Posts tagged with Marcus Garrett

Postgame Report Card: No. 6 Kansas 66, Texas 57

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) shoots past Texas forward Kai Jones (22) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) shoots past Texas forward Kai Jones (22) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) by Associated Press

Austin, Texas — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 66-57 win over Texas on Saturday at Frank Erwin Center.

Offense: C

• The Jayhawks opened up their afternoon versus Texas looking for high-percentage offense and capitalizing. They picked up plenty of buckets at the rim off both drives and passes to bigs inside, outscoring UT, 12-2, in points in the paint eight minutes in, setting them up for an early 17-13 lead.

• However, KU fell behind soon after in the first half, mainly due to wasting offensive possessions. The Jayhawks had 6 turnovers in the first 12 minutes, and the Longhorns were able to take a 21-17 lead.

• An ugly offensive first half — 9-for-21 shooting, 7-for-12 on free throws, 7 turnovers — had KU in a 31-26 hole at intermission.

• KU finished its latest road trip with a 40-30 advantage in points in the paint. The Jayhawks shot 47% from the floor.

Defense: B

• KU’s first half woes worsened when it had lapses in defending the 3-point line. The Longhorns at times forced the issue with their attempts from behind the arc, but other times KU invited Texas shooters to fire away by leaving them open. UT led by as many as 8 points in the first half, when it connected on 5 of its first 9 3-pointers.

• The Jayhawks’ defense in the second half looked more active and UT began struggling to find points, even though their designed play out of the break led to a Sims alley-oop.

However, beginning at the 8-minute mark, UT found some new offensive life, with the crowd suddenly into it and the Jayhawks giving up a string of baskets inside.

• UT shot 40% from the floor, 6-for-20 from 3-point range (30%) and turned the ball over 9 times.

Frontcourt: B

• Udoka Azubuike had a hard time getting going offensively, primarily because the Longhorns did a great job of hitting him hard any time he caught the ball in the paint and had a chance at an easy basket.

Azubuike went 3-for-8 at the foul line and 2-for-3 from the floor in the first half.

In the opening minutes of the second half, though, the tide turned for the 7-footer, and for the Jayhawks, too. Azubuike put up 8 points inside in the first four minutes of the half, helping the Jayhawks regain the lead.

The senior center put up 17 points and 9 rebounds.

• Most of KU’s lineups weren’t gelling offensively in the first half, so Bill Self actually played David McCormack more than usual, with him giving the two big combinations more chances. Most of McCormack’s impact came on the glass. And he threw a solid lob pass for an Azubuike jam when it looked like he was about to take one of his long jumpers.

McCormack finished with 6 points and 7 boards, as the minutes he spent in a reserve role in the second half provided KU with some punch.

Backcourt: B-

• Back in the starting lineup after missing KU’s win at Oklahoma while dealing with a hip pointer, Dotson looked a little rusty, dribbling too long, resulting in a shot clock violation. He eased his way back into the flow with an early 3-point try and drawing a foul in the open floor to get to the foul line.

Before long, Dotson started looking more comfortable, and he actually ended up being one of KU’s more effective players in a rough first half, with a team-best 8 points.

Dotson played the entirety of the first half in his return to the lineup, and finished with 21 points and 3 assists in 39 minutes.

• Marcus Garrett continued to be a persistent driver in the half court and the team’s best passer and defender, but his shots weren’t falling early.

One of his second-half attacks off the dribble resulted in Garrett hitting the court hard after some body to body contact from Jericho Sims. The junior was able to return to the floor, though and finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists, after finding layups down the stretch.

• Ochai Agbaji struggled on both ends in 14 first-half minutes, and Self looked particularly disappointed in some of the guard’s defensive decisions.

Agbaji provided 4 points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Bench: D+

• Competing on the road would have felt a little easier for the Jayhawks if they had gotten some production from their bench.

An Isaiah Moss 3-pointer in the late stages of the first half were the only bench points KU had as late as the midway point of the second half, when Moss hit a little fall-away baseline jumper off the dribble.


Jayhawks will take scoring however they can get it

Kansas' Marcus Garrett (0) shoots over Oklahoma's Austin Reaves (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)

Kansas' Marcus Garrett (0) shoots over Oklahoma's Austin Reaves (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck) by Associated Press

Replacing the 18 points per game leading scorer Devon Dotson typically brings to the floor wasn’t going to be a cinch for Kansas at Oklahoma.

But upperclassmen Marcus Garrett (9.4 points per game), Udoka Azubuike (12.8 points) and Isaiah Moss (8.3 points) all provided more than their usual share.

What the Jayhawks lacked was some complementary production from the rest of the roster. Garrett (15 points on 5-for-12 shooting), Azubuike (16 points, 7-for-10) and Moss (20 points, 7-for-13) combined for 51 of KU’s 66 points in the win.

Garrett said that formula isn’t ideal if Dotson’s out, which may or may not be the case Saturday at Texas.

“I feel like we need to have more balanced scoring,” Garrett said of three Jayhawks carrying the bulk of the scoring load. “I think Ochai (Agbaji) can help us out a lot with his offensive threat. But I think we definitely need more balance than just three.”

In this year’s low-scoring Big 12, though, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to points.

Ask head coach Bill Self if he’d like to see KU with more than three players acting as scoring options without Dotson and he explained why he’ll take what he can get.

“I get a kick out of that,” Self said. “We'd love to have more balance. But sometimes, you know, you get five guys to score 60, you get three guys to score 60. Let's just get to 60, somehow, some way.”

And he’s right, of course. If Dotson can’t play against the Longhorns, the Jayhawks (13-3 overall, 3-1 Big 12) won’t mind how the scoring is split up or who provides it — as long as it’s coming.

Self discovered a long time ago there are no absolutes in college basketball.

“I think it would be nice to have that, but I'm not going to say that that's a must,” Self said of spreading the wealth on offense and keeping defenders worried about more than three players.

In his early days on the sideline, when Self was in charge at Tulsa, he said, “one of the smartest players” he ever coached, Michael Ruffin, taught him a lesson about flexibility and adjusting.

“I said we’ve got to do this to win,” Self recalled.

Ruffin responded: “So, coach, if we don't do that, does that mean we're going to lose?”

Reflecting on the back-and-forth, Self called it “a great lesson” for him, and sometimes as a coach you just have to figure some things out as you go, within the flow of a given game.

“So, yeah, in a perfect world we'd love to have five guys in double figures, but I don't know if that's going to be possible,” Self said, “if you’ve got your leading scorer sitting out.”

The Jayhawks can’t bank on Moss getting 20 points again, like he did at OU, even if they’d love to see him once again go 6-for-11 from 3-point range. Maybe he will, but you can’t expect it.

They should be able to get more than the 7 points Agbaji had at OU. And it shouldn’t be too much to ask, between the four of them, for David McCormack, Christian Braun, Tristan Enaruna and Silvio De Sousa to put up more than the 8 combined points they contributed earlier this week versus the Sooners.

It doesn’t matter who shines, as long as the Jayhawks continue to play the kind of defense they have on the road this year (55.5 points per game for KU opponents) and cobble together 60 points. However they can get it.

Reply 5 comments from Kurt Eskilson Luke Smith David Robinett Surrealku Robert  Brock

Jayhawks don’t want Christian Braun passing up open 3-pointers

Kansas' Christian Braun (2) is defended by Oklahoma's De'Vion Harmon (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020.

Kansas' Christian Braun (2) is defended by Oklahoma's De'Vion Harmon (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. by Associated Press

Further along than most freshmen in his position might be thanks to an ideal frame of mind, Christian Braun knows he doesn’t have to score to make an impact when he checks into a game off the Kansas bench.

But when Devon Dotson’s hip injury kept the Jayhawks’ leading scorer out of the lineup at Oklahoma, Braun actually could have taken a more assertive approach and heard zero complaints from his coaches or teammates.

KU head coach Bill Self, in the middle of complimenting the backup guard for his competitive nature after the Jayhawks’ win at OU earlier this week, pointed to one way that the freshman can be a little more fierce with the ball in his hands.

“How many shots does he turn down?” Self asked. “He’s a good shooter.”

Self thought Braun, the 6-foot-6 freshman who a year ago starred at nearby Blue Valley Northwest High, otherwise played well enough in just his second career Big 12 road game. It was just that KU (13-3 overall, 3-1 Big 12) actually needed more scoring than usual out of its role players, with Dotson sidelined.

A 37.9% 3-point shooter so far this year, Braun played 25 minutes against the Sooners and shot 0-for-2 from beyond the arc (0-for-3 overall).

In retrospect, Braun knew he passed up on some potential 3-pointers.

“Yeah, I think I was a little too passive on the offensive end,” Braun said after the road victory. “That's something that comes from me just thinking too much, you know, trying to get in the right spot all the time, but sometimes you’ve just got to let it go.”

It was the second game in a row that Braun went without a made field goal, but this time around having to play out of position some seemed to contribute to that. That overthinking he referenced came because with Dotson out, Braun had to spend some minutes as KU’s four-man and a couple of others at point guard.

“When Christian struggles, it’s not fair to him,” Self said, explaining most of the freshman’s repetitions this year have come as the two-guard or at the three position. “He knows the plays from those spots. But he was either running the four or the one (at OU), and he doesn’t know the plays from either of those spots, so we got screwed up a couple times that way.”

It’s actually a strength of Braun’s that he’s so versatile that Self could ask him to play at four different positions, depending on the lineup on the floor. But Braun admitted the variety got to him a few times.

“I had to run a couple plays from the one, from the two, the three, so I got a little confused out there today at some plays in some spots,” Bruan said, before adding he was thankful Marcus Garrett played 38 minutes at the point, so he didn’t have to worry about extended minutes trying to play that spot as naturally and effectively as the junior Garrett did.

That’s not to say Braun doesn’t strive for having that type of responsibility. In yet another promising development during his ongoing on-court education, he holds himself to a high standard. It’s part of what has made him a dependable part of the rotation, when as recently as early December he wasn’t even playing 10 minutes a game.

“I try to do my best just knowing all the spots, as many spots as I can,” Braun said. “And playing hard covers up for most of that, so I think I did a pretty good job doing that (at OU).”

The elder Garrett was a lot more forgiving when assessing how Braun played against the Sooners. The veteran praised the freshman’s basketball IQ and said there was “a lot” to appreciate about what KU got out of Braun in the road win.

“Energy,” Garrett said of how Braun impacted the result. “That’s the big thing we tell him with him coming in, being a freshman — if you can’t score and you can’t do those things, you can bring energy, attack, just know the scouting report.”

Averaging 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.5 minutes through his first four Big 12 games, Braun scored both of his 2 points at OU at the foul line, but also provided six rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal as a backup.

His commitment to playing hard often helps KU get defensive stops. And by the end of the win at OU, Braun was a part of the five-player lineup Self used most in Norman, Okla. The group of Garrett, Isaiah Moss, Ochai Agbaji, Udoka Azubuike and Braun played a total of 18:21 and proved to be the most effective lineup. When Self had those five on the floor, KU outscored the Sooners, 34-18. None of the eight other lineups Self used had a plus/minus higher than plus-three.

Typically, Dotson is part of KU’s best lineups. But with the starting point guard and leading scorer out at OU, all the role players had to find ways to step up. Braun explained how he went about approaching the game, knowing his responsibilities would be greater than usual.

“Just stick to the things I always did,” Braun said. “I’m never going to be the guy that scores the most points or anything like that, especially my freshman year. But just get loose balls and try to get as many possessions, because you know in games like that it's going to be tough. So you’ve got to get as many extra possessions or offensive rebounds, stuff like that, as you can.”

It’s that exact mentality that fast-tracked Braun’s role this season, and it will do him well moving forward, too, particularly once Dotson returns to the lineup.

But even when KU is at full strength again, Braun shouldn’t forget that this team needs 3-point shooting anywhere it can get it, and both his teammates and head coach like the odds of those shots falling when the ball is in Braun’s hands and he has a good look from deep.

Reply 2 comments from Michael Maris Dane Pratt

Postgame Report Card: No. 6 Kansas 66, Oklahoma 52

Kansas' Udoka Azubuike (35) is defended by Oklahoma's Kur Kuath (52) and Brady Manek (35) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck)

Kansas' Udoka Azubuike (35) is defended by Oklahoma's Kur Kuath (52) and Brady Manek (35) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Garett Fisbeck) by Associated Press

Norman, Okla. — Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 66-52 win over Oklahoma on Tuesday at Lloyd Noble Center.

Offense: B

• As KU, in the second half, got better used to playing without injured point guard Devon Dotson, the offense started to become a little more effective.

The Jayhawks shot 50% from the floor after halftime, and got a significant boost from its 3-point shooting, with Isaiah Moss contributing 4 of KU’s 6 made 3’s in the second half.

• Kansas also got back to its paint dominating ways after being outplayed inside in a loss to Baylor. The Jayhawks destroyed OU inside, with a 32-10 advantage in points in the paint.

• Scoring 66 points in the Big 12 this year is actually beginning to look like a relatively decent result, and KU did this on the road while playing without its starting point guard.

Defense: A-

• Again, playing without a key perimeter defender in Dotson, KU held the Sooners to 52 points and 30.6% shooting on their home court.

• The Sooners couldn’t score inside, making just 1 of 8 layup and dunk attempts, and missing four other shot attempts in the paint.

• OU’s three best scorers on the season, Kristian Doolittle, Austin Reaves and Brady Manek combined to shoot 10-for-43 (23.3%).

Frontcourt: B+

• Udoka Azbuike came through with one of his most complete games, overwhelming the Sooners on both ends.

The 7-foot senior put up a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double, was credited with 3 blocks and controlled the paint.

• David McCormack played only 15 minutes in his typical staring role, finishing with 4 points and 3 rebounds.

Backcourt: B

• Despite the loss of Dotson, Marcus Garrett proved he can take on the lead guard duties for even longer stretches than usual.

Garrett did his defensive thing, as usual, but also embraced the chance to be the primary ball handler and driver from the perimeter. Garrett shot 5-for-12, scored 15 points, hit a key 3-pointer in the second half, and added 5 assists and 5 rebounds in 38 minutes, with just 1 turnover.

• Moss was the catch-and-shoot weapon KU needed him to be, as he occupied the starting spot left vacant by Dotson.

Moss knocked down 6 of 11 3-pointers and even passed up some more looks from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks desperately needed some scoring with Dotson gone, and Moss came through with 20.

• Ochai Agbaji got more effective offensively in the second half, and put in the work defensively KU had to get out of him. Agbaji finished with 7 points on 3-for-11 shooting, with 5 boards and 3 assists.

Bench: C-

• KU only scored 4 bench points, but freshman Christian Braun kept the team afloat even if he wasn’t scoring (2 points on 0-for-3 shooting). That’s because his effort and rebounding (6) help KU maintain a level of competency.

• Tristan Enaruna looked more assertive and comfortable than usual in the second half.

Reply 1 comment from Surrealku

Postgame Report Card: No. 4 Baylor 67, No. 3 Kansas 55

Baylor Bears forward Freddie Gillespie (33) flips a loose ball to Baylor Bears guard Jared Butler (12) away from the Kansas defenders during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Baylor Bears forward Freddie Gillespie (33) flips a loose ball to Baylor Bears guard Jared Butler (12) away from the Kansas defenders during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 67-55 home loss to Baylor on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: D

• The two-big look didn’t do the Jayhawks much good in the opening minutes. And Baylor’s defensive scheme, heavy on fronting the post, kept KU’s bigs from making a scoring impact throughout the first half.

The Bears outscored KU, 14-6, in the paint in the first 20 minutes by taking away Udoka Azubuike (0-for-1 in 16 minutes) as an offensive option.

• There were some truly suspect attempts at entry passes to Azubuike, contributing to the Jayhawks' 6 turnovers in the game's first 8-plus minutes.

It wasn’t long before 14 of Baylor's first 36 points came off of 10 KU turnovers, before halftime, when KU trailed 37-24.

• The miscues weren’t as frequent or as damaging for KU in the second half, but BU’s defense still kept the Jayhawks off kilter.

Kansas finished the rare home loss — snapping a 28-game winning streak — shooting 39.2% from the floor and 4-for-15 from 3-point range.

Defense: C+

• After a promising start to the game for KU’s defense, the Bears shot 8-for-10 from the floor in the final 7:19 of the first half, when BU hit nearly 50% from the floor (14-for-29) and only turned it over three times.

Baylor connected on seven straight field goals to close the half, with Butler and Teague knocking down 3-pointers and the Bears scoring layups off KU turnovers.

• Baylor’s offense didn’t exactly take off in the second half, but as the showdown between top 5 teams wore on, KU had trouble stopping standout BU guard Jared Butler (22 points, 3 assists).

• With KU’s offense no-showing much of the second half, it seemed to affect the Jayhawks’ defensive effort and psyche the longer BU maintained its comfortable lead.

By the game’s final minutes Baylor had zapped KU of its defensive energy, setting up a late-game offensive surge with the game all but officially done.

BU shot 45% from the floor in the win and made 8 of 19 3-pointers (42%).

Frontcourt: C-

• Azubuike put in work on the defensive end of the court throughout the first half, despite KU’s inability to get him the ball inside on offense.

The 7-footer finally got an easy look at a post-up with more than 14 minutes left in the game, scoring his first basket 22nd minute on the floor, finishing with his left hand.

The senior center finished with 6 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocks.

• David McCormack, as the starting big beside Azubuike, proved to be the odd man out, playing only 6 minutes in the first half, with the Bears outscoring KU by 10 when he was on the floor. He finished the outing scoreless, with 1 rebound.

Backcourt: C-

• KU’s three starting guards didn’t do the Jayhawks any favors in the first half, between their inability to get Azubuike involved and their limited good looks in the half court.

• Devon Dotson suffered some sort of hip injury late in the first half, and he only played a few seconds in the second before heading to the bench in pain.

He missed basically the first 11 minutes of the second half before checking back in with 8:52 to play, and KU down 48-38.

Clearly not himself, Dotson produced 9 points and 3 assists in 28 minutes.

• Marcus Garrett began attacking the paint with more regularity in the second half, with Dotson out, and KU in need of some drives out of its guards.

But Garrett was the only KU starter to reach double digits in scoring, with11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 turnovers in 35 minutes, while playing through some pain on a bad ankle.

• Ochai Agbaji (6 points, 5 rebounds) wasn’t the 3-point sniper he looked like earlier in the week at Iowa State. In fact, Agbaji didn’t even attempt a 3 until the 7:58 mark of the second half, misfiring from the left wing.

Bench: C+

• KU’s bench outscored BU’s 23-2.

• Isaiah Moss provided just the offensive spark KU needed after a rough start to its Saturday afternoon. The grad transfer from Iowa drained 2 of his first 3 looks from downtown, scoring 8 of KU’s first 15 points. The Jayhawks trailed, 9-3, before he came in and KU went away from its two-big lineup. And he put up 10 points before he had played 10 minutes in the first half.

Moss’ defense isn’t his strong suit, though, and that showed up more than once in his 14 first-half minutes, costing KU in the half court and in transition.

Moss finished with 15 points and 3 rebounds.

• On the rise the past several weeks, freshman Christian Braun (4 points, 2 boards) first stood out in the second half, when he came crashing in for an offensive board and drew a foul, with KU finally starting to put together a rally.

• Silvio De Sousa got some first-half minutes and contributed with some solid defense and activity, as well as a couple of offensive boards.

• KU would need some help from reserve Tristan Enaruna, too, who subbed in for Dotson when the point guard checked out early in the second half, pushing Garrett over to point guard.

Enaruna didn’t even play in the first half. But just a few minutes into the second, he gave KU a spark with his defense, smothering a shot inside.

Reply 2 comments from Kall3742 Dane Pratt Njjayhawk

Foul trouble plaguing Kansas guard Marcus Garrett of late

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) knocks the ball loose from West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) knocks the ball loose from West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In order to truly feel comfortable with a given lineup, Bill Self likes to have at least two of his Kansas basketball team’s three best guards on the court. The Jayhawks’ collective effectiveness, after all, takes a hit without some combination of Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji out there.

In a perfect world, Self would be able to rotate one of those players in and out for each other during a given game’s second half. But a recent trend has made that a little more difficult to pull off.

Garrett, KU’s versatile junior guard from Dallas, has found himself in foul trouble in each of KU’s past two games, picking up his fourth with 8:17 left at Stanford and 9:08 remaining against West Virginia.

When Self can’t play Garrett with four fouls in a close game, Dotson and Agbaji aren’t afforded a breather, because the head coach doesn’t really want to experience a lineup that could prove more erratic.

Garrett, a creator with his driving and passing on offense, and the Jayhawks’ most sound and adaptable defender, missed close to four minutes of game time in the second half against both Stanford and WVU. He’s been whistled for four fouls in five of KU’s past seven games and six times overall this season — though he’s yet to pick up a fifth in any of the Jayhawks’ 13 games to date.

So what exactly is Garrett doing to get himself in fairly regular foul trouble?

“I don't know,” Self began, half-joking, “maybe guarding (6-foot-10 players) in the post and he’s a 6-4 guard.”

Of course, there’s more to it than that for Garrett (listed at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds). Thanks to the quickness and defensive instincts of Dotson (2.4 steals per game), Agbaji (1.7) and Garrett (1.7), KU averages 9.0 swipes per game. At times, Self noted, Garrett has shown a tendency “to take the bait” when he spots a potential steal.

“If somebody puts the ball out in front of them, he's going to try to take it,” Self said. “And that, you know, when you’ve got one foul early in the second half, no big deal. You’ve got three in the second half, you can't do that. You’ve got two early in the second half, you don't want to do that. He's kind of put himself in a situation where he's got one or two cheap ones each game, I think.”

In KU’s Big 12 opener, Dotson and Agbaji played all 20 second-half minutes as a result of Garrett’s foul trouble in a tight game. Garrett doesn’t have many defensive flaws, and even this one comes from a place of assertiveness and confidence — not at all bad attributes to possess when he’s trying to get stops.

Garrett is so smart with his decisions on the floor, it’s hard to imagine this remaining a consistent issue for him as Big 12 play picks up and his presence becomes all the more important. Look for him to adapt and adjust — and do his teammates a favor, by letting them get a rest now and then.

Reply 1 comment from Cshjhawk

KU’s best lineup emerged out of the muck in win over WVU

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) goes hard for a bucket and a foul against West Virginia forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) goes hard for a bucket and a foul against West Virginia forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

One poor opening to one Big 12 game isn’t going to cost Kansas big man David McCormack his starting job. But even if head coach Bill Self keeps the sophomore forward in that first unit for the remainder of the season, the Jayhawks still need a definitive four-guard lineup their coach can trust.

Self just may have found one in Saturday’s win over West Virginia, when McCormack’s presence in the first half wasn’t helping KU’s chances against the rugged Mountaineers.

The coach countered by identifying his team’s five toughest dudes: Marcus Garrett, Devon Dotson, Udoka Azubuike, Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun.

That combination could become KU’s best lineup as the Jayhawks trudge their way through the conference schedule, with March Madness getting closer by the day.

This particular group of five players didn’t revolutionize what Kansas can do on the floor this year — Self said his team went from “awful to bad” offensively with four guards. Still, most college basketball teams can’t defend like WVU does. Plus, Self’s tough guy lineup endured that challenge, often willing its way to high-percentage shots in the second half, when such looks felt impossible to discover in the first.

Self rolled out the Garrett, Dotson, Azubuike, Agbaji and Braun lineup to open the second half, with the Jayhawks trailing 30-24. By the end of a 60-53 KU win that group played 15:59 together, and when they were on the floor KU outscored WVU by 18 — 34-16. The Jayhawks scored 1.26 points per possession with those five on the court, better than any other combination Self used versus the Mountaineers. The second-best offensive lineup (Dotson, Braun, Agbaji, Azubuike and Isaiah Moss) scored 1.06 points per possession.

These five resilient Jayhawks worked well defensively, too. Remember: They played 16 minutes and WVU put up just 16 points against them. And Self might have been able to stick with those five for even longer if Garrett hadn’t picked up his fourth foul with nine minutes left.

This lineup functions offensively by giving Azubuike the space he needs to operate in the post and catch lobs off screens, and featuring two of the team’s best 3-point shooters, Agbaji and Braun. Keep in mind, those two weren’t even a factor from beyond the arc (1-for-6 combined) against WVU and the lineup still thrived against what projects as the Big 12’s toughest defensive team.

Self thinks this KU roster can deliver a special season if its shooters knock down 3-pointers, so Agbaji (25-for-66 from deep this season) and Braun (8-for-23) will need to make that happen for the Jayhawks to truly become devastating offensively. It will be easier for all of KU’s players to find open looks from downtown against other opponents. WVU ranks fourth nationally in 3-point field goal defense, holding teams to 24.9%.

Back in November, when the season began, it wasn’t clear which four-guard lineup would be KU’s best. Senior transfer Moss was obviously the team’s best shooter, making him a leading candidate to play with Dotson, Garrett and Agbaji around the powerful Azubuike. Freshman Tristan Enaruna, too, looked like a legit option, with his versatile game on both ends of the floor and long wingspan. But if Braun, whose steady improvements of late have turned him into a reliable role player, can avoid any type of freshman skid, he’s the man for the job.

It’s far better for KU (11-2) to have a go-to lineup than always having to mix and match and tinker to find one. The group that led the Jayhawks out of the muck against West Virginia has some work to do to peak, and these five appear to have the physical and mental fortitude to mesh and grow together to pull that off.

KU will still need McCormack, Silvio De Sousa, Moss and Enaruna, too, of course. But its emerging four-guard lineup looks like one that can raise the Jayhawks’ ceiling.

Reply 8 comments from Dillon Davis Barry Weiss Surrealku Dirk Medema Brjam Dale Rogers Robin Smith

Postgame Report Card: No. 3 Kansas 60, No. 16 West Virginia 53

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) gets tangled with West Virginia forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) and West Virginia guard Miles McBride (4) for a rebound during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) gets tangled with West Virginia forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) and West Virginia guard Miles McBride (4) for a rebound during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 60-53 win over West Virginia on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: C+

• Hardly any of the Jayhawks looked ready for West Virginia’s physical defensive style in the game’s opening minutes, and the Mountaineers built a 17-7 lead less than 8 minutes in.

Nine Jayhawks played in the first half, and only three scored: Marcus Garrett, Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike.

• KU shot just 8-for-22 from the field in the first half, and turned it over 10 times. What’s worse, the Jayhawks made only 6 of their 13 free throws and 2 of 11 3-pointers.

• Relatively speaking, KU’s offense picked up in the second half, even if most possessions wouldn’t qualify as pretty. The offense came more easily for the Jayhawks, though, as they mostly rolled with four guards.

Kansas shot 44% in the final 20 minutes and outscored WVU 36-23.

Defense: A-

• KU’s players certainly heard from head coach Bill Self and his staff that finishing on defense would have to involve extra effort on the glass, to keep WVU from getting offensive rebounds and easy second-chance points — a staple of Bob Huggins teams for years.

Yet the Mountaineers found those extra looks that extend possessions and dishearten opponents by grabbing offensive rebounds early in the first half, as they build their lead.

With Oscar Tshiebwe destroying KU on the offensive glass, WVU scored 10 second-chance points in the first half alone.

• KU’s defense also didn’t protect the paint too well early, despite having the bodies to do so. WVU put up 14 points in the paint by halftime.

• The Jayhawks’ defensive efforts improved dramatically in the second half, as Self relied on Dotson, Ochai Agabaji, Garrett, Azubuike and Christian Braun as his primary lineup, until Garrett got into some foul trouble.

The Mountaineers shot just 7-for-25 in the second half and turned it over 11 times.

Frontcourt: B-

• Udoka Azubuike spent a lot of the first half getting fouled by WVU and going to the free throw line, where he’s known to struggle, instead of getting the chance to score inside.

Once KU began using a four-guard lineup in the second half, Azubuike found his offense coming much more regularly. With KU’s guards having the room to drive and set him up or throw lobs up to the rim, Azubuike finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

• Starting big David McCormack spent much of the first half on the bench, once KU went away from its two-big look. Though the 6-foot-10 sophomore had the physique to match up with WVU’s bigs, he wasn’t too effective against them on either end of the floor.

McCormack played just 10 minutes against WVU. But he had a massive defensive rebound followed by a one-handed alley-oop around the 3-minute mark of the second half.

Backcourt: B-

• For portions of a fistfight of a first half, it seemed Dotson was the only Jayhawk who could score from the field — not that KU was exactly cashing in at the foul line, either.

The sophomore point guard made both of KU’s first-half 3-pointers and scored on a couple of layups, too.

Dotson finished the victory with 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

• Meanwhile, junior Garrett was often the only Jayhawk who could create shots for teammates against WVU’s stellar defense throughout the Big 12 opener. Garrett had 3 of KU’s 4 assists in the first half, when the Jayhawks also suffered 10 turnovers.

Garrett’s distribution skills set up a tying 3-pointer early in the second half, when he drove to kick to Agbaji for a right-corner 3. There was plenty of time to play, but it was one of the few sequences in the game to that point when KU seemed to have some life on offense.

Garrett contributed 12 points and 6 assists. HIs drive and layup near the 1-minute mark put KU up 54-49.

• Sophomore Agbaji played almost all of the first half but went primarily unnoticed, other than his defense. His ability on that end of the floor, though, proved crucial in such a physical game.

Bench: C+

• KU’s bench contributions were few and far between through most of the first half. Isaiah Moss misfired on a couple of 3-pointers and the only sub who could be seen working particularly well was Braun, who looked tough on defense and held his own.

Braun impressed enough to open the second half as a starter, in place of McCormack. The freshman immediately helped out by grabbing an offensive rebound off a missed Azubuike free throw. Braun dished to the big man for an easy score.

The ever-improving Braun came through with 6 points and 5 boards.


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.


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.