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Trials and tribulations piling up for Jayhawks this season

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets heated after a call agains the Jayhawks during the second half, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets heated after a call agains the Jayhawks during the second half, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Perhaps because he’s spent so much of this season in college basketball’s version of crisis management mode, Bill Self on Friday afternoon turned one question about the at times tedious nature of a season into a nearly 3-minute long public service announcement about the state of the Kansas basketball team.

Whether it was the Jayhawks’ four losses in their last six games (with all the defeats coming on the road), dealing with another injury to a starter, having a senior guard take a leave of absence in February, or, you know, the whole Silvio De Sousa fiasco that had him revved up, Self’s state of mind during an otherwise typical media session fueled a monologue.

In his career, Self was asked outside the locker room in Allen Fieldhouse, when he has sensed that basketball has become tedious to his players, how does he help them recapture “the joy?”

“It happens with every team. And I think that’s kind of an unfair question, because you’re stating it right after losses, and that’s when everything is magnified,” Self began in his response. “Positively it can be magnified if you win and negatively it can be magnified if you don’t. And 50 percent of the teams that play each and every night lose. So the whole thing is you can’t let things become situations because of disappointment in a short-term deal. Is it hard to get players to understand that and do that? Absolutely. We haven’t experienced that a lot here. But it is a situation where all teams go through something — they all go through something.”

The trials and tribulations seem to keep piling up on the perennial Big 12 champions this season, Self’s 16th at KU.

From the significant fallout to De Sousa’s recruitment, to Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending wrist injury, to Marcus Garrett’s less serious ankle injury that is expected to keep him out yet again as the Jayhawks play host to Oklahoma State, to Lagerald Vick’s out of the blue leave of absence, there have been no shortage of pitfalls in the chase for the program’s 15th consecutive conference title.

By the way, don’t even bring that up. Not right now anyway.

“It’s not right to talk about the league race, because right now we’re not even in the league race — at least the way I see it,” Self said. “Until we start, you know, doing some things to create some positive energy and wins moving forward, because there’s so little margin for error.”

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) reacts after being called for a charge during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) reacts after being called for a charge during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

No. 13 KU (17-6 overall, 6-4 Big 12) enters the weekend sitting 1.5 games behind the Big 12’s current leader, Kansas State, 1 game behind second-place Iowa State, a half-game behind third-place Baylor and tied for fourth with Texas Tech in the five-team jumble atop the standings.

A win against Oklahoma State (9-13, 2-7) is a must for the Jayhawks, but it won’t do anything to improve the national perception of this team. Kansas has dropped in the AP Top 25 each of the past four weeks, and next week will be no different, regardless of Saturday’s outcome.

The constant unrest that has characterized this season, Self wanted to remind everyone, has pushed KU out of college basketball’s upper echelon.

“The thing about it is that I don’t think people understand on the outside: we’re not the same team we were when we were preseason No. 1 in the country,” Self said. “I mean, we’re not. We’ve got four of our top seven players (Azubuike, Garrett, Vick, De Sousa), most talented players, who are not going to be in uniform tomorrow. So naturally we’re not the same team. So do we temper expectations? I’m not sure I buy into that. But we’ve also got to be a little bit realistic knowing that when you have less margin for error there’s a greater chance that something negative can happen, such as not winning the game.”

In KU’s current reality, which at least will get a boost when Garrett is able to return, perhaps in a week, a Big 12 title isn’t a foregone conclusion for a change. You can talk yourself into this being the year the streak ends as easily as you can that it will continue.

The challenge for Self, who said they can’t make excuses, will be getting the players to tighten up every aspect of what they do, what with those aforementioned slim margins.

And when KU inevitably endures another loss?

“You can’t approach the next day like it’s the end of the earth,” Self said, “because there’s a pretty good chance that could’ve happened anyway.”

It’s not as if, Self pointed out, KU has the personnel of the Boston Celtics. If he was coaching that type of talent, he would be more concerned about the team’s 1-5 road record.

“But we don’t have that right now,” he said. “And certainly you can’t hold the players accountable to a level that when the other team tries just as hard and they have all their pieces and they’re already just as good, something bad could potentially happen.”

Those negative outcomes have become a road-game trend for this team during what has been a tumultuous first few months to the season by KU basketball standards. The Jayhawks shouldn’t have much trouble getting another home win on Saturday. But until they start proving they can play with the type of consistency that has lacked throughout the season’s first 23 games, the ceiling for this team will keep looking lower and lower.

“In order to win games that are against good teams you have to play on that particular night, at that particular moment, on that particular possession,” Self said. “And we just haven’t been doing that enough.”

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 79, Texas Tech 63

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) is defended in the corner by Texas Tech forward Deshawn Corprew (3) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) is defended in the corner by Texas Tech forward Deshawn Corprew (3) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 79-63 win over Texas Tech on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B+

KU led by as many as 14 points in the first half, as the Jayhawks came out as locked in and driven as they’ve been all season.

They looked out of character offensively, too, the way they were draining 3-pointers. KU nailed 9 of 15 from deep in the first half, fueling a 46-26 lead at intermission for the perennial Big 12 champs.

The Jayhawks didn’t dominate the second half the way they did in the first. But their willingness to move the ball and set each other up with good looks (19 assists) made for a relatively easy victory against one of the league’s better teams.

Defense: B

The Red Raiders may not be known for their offense, but give KU’s defense credit for keeping the visitors well out of reach during a dominating first half.

The Jayhawks held one of the league’s elite talents, sophomore guard Jarrett Culver (10 points) to 4-for-11 shooting in the first half. And with their most talented player struggling — he was even called for a charge on an absurd dunk — the Red Raiders only made 30.3 percent of their first-half shots, finishing with only 26 points.

Tech’s offense never took off in the second half, either, and the Red Raiders never recovered from their difficult start to the afternoon.

Frontcourt: A-

The most skilled offensive player on KU’s roster, Dedric Lawson looked far more comfortable than he did during KU’s back-to-back road losses leading up to the matchup with Texas Tech.

Lawson had 16 points and 7 rebounds by halftime, and nailed all three of his 3-point tries in the first half.

The junior from Memphis spent much of the first half facing the hoop instead of with his back to the basket inside, and Tech’s defenders didn’t have much luck stopping him.

Some foul trouble early in the second half kept Lawson (25 points, 10 rebounds) from making his typical impact in the game’s final 20 minutes.

Backcourt: B+

Back in the starting lineup after a demotion at Texas, senior guard Lagerald Vick’s first-half outburst had as much to do with KU’s early separation and eventual victory as anything.

Vick (13 points, 3 for 4 on 3-pointers) buried all three of his 3-point attempts in the opening 11 minutes and he would have had a fourth had he not stepped on the arc on another try.

When Vick’s rolling, it really seems to fire up his teammates. And KU’s offense took off with Vick setting the pace.

Making the second start of his young career, Ochai Agbaji kept standing out with his competitive approach to everything he does on the court.

Agbaji’s efforts on defense are just as crucial to KU’s success as his scoring (10 points) and rebounding (10 boards).

Devon Dotson (20 points, 4 assists) proved once again he has the speed and tenacity to attack the paint and, even better, do so with the intention of kicking the ball out to teammates to create some offensive flow.

Even when his passes weren’t assists, the dishes were able to keep the ball moving and the defense working, as he drew Red Raiders toward the paint and then fired them to scramble back out. Plus, he gave KU much-needed scoring balance.

Freshman Quentin Grimes had more than 2 assists for the first time in Big 12 play, finishing with 4, and went 2 for 7 on 3-pointers to score 6 points.

Bench: C+

With Marcus Garrett out due to an ankle injury suffered during Friday’s practice, the Jayhawks’ rotation was even shorter than usual. So KU really needed whoever played to come in and not o any damage to the team’s chances against a strong Tech team.

Charlie Moore (2 points) benefited most from the open spot in the rotation, and he both assisted on a 3-pointer for fellow sub K.J. Lawson (3 points) and drove in for a layup during KU’s strong start to the first half.

Lineups featuring KU subs weren’t quite as impactful in the second half, especially when Tech did its best to make some runs and cut into the Jayhawks’ lead.

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Lagerald Vick could be ‘the factor’ in KU-Texas Tech showdown

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) pulls up for a three from the wing over Villanova guard Collin Gillespie (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) pulls up for a three from the wing over Villanova guard Collin Gillespie (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A starter in 18 of the season’s first 20 games, the most experienced player on the Kansas basketball roster was met with a demotion earlier this week.

Senior guard Lagerald Vick lost his starting job ahead of the Jayhawks’ trip to Texas. It wasn’t the first time his head coach removed Vick from the starting five. And it may not be the last.

At least for the moment, though, KU’s often unpredictable guard seems to be in as good a head space as one could hope. Bill Self indicated Friday afternoon, on the eve of his team’s home matchup with Texas Tech, that he has been satisfied with the veteran’s response since Self removed Vick from the starting five — at least for one game.

“He had a good day (Thursday) — his energy level was really good,” Self reported of KU’s first practice since losing at Texas, a game in which Vick played 23 minutes and scored 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting off the bench.

“And, you know, we need Lagerald to be good Lagerald, without question,” Self said with a grin, “because he can do some things offensively that’s better than anyone else on our team.”

Undeniably, Vick, a 6-foot-5 senior from Memphis who has played in 115 games and started 59, is KU’s best shooter. Entering Friday, the offensive-minded guard ranked 17th in the country in 3-point shooting, connecting on 45.3% of his 137 attempts.

When he’s draining shots, KU tends to benefit. Look at Vick’s splits in wins and losses:

• In KU’s 16 victories: Vick is shooting 50.5% from the floor and 49% on 3-pointers, and averaging 15.8 points, 2.2 assists and 2.6 turnovers.

• In KU’s five defeats: Vick is shooting 37% from the floor and 33.3% on 3-pointers, and averaging 10.6 points, 0.8 assists and 2.8 turnovers.

Sure, there have been instances when Vick was unproductive and KU still managed to win. But he hasn’t stood out offensively in any of KU’s losses, and shot 44.4% or worse from the floor in every one of them.

The Jayhawks’ offense hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders lately, with them losing three of their last four games. Self’s group needs all the help it can get, and the head coach understands how valuable a confident and productive Vick can be as he tries to navigate the team toward a more consistent and effective offense.

Vick’s worth isn’t lost on the teams trying to beat KU, either. The way Texas Tech coach Chris Beard spoke of Vick during his Thursday press conference, it seemed the No. 16 Red Raiders (17-4 overall, 5-3 Big 12) may be as concerned with shutting down KU’s mercurial shooting guard as they are with harassing go-to scorer Dedric Lawson.

A reporter asked Beard in Lubbock, Texas, ahead of the Red Raiders’ trek north, whether Vick may be the x-factor for No. 11 Kansas (16-5, 5-3) on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I think he is the factor. Not the x-factor,” Beard replied. “He’s one of the best 3-point shooters in college basketball. He’s an elite, NBA athlete. He makes plays on both sides of the court, specifically on defense with his ability to get steals and block shots with his quickness. He’s a great open-court player.”

That’s high praise from Beard, particularly considering Vick has yet to burn Tech with his shooting. The last time Vick faced Tech, in late February of his junior season, he played 39 minutes and contributed 2 points on 1-for-5 shooting, to go with one rebound, one block, two steals and a turnover.

In four career games versus the Red Raiders, Vick’s averaging 4.3 points on 27.2% shooting, with a 1-for-13 overall mark on 3-pointers, while averaging 31.3 minutes.

But Beard doesn’t see senior-year Vick (14.5 points per game, 45.3% 3-point shooting) as the same role player who struggled against Tech in the past.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) reacts after making a 3-point basket, in front of Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. Kansas defeated Tennessee 87-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) reacts after making a 3-point basket, in front of Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in New York. Kansas defeated Tennessee 87-81 in overtime. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger) by Associated Press

“I think he’s the latest example of Kansas’ player development, too. Last year, maybe their third or fourth shooting option; this year, maybe the best shooter in the league,” Beard offered. “Kansas gets a lot of credit and a lot of pub for their five-star recruiting and stuff like this. But their player development is some of the best in the country. Their guys get better. We saw that first-hand the last couple of years, with four-year players like (Devonte’) Graham and (Frank) Mason, and now we’re seeing it with Vick.”

Self hopes to see the optimal version of Vick reemerge in what should be a slugfest of a matchup with Texas Tech, one of the best defensive teams in the country. Big 12 opponents are averaging only 62.6 points per game and have hit just 29.5% of their 3-pointers against the Red Raiders.

A hot shooting hand on Vick could be the key to a Kansas victory.

“He can make hard shots,” Self said of one of Vick’s best qualities, “and certainly you’re not going to get a ton of wide-open shots against Tech, so that can be very important — having guys that can make semi-guarded shots. Because great shots are going to be few and far between.”

While Ochai Agbaji, the freshman who replaced Vick in the starting five at Texas, will remain a starter against Tech, Self said, there’s a chance Vick could regain his starting job, too. Self hinted Friday he “wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little bit of a mixup” to the starting unit versus Tech, “just to create some different mojo.”

Will Vick take freshman Quentin Grimes’ spot? Or does Self have something else up his sleeve?

Either way, Self seems to think KU will get the aforementioned “good Lagerald.” Either that or he was trying to speak it into existence.

“I think he’ll have a big game tomorrow. I do,” Self shared. “I’m excited for him. And I’m excited for us to get out there.”

Reply 6 comments from Surrealku Roger Ortega Dirk Medema Jhawki78 Creg Bohrer

KU 3-point marksman Lagerald Vick trending upward once again

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) celebrates after making a shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 80-78. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) celebrates after making a shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas won 80-78. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Whether it proves to be a two-game solar flare or the type of burst that can keep his right shooting hand comfortable and confident the remainder of the season, there is no denying that Lagerald Vick is on an upswing.

After opening Big 12 play by connecting on 6 of his 20 3-point attempts as Kansas got off to a 2-1 start, the Jayhawks’ pre-eminent marksman began feeling it again this past Saturday at Baylor. Vick nailed 6 of 8 from behind the arc on his 22nd birthday and his game-high 18 points vaulted him into 1,000-point territory for his career.

More importantly for the Jayhawks, whose 35.5 percent 3-point accuracy on the season ranked 130th nationally entering Wednesday, Vick didn’t fall off versus Texas. The 6-foot-5 guard from Memphis buried 5 of 8 from downtown on Big Monday, again leading KU in scoring, with 21 points.

Vick’s 11-for-16 accuracy in two more victories was a welcome development for KU (15-2 overall, 4-1 Big 12), because the roster isn’t exactly teeming with deep threats. And even though Vick is shooting a blistering 47 percent on 3-pointers on the season, he just emerged from what felt like a worrisome five-game lull.

As KU went 3-2 from Dec. 22 to Jan. 9, Vick, who averages 15.2 points per game, twice scored 6 or fewer points, and during those five games, shot 9 for 36 from 3-point range.

Not coincidentally, the Jayhawks went through their roughest 3-point shooting stretch to date as Vick’s productivity from behind the arc dipped. KU connected on no better than 33.3 percent of its 3-pointers during those five games:

• at Arizona State: 7 for 28 (25 percent)

• Eastern Michigan: 7 for 21 (33.3 percent)

• Oklahoma: 4 for 21 (19 percent)

• at Iowa State: 6 for 20 (30 percent)

• TCU: 5 for 21 (23.8 percent)

According to Vick, he and his teammates didn’t get too discouraged when their outside shots were misfiring.

“You’ve got to just keep shooting. They’ll eventually start falling,” Vick said after KU knocked down 11 of 22 against the Longhorns, two days after the team’s 9-for-16 showing at Baylor. “We’ve got a lot of guards that we can throw (out there) that shoot the ball pretty good.”

The only other time that KU dipped below its season average of 35.5 percent 3-point accuracy for at least two games in a row, Vick wasn’t exactly on fire. That’s no fault of his, either. It’s unreasonable to expect even the purest shooter to go through a five-month season without experiencing some peaks and valleys.

Vick went 0 for 2 and scoreless against Wofford, 1 for 3 with 5 points versus New Mexico State and a respectable 3 for 8 while otherwise torching Villanova for 29 points. He made 38.5 percent of his 3’s during those three games. Not bad at all.

Here are KU’s long-distance numbers from that three-game dip:

• Wofford: 3 for 23 (13 percent)

• New Mexico State: 7 for 21 (33.3 percent)

• Villanova: 5 for 15 (33.3 percent)

Having accounted for 54 of KU’s 120 3-pointers through 17 games, Vick averages 3.2 makes a game from distance, on 6.8 attempts. Freshman Quentin Grimes is the only other Jayhawk averaging more than one made 3-pointer a game (1.2), and Grimes is hitting just 30.3 percent from deep up to this point.

Vick’s easily KU’s best long-range threat. And opponents are very aware of that fact. The senior shooting guard admitted it can be difficult when defenses are strategizing to slow him down as a shotmaker.

“Yeah, definitely. Different role, people playing me different from the past years,” Vick said.

His head coach, Bill Self, downplayed the notion that increased attention from opponents had much to do with Vick’s recent lulls.

“That’s sports,” Self said. “You can ask James Harden the next game when he makes six 3’s, ‘What was different?’ He’ll tell you, ‘Nothing.’ So I don’t think there’s anything that’s a lot different going on.”

When Vick starts rolling, it invigorates the rest of the Jayhawks around him. And his post-3 celebrations have become a regular ingredient of KU victories.

“I have fun, regardless,” Vick said, when asked of those moments when he lets his guard down and revels in his on-court successes.

His coach doesn’t mind those occasions, either, because Self realizes how much Vick’s 3-point shooting means to this team.

Even better for both the Jayhawks and their sharpshooter, Self also has spotted Vick handling his role with more poise lately, and adjusting when defenses key in on taking away his bread and butter.

“I do think his shot selection is better. When he doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well and he can’t get off a good look, he’ll force some shots. And I thought (versus Texas) he only took maybe one that was marginal,” Self said. “The other ones were pretty good looks.”

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Jayhawks should learn from late-game missteps in win over Texas

Kansas head coach Bill Self cheers on his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas head coach Bill Self cheers on his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

What was once a 10-point Kansas basketball lead shrunk to a single point Monday night when Texas guard Courtney Ramey drained an open transition 3-pointer with just nine seconds to go in the second half.

The Jayhawks knew what would come next — a Longhorns foul to stop the clock and send KU to the foul line. If Kansas couldn’t respond with two made free throws, UT could have a chance to tie or win the game before the buzzer sounded at Allen Fieldhouse.

Even though the Jayhawks survived for an 80-78 victory, what followed proved to be a valuable teaching moment for a team that’s relatively inexperienced in late-game, pressure situations.

Kansas coach Bill Self reminded Ochai Agbaji during a timeout at the 0:13 mark that the freshman guard needed to take the ball out if UT scored. Agbaji followed Self’s command after Ramey’s 3-pointer splashed the net and cut the home team’s lead to 79-78.

Ideally, Agbaji would have found KU’s best free-throw shooter, Devon Dotson (77.9%) in that situation. Instead, sophomore Marcus Garrett (61.2% at the foul line this season and 55% for his career) ended up taking the pass, which is exactly what the Longhorns wanted.

Garrett, though experiencing a career night offensively, was 0 for 2 at the charity stripe when he toed the line with 8.6 seconds remaining. To his credit, Garrett made the second of his potentially stressful attempts after missing his first, meaning UT would need a 3 to win instead of a 2.

Still, Self and his staff would have preferred to see the Jayhawks handle the sequence differently. And the lack of execution didn’t fall on the shoulders of Agbaji, playing in just his third college basketball game.

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“We’d like to get the ball to Devon, but we didn’t do it,” Self said during his postgame press conference, when asked which Jayhawk he would want going to the free-throw line. “We’re not experienced enough to know with our guys. Ochai’s out there taking the ball inbounds and Devon’s a young guy. Obviously, in that situation you’ve got to get the ball inbounds. And I didn’t want to use our last timeout unless we had to.”

They may not have to worry about what to do with sub-40% free-throw shooter Udoka Azubuike in such situations anymore, but the Jayhawks do have to make sure they get the ball into the hands of the right player.

When Agbaji took the ball out of bounds, his possible targets were Garrett, Dotson (who was 3 for 4 at the foul line) and senior Lagerald Vick (who was 2 for 2 with 21 points). Dedric Lawson (who had made 3 of 4 freebies in the final 2:05 but missed one just before Ramey’s 3) headed toward the frontcourt, taking his defender with him and creating more space for KU’s guards to get open in the process.

Kerwin Roach stuck with Vick on the right side of the floor, Ramey did his best to deny Dotson on the left, closer to Agbaji, and UT defender Jase Febres allowed Garrett to flash toward the baseline and catch Agbaji’s pass so he could immediately foul a below-average free-throw shooter.

“Ochai’s gotta probably be smarter knowing who to get it to,” Self said. “But if (Garrett’s) the only guy open, that’s who you throw it to. I would put that on Devon and Lagerald for not working hard enough to get open as much as anything else.”

The No. 7 Jayhawks (15-2 overall, 4-1 Big 12) avoided a pitfall in crunch time. But just barely. Febres got off a 3 that would have won the game, had his shot fallen just before the buzzer.

You can bet the next time there are some must-have free throws in play, Agbaji or any other KU player making the inbounds pass will know where the ball needs to go. And either Dotson (a 77.9% shooter) or Lawson (74.5%) will likely be the Jayhawks making sure they get open.

Jayhawks’ free-throw shooting

(through 17 games)

Devon Dotson - 53 of 68 (77.9%)

Dedric Lawson - 82 of 110 (74.5%)

Charlie Moore - 10 of 14 (71.4%)

K.J. Lawson - 12 of 17 (70.6%)

Lagerald Vick - 16 of 23 (69.6%)

Quentin Grimes - 22 of 34 (64.7%)

Marcus Garrett - 30 of 49 (61.2%)

Mitch Lightfoot - 6 of 12 (50%)

David McCormack - 5 of 10 (50%)

Ochai Agbaji - 1 of 2 (50%)

Reply 5 comments from Cassadys Barry Weiss Garry Wright Phil Leister Nick Kramer

Postgame Report Card: Kansas 80, Texas 78

Texas guard Courtney Ramey (3) and Kansas guard Marcus Garrett chase a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Texas guard Courtney Ramey (3) and Kansas guard Marcus Garrett chase a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 14, 2019, in Lawrence, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 80-78 win over Texas on Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B+

The Jayhawks rarely look so good shooting from 3-point range and taking care of the ball on the same night as they did versus Texas.

Not only did KU hit double-digit 3-pointers for just the third time this season, going 11 of 21, but they only gave the ball away 4 times in 40 minutes, while finishing with 14 assists on 29-for-54 shooting (53.7%) from the field.

The primary knock against the Jayhawks this night was their performance at the foul line, where they connected on only 11 of 21.

Defense: C-

The Longhorns were nearly as effective offensively as the perennial Big 12 champs.

KU couldn’t put away Texas in either half because its defenders kept letting the Longhorns loose, especially behind the arc.

UT hit 13 of 34 from deep in its two-point loss. The Longhorns only turned the ball over 6 times and hit 42% of their shots overall.

Frontcourt: C+

Dedric Lawson was more effective on the glass versus UT than he was two days earlier at Baylor, leading the Jayhawks with 8 rebounds this time around. But Texas won the battle of the boards, 38-31.

And though Lawson’s 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting didn’t qualify as one of his more dominant outings, the junior was efficient in his 26 minutes (the relatively low playing time a result of some early foul issues).

Most importantly for KU, Lawson made a point to exert himself offensively in crunch time, scoring three layups in the final five minutes of the narrow win.

On the other end of the court, his interior defense didn’t hold up consistently, and Dylan Osetkowski at times was able to score over Lawson with ease.

Backcourt: B+

Where on earth did that Marcus Garret outing come from? The sophomore was more assertive offensively against the Longhorns than he ever has looked in a KU uniform. His approach resulted in a 20-point night that included a 3-for-4 performance from downtown. Not to mention Garrett’s 3 assists, 1 block and 3 steals in 35 minutes. And an absolutely critical held ball tie-up in crunch time.

Lagerald Vick not only stayed hot from long range, draining 5 of 8 on the way to 21 points, but also distributed 4 assists.

Steady Devon Dotson, like Vick, didn’t turn the ball over once, while scoring 10 points, dishing 5 assists and making 1 of 2 from 3-point range.

Though Quentin Grimes opened the night by firing and burying a 3, he didn’t contribute a great deal afterward, finishing with 6 points (2 of 5 from deep) in 29 minutes.

Bench: C-

For once, Ochai Agbaji looked more like a true freshman a week into his career than a veteran. Even so, Agbaji accounted for 4 of the team’s 6 bench points and 1 of his 2 assists setup Lawson for a late-game layup in a tight affair. The freshman guard chipped in 4 rebounds, as well.

Freshman big David McCormack scored the other basket for KU’s substitutes and played with energy and power for a brief stretch of the second half. McCormick provided 4 boards in 8 minutes.

UT’s subs outscored KU’s 24-6.

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 73, Baylor 68

Baylor guard Jared Butler (12) shoots over Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Waco, Texas.

Baylor guard Jared Butler (12) shoots over Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Waco, Texas. by AP Photo/Jerry Larson

Waco, Texas — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 73-68 win over Baylor on Saturday at Ferrell Center.

Offense: C+

The Baylor defense, once it started sticking with its zone more consistently after rotating in some man-to-man in the opening minutes, was able to slow down the Jayhawks’ offensive flow in the first half.

An 18-2 Kansas lead in the first half didn’t stick, as the Jayhawks struggled for a stretch late, making only 1 of 7 shots from the floor and coughing the ball up four times during that same span.

Knocking down 5 of 10 3-pointers in the first half helped salvage the offense, particularly just ahead of halftime, when Lagerald Vick hit 2 and Ochai Agbagi made another from downtown. KU hit 48.1% of its first-half shots overall.

That recovery seemed to fuel the Jayhawks, and with Dedric Lawson and Vick providing most of the second-half offense, the Jayhawks began pulling away from the Bears.

KU had issues closing out what should have been an easy victory, though, allowing a 23-point lead with 6:28 left to shrink to 4 in the final minute.

KU shooting totals: 54.5% FGs, 56.3% 3’s, 59.3% FTs.

Defense: B-

BU struggled mightily for the first several minutes of the matinee, as the Jayhawks stayed active inside the paint and on the perimeter, repeatedly forcing the Bears into mistakes and/or bad shots.

Baylor missed its first 15 attempts of the game, with 6 of those misses going down as the result of KU blocked shots. BU turned the ball over 4 times before scoring its first basket, as well.

KU got out to an 18-2 lead before Mark Vital scored on an offensive rebound more than 10 minutes into the game.

The Bears recovered shortly after and finished the first half down 35-25, after shooting 32.1% from the floor prior to intermission.

Though Baylor entered the second half down 10, the home team struggled to find any consistent scoring sources against the Jayhawks.

KU finished with 11 blocks, 6 steals and held BU to 33.3% shooting, despite a rough couple of minutes to close it out, when the Jayhawks clearly took their foot off the gas, feeling overly confident that the game was over.

Frontcourt: C+

While all three of KU’s bigs played (even before halftime), it was Dedric Lawson, of course, who was asked to do the bulk of the work.

Sometimes the Bears bothered KU’s go-to scorer, but he didn’t let those instances get in his head. When he was able to carve out space and operate, Lawson looked as smooth as ever.

As usual, his presence and the attention he demands from defenders — particularly within a zone — benefited the Jayhawks around him.

Lawson (17 points, 3 rebounds) put forth a solid defensive outing, as well, showing progress on the interior. Lawson altered or got his hand on shots in the paint fairly routinely, keeping BU from taking control of the paint.

Backcourt: B-

Coming off an 0-for-6 game versus TCU, Devon Dotson bounced back nicely. Dotson often was assertive with the ball in his hands when he spotted an angle that allowed him to speed past a BU defender. Dotson finished with 14 points and 5 assists.

Quentin Grimes (7 points) missed his first 4 shot attempts at BU, but even before he got one to fall he competed by diving on the floor for 50-50 balls and kept the ball moving versus the Bears’ zone defense in the half court.

KU’s ultra glue guy, Marcus Garrett (4 points) provided the perimeter defense the Jayhawks need from him, and grabbed 3 rebounds and dished 4 assists along the way.

Senior Lagerald Vick delivered one of his better shooting performances in a while, knocking in 6 of 8 3-pointers and scoring 18 points.

Bench: B-

New sixth man Ochai Agbaji (10 points) once again provided KU with some punch off the bench in his first college road game.

Not only did his athleticism and effort come in handy defensively, but Agbaji proved to be one of the few Jayhawks able to play above the rim. Shortly after coming off the bench in the first half, Agbaji used a Mitch Lightfoot screen and Devon Dotson lob to soar for a two-handed jam.

Bill Self didn’t look to his other substitutes much, and Lightfoot missed much of the second half after getting hit in the mouth.

Baylor’s bench outscored KU’s 24-13, with most of those Bears points coming in the game’s final minutes.

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Postgame Report Card: Iowa State 77, Kansas 60

Iowa State's Talen Horton-Tucker, right, and Nick Weiler-Babb, left, fight for the ball with Kansas' Dedric Lawson, (1) and Quentin Grimes (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Ames, Iowa.

Iowa State's Talen Horton-Tucker, right, and Nick Weiler-Babb, left, fight for the ball with Kansas' Dedric Lawson, (1) and Quentin Grimes (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. by AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Ames, Iowa — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 77-60 defeat at Iowa State on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.

Offense: D+

KU turned the ball over on 7 of its first 15 possessions but avoided that turning into a disaster early on, somehow, though it would catch up with them. Lagerald Vick, Devon Dotson and Dedric Lawson all had committed multiple turnovers by the 10-minute mark of the first half.

Even though the Jayhawks didn’t exactly clean things up from there, turning the ball over 14 times before intermission (on 40% of their 35 possessions), they only trailed 36-32 at halftime.

The offense in the first half of their first Big 12 road game never qualified as pretty, with hustle baskets by Quentin Grimes and a couple Lagerald Vick 3-pointers standing out as the few highlights.

KU’s season-high 24 turnovers and inability to either get Dedric Lawson going or find some 3-point shooting killed the Jayhawks’ chances.

KU final shooting numbers: 42.9% FGs, 30% 3s, 54.5% FTs.

Defense: C-

With KU routinely coughing the ball up on the other end of the floor, the defense at least kept ISU from running away in the first half.

The Jayhawks’ domination on the glass played a factor defensively, too. ISU wasn’t finding any second chances on offense for the first 18 minutes of the game. The Cyclones, who were outrebounded 23-9 in the first half, scored their first second-chance basket 40 seconds before intermission.

ISU led by as many as 8 in the opening minutes of the second half, once the Cyclones started knocking down some 3-pointers. Iowa State drained its first four attempts from downtown after intermission.

The Cyclones went on to hit 6 of their first 8 3-pointers in the second half, building a 60-47 lead by the 9:27 mark, when a Lindell Wigginton 3 made ISU 10 of 20 for the game, and it was all downhill for KU from there.

Kansas ran into trouble trying to defend ISU’s savvy guard-oriented offense led by Marial Shayok’s game-high 24 points.

ISU final shooting numbers: 45.9% FGs, 52% 3s (13 of 25).

Frontcourt: C-

With 7-footer Udoka Azubuike sidelined as a precaution after the junior center hurt his right wrist during Friday’s practice, the frontcourt was all Lawson’s at ISU.

However, the junior from Memphis didn’t come out and take over as one would expect of the team’s best player in that situation. Lawson scored only 3 points in the first half, shooting 1 for 5 in 16 minutes, despite quality looks.

Lawson needed to seek out stretches to take over and never found a way to make it happen. The redshirt junior forward finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Backcourt: C-

A freshman who took a while to get rolling in nonconference play, Grimes often looked like KU’s best player on Saturday afternoon. Grimes accounted for 11 of KU’s 32 first-half points, often by out effort-ing the man in front of him or near him.

Grimes finished with 19 points on 7-for-14 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds.

Senior Lagerald Vick, meanwhile, too often played sped up or tried forcing the issue. Vick had seven turnovers on the day with more than 15 minutes left in the game.

Vick contributed just 6 points and, per ISU’s stat feed, finished with a plus/minus of -18, to go with his 7 turnovers.

Not quite as effective offensively at ISU as he has shown he can be over the course of the season, freshman point guard Devon Dotson proved he will compete regardless of how his day is going individually.

Dotson chipped in 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals to go with his 8 points.

A fill-in starter with Azubuike out, Marcus Garrett, uncharacteristically, didn’t create much for Kansas as a passer. Likewise, the sophomore guard got beat on defense in a couple of instances by losing focus for a second or two, which you rarely see from Garrett. He scored a quiet 8 points and added 4 rebounds.

Bench: F

Given the venue and KU’s ball security troubles, the visitors actually needed some kind of spark from its substitutes at ISU — especially with its typical sixth man, Garrett, inserted in the starting lineup for Azubuike.

Bill Self rarely turned to his bench, though, and sixth man for the day Charlie Moore struggled, going 1 for 5. With Wigginton (8 points) doing most of the damage, the ISU bench outscored KU’s 14-6.

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 74, Villanova 71

Villanova guard Phil Booth (5) puts up a three over Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Villanova guard Phil Booth (5) puts up a three over Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 74-71 win over Villanova on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: C+

KU got off to a promising start and an 8-1 lead with a couple of early 3-pointers — one from Devon Dotson and another from Lagerald Vick, who was back in the starting lineup.

Turnovers began to bog down the flow for KU, though, soon after, as the Jayhawks turned the ball over on six of their first 18 possessions.

Mainly due to the soundness of Villanova’s defense, the top-ranked Jayhawks never looked particularly dominant on offense and finished with only nine assists, compared to their 14 turnovers.

KU shooting percentages: 50% field goals; 33.3% 3-pointers; 76.7% free throws.

Defense: B

Some breakdowns early allowed Villanova to get out in front, 13-8, at the 14:33 mark, with Villanova frontcourt players Erick Pascahll (17 points, four rebounds) and Saddiq Bey (seven points, five rebounds) going to work.

KU’s defense picked up soon after, though.

Villanova shot just 38.5 percent from the floor in the first half and only hit 5 of 13 from 3-point range. The Jayhawks held the Wildcats to 31 first-half points but only took a two-point lead into halftime.

In the second half, Villanova made just 3 of 15 3-pointers.

Villanova shooting percentages: 40.7% field goals; 28.6% 3-pointers.

Frontcourt: A-

Dedric Lawson didn’t suffer from the same type of rough start that plagued him a week ago against New Mexico State. Playing inside the fieldhouse against a top-25 team, Lawson looked far more comfortable and put up 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting by halftime.

With KU playing its four-guard lineup almost exclusively, Lawson logged 38 minutes and co-starred with Vick to push KU past its Big East foe. Lawson produced a double-double, with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

As usual, the only issue with Lawson was his interior defense, where he too often gives way to assertive takes.

Backcourt: C+

Vick knocked in a couple of 3-pointers in the first half, giving KU some backcourt support for Lawson. But Dotson ran into some issues with fouls, as did Grimes, who struggled to find his footing.

In such a rhythm offensively that even contested, long 2-point jumpers were dropping for him, Vick took off in the second half, giving the Jayhawks the perfect perimeter complement to Lawson.

Almost none of Vick’s and Lawson’s teammates had it going, and it didn’t cost the No. 1 team nearly as much as that kind of imbalance should have, mainly because Vick was so good.

Plus, Vick came through with as important of a defensive rebound as there was in the game after he threw away an inbounds pass in the final minute.

Vick put up 29 points and seven rebounds. Dotson had 11 points and one assist, and Grimes played only 14 minutes, providing a single point. Dotson’s acrobatic drive and finish in crunch time put KU up 63-58.

Marcus Garrett’s defense makes him irreplaceable, as he finished with four steals — even if he provided little in terms of offense, with one point and three assists.

None of KU’s guards could wrangle crafty senior Phil Booth, who finished with 29 points and two assists.

Bench: C

KJ Lawson dished to a rolling Mitch Lightfoot for a layup in the later stages of the first half, when KU had three backups on the floor at once and needed some scoring.

With Grimes picking up three first-half fouls and Dotson two, Kansas had to rely more than usual on its bench early. Charlie Moore struggled, turning the ball over three times and fouling twice in his first 14 minutes off the bench, which included neither an assist or a point from the sophomore point guard.

KJ Lawson was active if not effective and Lightfoot helped out defensively, at one point forcing Paschall to travel. In the second half, with the game tight, Lightfoot made a solid block inside on Bey.

With Moore scoring two points and Lightfoot adding two, KU outscored Villanova’s bench 4-0.

Reply 10 comments from Surrealku Joe Ross Dane Pratt Robert  Brock Dale Rogers Cassadys Darrel Stice

Jayhawks in need of more 3-point shooting to support Lagerald Vick

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) pulls up for a three over Washburn guard Emeka Ogbonna (32) during the second half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) pulls up for a three over Washburn guard Emeka Ogbonna (32) during the second half of an exhibition, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Lagerald Vick’s borderline ludicrous 3-point shooting over the course of the Kansas basketball team’s previous five games had the Jayhawks ranked seventh in the country in long-distance accuracy (43.9 percent) entering the week.

Those numbers notwithstanding, on the eve of KU’s seventh game, a home matchup with Wofford, Bill Self wasn’t buying the idea that he’s currently coaching an entire group of effective 3-point shooters.

“It’s so misleading, because Lagerald’s shooting 60 something,” Self said, referencing the senior guard’s 28-for-47 success rate (59.6 percent).

The 16th-year Kansas coach, in fact, was more than aware of the disparity in his team’s 3-point shooting.

Speaking with reporters inside Allen Fieldhouse Monday, Self couldn’t recall the exact number — “I know it’s single figures,” he stated correctly — but he pointed out the rest of the roster had barely contributed to KU’s total of 37 made 3-pointers in the past five games.

Jayhawks not named Vick, in that stretch, accounted for just nine 3-pointers, while the senior guard from Memphis made 28.

Sophomore guard Marcus Garrett (1-for-6 in that span) made one 3-pointer versus Marquette. So did junior forward Dedric Lawson (1-for-5 on 3’s in KU’s past five games).

Charlie Moore (2-for-11 during Vick’s 3-fest) made one against Vermont and one vs. Tennessee.

Freshman guard Quentin Grimes (3-for-12 since going 6-for-10 in the opener against Michigan State) hit two against Vermont and one vs. Louisiana.

KU’s other first-year backcourt starter, Devon Dotson (2-for-5 from 3-point range since his 3-for-5 showing vs. Michigan State) knocked down one in the Vermont game and another against Tennessee.

Sophomore guard K.J. Lawson and junior forward Mitch Lightfoot both attempted one 3-pointer since the opener without making one.

Overall, the rest of the team combined to shoot 9-for-41 (22 percent) in wins over Vermont, Louisiana, Marquette, Tennessee and Stanford while Vick rained in 3-pointers.

“That shows you a lot,” Self said of the disparity. “That we’re fortunate that we have the record we have, but also I think when other guys start seeing the ball go in the hole I think it’ll definitely change our team.”

It’s safe to say No. 2 KU (6-0) would benefit from another player or two stepping up and becoming a consistent 3-point shooting option so Vick doesn’t have to do all the work in that department.

“Yeah, I do agree with that,” Garrett said. “But with the way he’s shooting right now he’s not missing. He’s basically carrying the slack for everyone else. I think down the road we could use a couple more guys knocking in some 3’s like he is.”

So who are the top candidates to fill that role?

Without hesitation, Garrett named redshirt sophomore point guard Moore and freshman shooting guard Grimes.

Self, too, brought up those two names first when presented with the same question.

“Charlie’s made two this year,” Self said with a grin. “Charlie and Q, you’d think, would be the ones, and then Dedric needs to be a guy that can stretch it. He’s only made, I think, one this year, if I’m not mistaken. One or two.”

Indeed, Lawson is 1-for-7 from beyond the arc through six games. A surprising statistic, as Self pointed out, considering Lawson shot 4-for-4 in one exhibition against Washburn and 2-for-4 in the other preseason warmup, against Emporia State.

“We know we have capable guys,” Self said. “But they just haven’t had success knocking them down yet.”

KU’s 3-point Shooting Through 6 Games

Lagerald Vick — 28-for-47 (59.6%)

Quentin Grimes — 9-for-22 (40.9%)

Devon Dotson — 5-for-10 (50%)

Charlie Moore — 2-for-12 (16.7%)

K.J. Lawson — 1-for-2 (50%)

Marcus Garrett — 1-for-6 (16.7%)

Dedric Lawson — 1-for-7 (14.3%)

Mitch Lightfoot — 0-for-1 (0%)

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