%) as a freshman.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 2 Kansas 95, Milwaukee 68

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) elevates for a bucket past Milwaukee guard Courtney Brown Jr. (13) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) elevates for a bucket past Milwaukee guard Courtney Brown Jr. (13) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 95-68 win over Milwaukee on Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: A

• The Jayhawks came out draining 3-pointers, a little out of character for sure, but a sign of the dominating win that was about to come. KU knocked in 12 of 28 from deep in a mostly free-flowing game that allowed KU’s guards to play with open minds.

• KU was able to create massive separation in the first half by killing it on the offensive glass. On the seldom occasions that the Jayhawks missed, they often kept the possession alive and finished it off with a basket. By the end of the victory KU scored 21 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds.

Defense: B

• It seemed KU would experience a letdown in energy at some point of such an easy win, and that came on defense, early in the second half in particular. The Jayhawks weren’t able to turn a blowout into a massacre as human nature caught up with them for a few minutes and their lead failed to balloon.

After Milwaukee only scored 8 points in the paint in the first half, the Panthers put up 18 inside in the second.

• Still, KU’s defense primarily looked sound overall. The Panthers only shot 36% from the floor and went 7-for-35 on 3-pointers.

Frontcourt: B

• Udoka Azubuike destroyed Milwaukee on the glass, with his career-best 17 rebounds. It set the stage for a 45-27 rebound margin in KU’s favor.

The 7-footer didn’t miss a shot from the floor (7-for-7), nor did he misfire on his lone free throw try, making it one of his best overall games, with 15 points and a double-double

• David McCormack only played 18 minutes after starting, as usual, and he only had one rebound in that time, while going 3-for-5 from the field and 1-for-4 at the foul line.

Backcourt: B+

• Devon Dotson (22 points, 9 assists) and Ochai Agbaji (22 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) were stars, making a lopsided game entertaining at times with their ability to take over.

• Marcus Garrett missed all three of his 3-point looks and scored just 7 points. His primary contributions, of course, came as a passer (7 assists) and defender. When he was on the floor, KU’s lead tended to grow.

Bench: C

• Lots of bench minutes meant plenty of scoring from the reserves (22 points). But Isaiah Moss was the only one with more than 4 points, going 2-for-5 on 3-pointers and putting up 8.

And while Moss, Silvio De Sousa, Christian Braun and Tristan Enaruna all played double-figure minutes off the bench, they didn’t play well enough collectively for Self to let them wrap up the win.

These are the types of games in which Azubuike, Dotson, Agabji and company need to be watching the final minutes. But the bench’s performance proved to spotty for Self to trust them.

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Patient off the court, Silvio De Sousa eager to finally break into KU’s rotation

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and The Jayhawks huddle up during the first half, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and The Jayhawks huddle up during the first half, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

This college basketball season is a long way from over. But eight games in, it isn’t playing out the way Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa pictured.

The 6-foot-9 junior, after being reinstated and winning back his eligibility in the offseason, has yet to find regular minutes in the No. 2 Jayhawks’ frontcourt rotation.

De Sousa has played nine or fewer minutes in five of KU’s eight games, gone scoreless in three of those and even went one without recording a single rebound — the last of which came in one of the Jayhawks’ best showings to date, too, a win over Dayton in the Maui Invitational title game.

So where does De Sousa fit in, as the third big man on a team that starts two ahead of him but only plays one the majority of the time?

At this point he just doesn’t. Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack have been healthy and productive, turning De Sousa into a bystander.

Incredibly, the backup big man from Angola, averaging 8.8 minutes, 3.5 points and 2.5 rebounds, has done it all with a smile.

“I think being patient is one thing I have naturally,” De Sousa said Monday inside of Allen Fieldhouse. “I know how to deal with frustration, and I know how to control myself whenever I’m going through something like that.”

Obviously he would like to play more. De Sousa admitted as much during his session with reporters, on the eve of KU’s nonconference home date with Milwaukee. But he insists it’s not affecting him.

De Sousa might be saying that out loud and in front of cameras and reporters because that’s his nature. But his head coach will tell you it’s not entirely true.

De Sousa’s an easygoing person, and that’s no doubt helped him avoid becoming too discouraged with his current spot in the pecking order. But Bill Self doesn’t think the big man has been exactly patient in waiting for his turn to take off and become a fixture in the rotation. Nor would Self want De Sousa seeking serenity with his status.

“I never think that any good players are patient,” Self said. “I’ve always thought all the best players are always impatient, because they want it to happen yesterday, let alone with tomorrow.”

KU’s coach concedes De Sousa is a patient person. But the junior forward’s general cheeriness doesn’t have to color every aspect of his life.

“I don't think he's unbelievably patient just waiting his time,” Self said, “because he's not happy with where he is right now. If he was happy, then we wouldn't be very happy.”

De Sousa is nothing if not eager to play a larger role on this KU team. But until he wins over Self by bringing activity and smart defensive and offensive play to the court every time he checks in, it remains to be seen how much of an impact De Sousa will actually make this season.

He at least felt “a lot better” about his contributions in KU’s win over Colorado — and keep in mind De Sousa had 2 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes.

“Everything’s just going to come naturally,” De Sousa predicted. “I’m just going to control what I can control right now.”

After spending the entirety of his sophomore season sidelined, as the NCAA ultimately ruled him ineligible before reinstating him in the spring, De Sousa didn’t enter his junior year with the experience of most upperclassmen. He described his first handful of games by saying he felt like they were going “100 miles per hour, and I was just going 40.”

He’s tried to make up ground ever since while figuring it all out and reacclimating himself to high-level college basketball.

“Now I’m catching up,” De Sousa said. “I’m about 75 (miles per hour).”

Self said De Sousa played “fine” in 11 minutes against Colorado and maintained the reserve big man will fit in “fine” this season.

“But he hasn’t really had the chance to play and really gather momentum yet,” Self added.

De Sousa should be able to hit the accelerator again Tuesday night against Milwaukee (5-4). The rest of his teammates can do him a favor by handling their business and building a large lead that will afford De Sousa major minutes for a change.

And if that’s the case, De Sousa should let his displeasure with his situation show on the court. There’s no reason to be patient when he can go out and earn himself the minutes he’s been craving.

Reply 1 comment from Njjayhawk Surrealku

Postgame Report Card: No. 2 Kansas 72, No. 20 Colorado 58

Kansas' Udoka Azubuike gets past Colorado's Dallas Walton to shoot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas' Udoka Azubuike gets past Colorado's Dallas Walton to shoot during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) by Associated Press

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 72-58 win over Colorado on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B-

• Turnovers in the first half kept the Jayhawks from burying the Buffaloes. A lot of the time KU handled CU’s half court zone well, but the unforced giveaways too frequently had the offense looking out of whack. KU had 9 turnovers and 12 made field goals when up 27-18 late in the first half.

• The Jayhawks entered the locker room after 20 minutes already with 10 turnovers. What they did well in the first half, though, was repeatedly get the ball inside for high-percentage looks. KU scored 26 of its 34 points in the paint and shot 50% from the floor.

• The Jayhawks improved to 7-1 with 57.1% shooting in the 2nd half against a solid defensive team in CU. But they also turned it over 11 times, with 2 coming in the final couple of minutes.

Defense: A

• Colorado came to the fieldhouse prepared to fire away from 3-point range and the Jayhawks handled it well enough to keep the Buffs from ever getting hot. Nine of CU’s first 11 shot attempts were from beyond the arc and the visitors made there of them.

But two of those came from CU bit Lucas Siewert taking advantage of the space he had with Udoka Azubuike defending him. And the Jayhawks held Colorado to 4-for-15 shooting on 3-pointers in the first half.

• The Buffs never found any rhythm offensively in the first half, when they committed 9 turnovers and shot 26.9% from the floor. KU’s defense on the perimeter and inside made it a rough 20 minutes for the No. 20-ranked Buffaloes.

• Colorado shot 20.6% on 3-pointers and 30% from the field overall in its first loss of the season.

Frontcourt: B-

• David McCormack came out knocking down jumpers as KU dealt some early blows to CU’s zone. Before long Udoka Azubuike was devastating the Buffs around the rim, catching entry passes in perfect position or following a missed shot for a jam. The two bigs combined for 14 points in the first half..

• Neither of KU’s two biggest bigs overwhelmed Colorado constantly. Azubuike finished with 12 points, 6 boards and 3 blocks. McCormack played few important minutes in the second half after his hot start to the evening.

Azubuike did seem to wear down the CU interior defense with his size and the fact that the Buffs had to deal with him on both ends of the floor.

Backcourt: B-

• KU guards Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji did a nice job tracking down rebounds in the first half, when Dotson gathered 4, Agbaji 6 and KU outrebounded the visitors 24-13.

Dotson (18 points, 6 assists) won his matchup with speedy CU guard McKinley Wright IV (2-for-7 shooting, 8 points)

• Agbaji (20 points) knocked down a couple of 3-pointers as KU created separation in the second half, after the Jayhawks went 0-for-6 from deep in the first half. When he nailed another near the midway point of the second half he still was the only Jayhawk to have connected on one. He also, time after time, was a standout by attacking the glass (12 rebounds).

• Marcus Garrett set the tone for KU’s impressive defense. Garrett was the one defending CU leading scorer and typically efficient producer Tyler Bey, a 6-foot-7 wing. Bey didn’t get off a shot until the 1:28 mark of the first half, and it was Tristan Enaruna guarding him at the time. Great accounted for 3 of KU’s 4 steals in the first half, as well.

Garrett (4 points, 2-for-7 FGs) didn’t have a good shooting night but his presence remains a necessity for KU’s success as he does everything else so well. His passing (6 assists) and defense make everything the Jayhawks do function.

Bench: C+

• Both Enaruna and De Sousa came in and grabbed a few boards in the first half. But neither team was getting much offensively from its subs in the opening 20 minutes.

Isaiah Moss missed two 3-pointers in 11-plus first half minutes.

• The Jayhawks were 3-for-10 as a team from deep with only 9-plus minutes left when Moss hit his first of the night for a 52-37 lead.

Moss looked more comfortable in the second half and finished with 8 points.

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Jayhawks working to fully unlock Isaiah Moss’ 3-point potential

Kansas guard Isaiah Moss (4) attempts a three point shot over BYU guard Jake Toolson (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Kansas guard Isaiah Moss (4) attempts a three point shot over BYU guard Jake Toolson (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia) by Associated Press

Get Bill Self talking about his Kansas basketball team’s 3-point defense and his train of thought will eventually bring him to the arc on the opposite end of the floor.

Self obviously wants his Jayhawks to play smarter perimeter defense, so future opponents don’t torch them the way Dayton did (16-for-33 from deep) at the Maui Invitational.

Those 3-pointers surrendered won’t be accompanied by as much dismay if the Jayhawks can be less sporadic in their use of those same shots on offense.

“Part of the deal is we need to start scoring the ball more behind the arc ourself,” Self diverted earlier this week, during a discussion of KU’s defense.

Self considers KU’s victories over BYU and Dayton in Maui two of the team’s best games to date, and the Jayhawks shot 4-for-18 in the semifinal and 4-for-11 in an overtime title game. BYU outscored KU 27-12 on 3-pointers and Dayton nearly knocked off the Jayhawks by dominating in that category, 48-12.

“We need to obviously be more consistent beyond the arc,” Self said. “We can’t be outscored by 36 points consistently and have a chance to win.”

So where do the No. 2 Jayhawks (6-1) find that shooting stability? Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk are not walking through that door. Fortunately for Self and his players, this roster has a shooter who would fit right in with that one-two perimeter attack.

The Jayhawks will tell you we haven’t yet seen the best of graduate transfer Isaiah Moss. Yet the ready-to-shoot reserve in six games played easily stands out as the best 3-point marksman on the roster. The 6-foot-5 senior from Chicago is 11-for-24 (45.8%) on a team that has combined to shoot 49-for-137 (35.8%) on 3-pointers.

As the Jayhawks aim to keep progressing in their return to action against No. 20 Colorado (7-0), getting Moss going will be a priority.

“I don’t think Isaiah’s himself yet,” Self said of Moss, who played 30 or more minutes in KU’s previous two wins but shot a combined 1-for-6 on 3-pointers against BYU and Dayton. “But I think he’s gaining on it. If you could get Isaiah shooting the ball and us doing a better job of knowing how to get him open, and the staff doing more things to get him open, then I think we can become better offensively.”

Moss is a spot-up, catch-and-shoot weapon if KU can just figure out how to use him. As great as Moss is at blending in and providing spacing when the Jayhawks play four guards around Udoka Azubuike, David McCormack or (occasionally) Silvio De Sousa, Moss can take this team to another level as a dependable shooter.

A right hamstring injury that forced Moss to miss KU’s lone loss, to Duke in New York, may be another reason the Jayhawks haven’t completely unlocked his abilities as a complementary threat. That’s Marcus Garrett’s theory, at least.

“I feel like we really haven’t got to see what he can really do yet,” Garrett said, after calling Moss a “great” 3-point shooter.

Of course, the Jayhawks can’t put all of their 3-point hopes on Moss. Self said starting guards Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji and Garrett will need to contribute, too, as the Jayhawks look for that steady outside offense.

“You look at our shooting statistics, Devon (10-for-32 on 3-pointers) hasn’t shot it well yet,” Self said. “Och (11-for-35) hasn’t shot it well yet. Marcus (4-for-12) has made a few, but he hasn’t exactly been on fire.”

Self doesn’t hide the fact that Moss’ production has been inconsistent, either. And he puts a lot of that on himself, the staff and the players.

“When he gets a look, he makes them,” Self said of Moss. “But when he doesn’t get a look, he doesn’t get them off. We’ve got to do a better job with that.”

And the Jayhawks need consistent contributions from Dotson and Agbaji in order to stretch the floor and get the most out of their 3-point shooting, while the coaches figure out how much they can rely on another possible floor spacer, freshman wing Christian Braun, who is only averaging 8.6 minutes a game at this point.

Dayton had the perfect type of personnel to test KU’s 3-point shooting defense. But in six other games, KU opponents are a combined 45-for-161 (28%) from long range.

As work continues on that end of the floor, it’s not realistic to expect the Jayhawks to become a great 3-point shooting team this season — even if they do get Moss going. At this early stage of the season, they’re averaging exactly seven makes a game on 19.6 attempts (35.8%).

“We’re not going to make 10 a game,” predicted Self, who knows the shooting abilities of his players better than anyone. “We might have some games where we make 10, but I still think we can average seven 3s a game — I think that’s basically what we’re averaging now. We’ve had two games where we’ve made 22 combined, so it’s a little misleading.”

KU also went 1-for-14 from distance in a win over East Tennessee State this season. So it’s hard to tell going into any contest what the Jayhawks will get out of the 3-point line.

It would seem many opponents this season will invite KU to try to beat them from outside as a tradeoff for taking away Azubuike inside. As Self referenced, the Jayhawks need to unleash Moss in those situations. Once he becomes a dependable scorer from outside, it will be easier for KU to play to its 3-point shooting ceiling — even if it’s one that isn’t too high.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 4 Kansas 90, Dayton 84 (OT)

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) shoots over Dayton forward Ryan Mikesell (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) shoots over Dayton forward Ryan Mikesell (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia) by Associated Press

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 90-84 overtime victory over Dayton on Wednesday in the Maui Invitational title game.

Offense: A-

• Everyone in KU’s rotation looked up for the challenge of going back and forth in an uptempo game against a very talented Dayton team, even though the foes were playing for the third time in three days. KU didn’t turn the ball over until nearly 12 minutes into the competitive final. But five empty possessions due to giveaways, as well as a stretch of five straight missed shots, in the minutes that followed kept the game close. Dayton led 37-36 at halftime.

• KU wisely used the paint to its advantage against a Dayton team without much of an interior defensive presence. The Jayhawks’ bigs and guards alike converted inside throughout the first half, when KU scored 20 of its 36 points on layups and dunks.

• The Jayhawks shot 56% from the floor, went 4-for-11 from 3-point range, and finished with 52 points in the paint.

Defense: B-

• When Obi Toppin, the Maui Invitational’s breakout star, took his first breather 7 minutes into the championship game, he hadn’t scored or even taken a shot. That matchup and how KU’s stronger wings defended Dayton’s star big man — too talented on the perimeter for KU’s bigs to check him defensively out there — would go a long way in determining the game’s outcome.

KU kept Toppin without a field goal attempt until the 5:45 mark of the first half, when he rushed a 3-point try. With KU regularly doubling Dayton’s best player on the catch anywhere near the paint, Dayton had to rely on its role players.

Toppin finally got used to the defensive look late in the first half, scoring 7 points in the final 5 minutes before the break. He finished with 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting and 9 rebounds.

• Dayton’s lineup of capable 3-point shooters proved to be a problem immediately for KU. The Flyers knocked down each of their first 5 attempts from deep. They shot 8-for-18 on 3-pointers in the first half, helping them enter the break up 1 point.

Jalen Crutcher tied the game at 73 with Dayton’s 15th 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation. They made just 1 more in OT, finishing 16 of 33.

• Throwing a half-court zone at Dayton in the second half caught the Flyers off guard for a few minutes. But the Flyers recovered a few minutes after a timeout, and found open 3-pointers to knock down, building a 63-58 lead.

Frontcourt: B+

• The slow start that has plagued Udoka Azubuike at times this season wasn’t a problem in the tournament’s title game. The 7-footer checked out with 7-plus minutes left in the first half, due to a second foul call on him, with 9 points.

Azubuike missed a couple of good looks on jump hooks near the midway point of the second half, but the big man barely had any other issues when he caught the ball inside and went 12-for-15 in the paint.

KU played through its big man in crunch time with a high profile tournament crown up for grabs. Azubuike dominated in the post in overtime in particular, in perhaps the best game of his career (29 points, 3 rebounds, 4 blocks).

When KU had to get a stop in the final 30 seconds of regulation, it was Azubuike who protected the rim after getting beat off the bounce for a swat that might have saved the game.

• David McCormack had some similar opportunities to Azubuike in the first half but couldn’t find more than one basket in the first half.

One of McCormack’s better plays came in the second half while defending on the perimeter and coming away with a steal, leading to a timely layup, with Dayton up 8 before the turnover.

Backcourt: B+

• Two quick whistles against Marcus Garrett in the first half threatened to undermine KU’s chances against the talented Flyers, especially since Garrett was guarding Toppin. But Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji were up for the job of keeping Kansas in a rhythm. Dotson continued his Maui trend of blowing by defenders off the bounce and Agbaji defended Toppin when Garrett sat.

Although the junior guard came out aggressive offensively in the second half, twice driving for layups, he also committed two fouls, giving him 4 with more than 18 minutes to play.

Garrett returned with 8 minutes left and went back to attacking and rebounding. He also made it easy for Azubuike to find him for a game-tying layup late by flashing to the opposite block when the center got doubled. Then Garrett fed Azubuike for a go-ahead, and-one bucket inside that put KU up 3.

A ridiculous reverse layup off the bounce from Garrett (18 points, 7 rebounds) gave KU a 5-point lead in the final minute of OT.

• Dotson didn’t mind putting the entire team on his back as the Jayhawks aimed to bring a Maui title home with them on Thanksgiving Eve. The too-fast sophomore point guard blew by Dayton defenders to seek out lay-ins and trips to the foul line, making him a highly efficient scorer in a high stakes game.

Scoring a career-high 31 points, Dotson’s confidence with the ball in his hands kept the Jayhawks from buckling whenever Dayton got hot. And his 5 steals, 4 assists and 6 rebounds made for an impressive outing for the guard.

• The major knock against Agbaji was his shooting in the first half, when he went 1-for-7 and missed three 3-pointers. His work on the glass and as a passer and defender kept him on the floor and in his coaches’ good graces, even if he took a couple ill-advised shots.

Bench: C

• The Flyers’ bench sprinted out of the gates, looking far more productive than KU’s, with 15 first-half points, to KU’s 0. Isaiah Moss didn’t get up a shot in 15 first-half minutes. Silvio De Sousa committed an offensive foul/turnover shortly after checking in.

Dayton’s subs outscored KU’s 23-3.

• Tristan Enaruna got a chance to contribute in an intense second half, after Garrett’s foul troubles made playing the freshman wing a must. He scored his first basket on a 3-pointer and at times spelled Agabji as the defender on Toppin.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 4 Kansas 71, BYU 56

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) goes up for a shot over BYU forward Dalton Nixon (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) goes up for a shot over BYU forward Dalton Nixon (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia) by Associated Press

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 71-56 win over BYU on Tuesday at the Maui Invitational.

Offense: B-

• An ugly first-half stretch for the Jayhawks’ offense kept the semifinal tight during the opening 20 minutes. KU missed 8 shots in a row and went close to 6 minutes without scoring during one stretch.

Even though KU had the bigs to potentially outmatch BYU inside, the Cougars often made it difficult for the Jayhawks to get the ball in their post players’ hands. So points were hard to come by as KU shot 2-for-9 on 3-pointers in the first half and only attempted three free throws.

• The high-percentage looks for KU increased in the second half, and the Jayhawks’ passing influenced that shift. Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack and Udoka Azubuike each dished an assist as KU opened the second half 7-for-10 from the floor.

KU shot 53.1% from the field in the second half and only turned the ball over 4 times in the final 20 minutes to pull away.

Defense: B+

• The importance of KU’s defensive work outside the 3-point line became evident quickly versus BYU, with the Cougars getting up 5 3-pointers in the first 5 minutes. BYU routinely worked the ball around to seek out open looks and the Cougars showed no hesitation to fire away when they found an open man.

BYU went 3-for-9 in the opening 10 minutes, and KU was fortunate that some of the Cougars’ good looks didn’t fall. The Jayhawks spent the better part of the next several minutes limiting BYU’s 3-point opportunities. But a late half flurry — 2-for-5 in the 3 minutes leading up to halftime — cut into KU’s lead.

The Cougars shot 5-for-17 from deep in the first half (29.4%) and 38.5% from the floor.

• BYU missed its first 10 3-point tries in the second half, as KU got out to a comfortable lead. Some were open, on some KU’s defense deserved at least a little credit for the shots not falling. The Cougars only made 9 of 33 (27.3%) from long range in the loss.

• Even though much of the BYU offense is built around back cuts and passing, the Cougars turned the ball over 20 times and scored just 18 points in the paint.

Frontcourt: B

• KU only got two made shots at the rim apiece out of its biggest players, Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack in the first half.

The Jayhawks made sure to change that in the second half, with layups and dunks from the two bigs helping KU build its first double-digit lead.

• McCormack found a rhythm as a scorer, putting up a team-high 16 points, while showing some touch as KU advanced to the Maui Invitational final and a matchup with Dayton.

Backcourt: B-

• Ochai Agbaji did much more than put up points (14), but the sophomore did a bulk of that work, too, in a low-scoring game.

Agbaji’s rebounding and passing came in handy, but so did his his hustle.

• Devon Dotson (13 points, 5-for-16 shooting) took it right at the BYU defense off the bounce early, proving his handles and speed in the open court could be a problem for the Cougars. But some missed layups by the point guard kept him from destroying BYU the way it seemed he might.

Even so, Dotson had one of his better distributing nights, racking up 8 assists.

• Marcus Garrett’s workmanlike approach to the opening minutes of the second half allowed KU to build its biggest lead of the game up to that point, before the first media timeout. Garrett’s passing, driving, defense and even a 3-pointer turned a tie game into a 38-31 KU lead.

Bench: C-

• With Isaiah Moss off offensively, KU got little production from its subs. Moss knocked down his first attempt, a 3, of course, in rhythm but couldn’t replicate that moving forward. He finished the win shooting 2-for-8 from the floor.

Still, Moss is a good fit for the KU offense’s spacing and flow, and the Jayhawks’ lead grew when he was on the floor.

• Silvio De Sousa barely played until the game was all but over (3 minutes).

Tristan Enaruna wasn’t creating as much as he can offensively.

Moss (5 points) was the only member of the bench who had scored much of the night. But Christian Braun finished an alley-oop pass on a break from Dotson in the final minutes and Enaruna hit 3 of 4 free throws.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 4 Kansas 93, Chaminade 63

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) tries to get past Chaminade guard Telly Davenport (5) during an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) tries to get past Chaminade guard Telly Davenport (5) during an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia) by Associated Press

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 93-63 win over Chaminade on Monday at the Maui Invitational.

Offense: A-

• Down 5-0 early to de facto host Chaminade, the Jayhawks regrouped quickly enough, taking their first lead on their first made 3-pointer, 10-7, from Ochai Agbaji, who had been in a noted slump.

That shot seemed to ignite the Jayhawks and/or loosen them up, with an Isaiah Moss triple to follow. Devon Dotson connected on a 3 of his own shortly after amid a 17-0 outburst.

• The Jayhawks spent most of the night — afternoon if you’re on island time —dominating the way they should in this type of matchup. They shot 55% from the floor, helped greatly by their 50 points in the paint and 36 points off turnovers.

• KU handled the Swords’ half-court zone defenses well, with patience and passing leading to high percentage looks.

• Kansas proved more than reliable from 3-point range, going 12-for-29.

Defense: B

• KU’s defense wasn’t great early, but good enough to keep its opponent from playing cleanly. Chaminade helped the Jayhawks build a comfortable first half lead by turning the ball over far too often. KU got credit for 5 first half steals but the Silverswords turned it over 16 times in the first 20 minutes.

When Chaminade was actually taking care of the ball, its guards were driving and getting more layups than Bill Self would like to see. Chaminade shot 48% from the floor in the first half — but KU led 47-27 at the break.

• The Swords finished with 27 turnovers and shot 7-for-21 on 3-pointers.

Frontcourt: B-

• Even though KU had the obvious size advantage inside with Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack, neither played particularly well in the first half against the Silverswords’ mostly perimeter-based lineup. Azubuike checked out with nearly 13 minutes left in the first half and wouldn’t return until after intermission. He turned the ball over twice, fouled twice and didn’t attempt a field goal in 7 first-half minutes.

The 7-footer came out intent on doing much more with his time on the floor in the second half, with a pair of layups and two overpowering dunks in the the first 7 minutes, en route to 15 points.

• McCormack only played 8 minutes in the first half, with one offensive rebound and a couple of buckets being his largest contributions.

He would have a much more emphatic attack of the offensive glass as KU was rolling late in the second half, and his two-handed follow rattled the backboard. Within a few minutes he added two more baskets inside, getting him to double digits for the game.

Backcourt: B

• KU guards Dotson and Marcus Garrett helped get the heavy favorite out in front, as they did a good job of attacking the paint early, combining for five of the team’s first six successful trips to the rim.

Dotson’s speed meant he kept getting layups and he could have gotten more if KU needed them.

• Ochai Agbaji's shooting slump didn't travel to Maui. The sophomore shot 3 of 5 from deep in the first half, a good sign for sure, even if all 11 of his points came before halftime.

• Garrett was a distributor (7 assists) and disruptor 4xx steals) continuing to shine as an ideal role player.

• KU’s guards stood out in the first half and then gladly let the bigs take the spotlight in the second half as KU cruised.

Bench: B

• Once Moss joined the fray in the first half, KU began to roll. His shooting made him an ideal floor spacer for the offense and the Jayhawks took off once they went away from their two-big look.

Moss provided 13 points off the bench and drained 3 of his 4 3-pointers.

• Tristan Enaruna was off the mark much of the game, starting 0-for-5 from the floor before knocking in KU’s 11th 3-pointer of the rout. The freshman again made himself valuable with his passing and defense, though, regardless of his shot outcomes.

• Silvio De Sousa’s minutes were limited. He scored all 4 of his points in the first half.

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KU bigs David McCormack and Silvio De Sousa grinding for starting spot

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) turns for a shot during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) turns for a shot during the second half on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One spot in the Kansas basketball team’s starting lineup is subject to change. For now.

It’s mostly been David McCormack occupying the position up front, next to Udoka Azubuike, for the No. 4 Jayhawks. However, Bill Self isn’t opposed to going with Silvio De Sousa in his two-big starting lineup either.

A few weeks into the season, McCormack has started three games and De Sousa one as Self figures it out. But the coach said during his weekly press conference on Thursday he’d prefer to have the matter resolved rather than keep switching back and forth.

“I’ve always thought our best teams we all knew who was starting and who was coming off,” Self said. “I would think that that would be the case.”

Almost thinking out loud about the merits of both McCormack, a 6-foot-10, 265-pound sophomore, and De Sousa, a 6-9, 250 junior, Self remarked that McCormack has been the better of the two overall a mere four games into the season.

“But the way the game ended the other day,” Self went on, providing a counterpoint to his previous statement, “Silvio helped us win. And what he did defensively maybe nobody else on our team can do quite as well as what he does, what he did.”

De Sousa played the final 5:44 of KU’s win over East Tennessee State earlier this week, coming up with a steal, two blocks and a defensive rebound, as well as three baskets in the paint, as KU’s lead improved from 5 when he checked in to 12 by the final buzzer. De Sousa finished with 8 points and a rebound in 9 minutes off the bench.

That same night, McCormack, who twice this season has led KU in rebounds — 13 versus Duke and 11 adjacent Monmouth — only played 12 minutes and contributed 4 points and 3 rebounds as the starter.

“I really don’t have a preference,” Self said of which of the two bigs starts, adding he would see how practices go in the days leading up to the Maui Invitational before deciding which big would open KU’s next game on the court. “You know, it’s coach speak: it doesn’t matter who starts, it’s who finishes. But I know players don’t necessarily buy into that 100%, nor really should they — though I know it is important to some.”

The good news for Self, as well as the Jayhawks, is that it’s hard imagining two players better suited to handle this situation than McCormack and De Sousa. Their off-court personalities are similarly good natured and they both are high-energy competitors when they’re on the floor, making them uniquely equipped to keep battling for playing time without griping or second-guessing.

“They’re great teammates, great guys,” KU sophomore point guard Devon Dotson said. “Unbelievable personalities.”

This Kansas team has a minutes crunch up front, because Self isn’t playing two big men exclusively, even though that’s how every game so far has begun. For long stretches, the Jayhawks roll with four guards and one big. And most of the time that one big man is Azubuike, the 7-footer with the career 74.6% field goal percentage.

“It’s been a grind for those two,” sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji said while praising McCormack and De Sousa. “They have great attitudes every game. Having that when they don’t have the opportunity to play (as much as they’d like) is always good for our team.”

Self said both McCormack and De Sousa “deserve” to play more. So far this season McCormack is averaging 16.7 minutes while De Sousa has only played 11.1 minutes a game.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) comes in for a jam off a lob from Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) during the first half on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) comes in for a jam off a lob from Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) during the first half on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

“But so much of it’s going to come down when you look at it to just a skill set and size standpoint, what we do well may not be exactly in line with what the other teams do well,” Self said of the four-guard KU lineups that eat into potential minutes for the two bigs in question. “So it will be game to game in many situations.”

McCormack might be the team’s best rebounder. De Sousa might be the best offensive rebounder and shot blocker — though none of KU’s three bigs plays like a true rim protector. Both can run the floor, bruise opposing frontcourt players and deliver the type of energy that can swing games.

That shouldn’t change when Self ultimately decides to start one over the other. If all goes according to plan, they can even be interchangeable energy players whenever needed. Their coach even likes the idea of being able to use playing time as a motivator for both.

“The reality of it is I think it does put an extra oomph in them when they get out there, knowing that if it doesn’t go great then somebody else probably can sub in,” Self said. “And if they play well it may limit your future opportunities, at least in that particular game.”

It’s easy to envision both McCormack and De Sousa as a starter or an ideal reserve big man. When one of them becomes the official owner of a starting position, the other shouldn’t feel neglected.

“I hope they both know that I see them as both being starters,” Self said. “As far as I’m concerned we’ve got six. And I hope they view it that way, as well.”

Whether it’s McCormack or De Sousa who locks down the starting spot, it’s a non-issue for Kansas. The Jayhawks will be fortunate to have one of them as a backup.

De Sousa might be perfect for the sixth man role. Flying for alley-oops, battling for offensive rebounds and bringing activity to the defensive end of the court makes De Sousa the type of player you can count on to bring some punch to the floor, and that’s a difficult commodity to find in college basketball.

The more De Sousa plays with the type of liveliness he showed in crunch time versus East Tennessee State, the more his minutes will go up, too, even as a reserve.

De Sousa Game Log
School Opponent   GS MP FG FGA FT FTA ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
KansasDukeL070234314010313
KansasUNC GreensboroW060300112001000
KansasMonmouthW12248243360011411
KansasETSUW084400011013138
1438175876130255822
McCormack Game Log
School Opponent   GS MP FG FGA FT FTA ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
KansasDukeL129272431013121346
KansasUNC GreensboroW1111200224000102
KansasMonmouthW016783438114010317
KansasETSUW1122500123101014
368122258922316234829
Reply 2 comments from Kall3742 Barry Weiss

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