Salt Lake City — Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 89-75 loss to Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas would need some form of life offensively in the first half to keep Auburn within reach, but didn’t come close to accomplishing that.
The Jayhawks’ season was all but over by halftime, after shooting 8-for-27 in the opening 20 minutes and turning the ball over 8 times. A 1-for-10 half from 3-point range derailed KU’s chances of keeping pace, too, as Auburn built an insurmountable 51-25 lead by intermission.
The offense was more tentative than assertive when KU needed to find a way to step up and match Auburn’s intensity.
While KU shot nearly 60% from the floor in the second half, it barely put a dent in the Tigers’ massive lead.
Auburn wanted to play fast and shoot 3-pointers, and the Jayhawks did nothing to stop the Tigers from doing so.
With Bryce Brown burying 3’s out of the gate, the SEC Tournament champions were the aggressors and KU didn’t come up with anything that would make them feel uncomfortable.
The Tigers sprinted to a 34-8 advantage in fast-break points and shot 52% from the floor to advance to the Sweet 16.
No one in a KU uniform was ready in the first half to counter Auburn’s energy. Even Dedric Lawson, who once again finished with a double-double (25 points, 10 rebounds), went 1-for-7 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.
Freshman big David McCormack got off to a promising start, with 5 quick points, as well as 5 rebounds in the first half. But matchups and the game’s tempo dictated that Kansas had to play smaller, with four guards, and McCormack was the odd man out.
McCormack capped his freshman year with 11 points and 6 rebounds, plus a couple of assists.
Devon Dotson (13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) tried to give KU some kind of spark early on, but couldn’t get going offensively until the second half.
Some defensive missteps by Quentin Grimes in the game’s opening minutes, as Auburn exploded to a big lead, drew the ire of Bill Self.
And Grimes (15 points, 5-for-11 shooting, 2 assists) got most of his stats in the second half, when Auburn’s ticket to Kansas City was basically already punched.
Ochai Agbaji again failed to get out of his late-season slump, going 1-for-5 from the floor and grabbing 1 rebound.
Marcus Garrett, too ill to join the team for Friday activities at the arena, didn’t appear to be back at full health. In 20 minutes, the sophomore guard provided 7 points and 3 rebounds, but seemed a little less quick.
K.J. Lawson was the only other substitute to score, and he put up his 2 points at the free throw line.
Mitch Lightfoot grabbed 2 rebounds in 10 minutes.
Kansas City, Mo. — For much of the regular season, those who follow Kansas basketball wondered when freshman Quentin Grimes might turn a corner and become the steady shooter and scorer the Jayhawks needed in the backcourt.
Perhaps turning the page to the postseason will do the trick.
Grimes shot 2-for-10 in his Big 12 tournament debut against Texas, when he scored 12 points in a quarterfinal victory, but he quickly moved on from that performance to set the nets ablaze in the semifinals. Grimes’ 5-for-8 3-point shooting led to an 18-point night for the freshman and the sense that he may finally be trending upward.
Even so, Bill Self wasn’t ready after that showing to place Grimes in the same stratosphere as a recent KU guard who caught fire just in time for March Madness.
One reporter asked Self whether the coach could compare Grimes’ uptick to what Malik Newman pulled off a year ago, during the 2018 postseason.
“No, not yet,” Self said.
“If the guy goes off and gets 30 (in Saturday night’s final versus Iowa State),” the KU coach added, “and is the most valuable player of the tournament, then, yeah, you could say that.”
You may recall that Newman, like Grimes this year, had an up-and-down regular season before turning into “Postseason Leek.” Newman went off for 30 points in his Big 12 tournament debut versus Oklahoma State, then followed it up by pouring in 22 against Kansas State and finishing his three-day run with 20 more in a title game victory over West Virginia.
So Grimes would need to put on an extra-spectacular shooting display in the championship game to give the Newman comparison more weight.
“But what did he get today, 18? What did he have, 12, yesterday? So probably not quite that level, but it is a nice addition,” Self said Friday night at Sprint Center. “And to win three games in a row, especially the situation that we’re in, you’re going to have to have some guys step up that maybe haven’t been asked to do it in the past because they’re so young, and maybe play beyond their years. And Quentin did that today.”
Despite some rough patches as a scorer over the past few months, Grimes has now produced double-digit points in four of KU’s past six games. During that span he’s 17-for-35 on 3-pointers.
Self didn’t think there wasn’t a specific moment when he noticed Grimes shooting the ball with more confidence.
“I think everybody goes through phases like that. If you look at numbers, he’s shot it better in league play than he has for the season. But it’s been a gradual thing,” Self said.
What had stopped Grimes from getting going, Self pointed out, was that he would maybe have a decent night from 3-point range, 2-for-4 or something along those lines, and then go 1-for-6 the next game.
“He hasn’t really been in a real rhythm,” Self said. “We’re saying he’s shooting it better, which he is. He looks better shooting it. He looked better shooting it (Thursday) night, but he was 1 for 6 (Thursday) night, from 3 — is that right?”
“I agree. He’s playing with more confidence, and good shooters shouldn’t remember their misses, they should only remember the makes,” Self concluded. “And I think he’s going through a phase right now where he actually feels that way.”
Grimes enters the Big 12 title game averaging 8.3 points for the season and hitting 35.9% from 3-point range.
Kansas City, Mo. — Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 88-74 win over West Virginia on Friday night in the Big 12 semifinals.
If KU hadn’t turned the ball over 16 times there wouldn’t have been much to complain about on the offensive end.
The Jayhawks scored 46 points in the paint, shot 40% from 3-point range (8 for 20) and made 52.4% of their field goal attempts overall.
Bill Self hated KU’s defense on this night, harping on WVU’s ability to easily score early on in the first half.
The Mountaineers shot 27.3% on 3-pointers and only scored 9 second-chance points. But they did make 43.5% of their shots overall, scored 40 in the paint and turned the ball over 11 times on the night.
David McCormack didn’t dominate in stretches like he did in the quarterfinals versus Texas, but the freshman big man still had his effective moments on offense, on the glass and with his effort, finishing with 7 points and 8 boards.
Dedric Lawson, on the other hand, was just as efficient as anyone could hope for. The junior forward shot 9 for 13 from the field, made 2 of 3 from 3-point range and connected on all 4 of his free throws.
Quentin Grimes caught fire in the first half, giving KU the momentum it needed to advance. Grimes drilled 5 of 8 3-pointers on the night and added 8 rebounds and 4 assists for a remarkable evening overall.
Devon Dotson, too, proved more than WVU defenders could handle on several occasions, and finished with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists.
Ochai Agbaji went for 9 points and 3 boards in 21 minutes.
Marcus Garrett keeps looking more mobile and comfortable on the ankle that hobbled him earlier this season. His defense and drives to the paint made him as valuable as anyone for KU, as he finished with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Mitch Lightfoot also had his moments, though not as often as Garrett. The junior blocked 4 shots in just 15 minutes and scored 4 points.
Kansas City, Mo. — The four freshmen members of the Kansas basketball team’s starting lineup have experienced plenty over the last four-plus months.
Flourishing and regressing. Achievements and failures. Getting tastes of what it’s like to battle national powerhouses such as Michigan State and Kentucky. Discovering pedigree alone doesn’t assure your team of a victory during conference play.
And now they get their first crack at the postseason, as the Jayhawks (23-8) take on Texas (16-15) in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals.
Quentin Grimes, a starter in all 31 games for KU, can’t wait for the new encounter.
“Just watching it on TV as a kid growing up and finally just getting a chance to be a part of it is real special,” Grimes said of playing in the postseason, beginning with this week’s conference tournament. “Everybody in the locker room’s excited.”
Grimes, for one, thinks KU can be “one of the best teams in the country” when the players are locked in. And even though the Jayhawks finished third in the Big 12 standings when the program’s expectations are first place or bust, Grimes is optimistic about their current trajectory.
“I feel like we’re trending upwards. We had a good couple days of practice, we had a good little 40 minutes out there,” Grimes added of KU’s Wednesday session at Sprint Center.
The 6-foot-5 guard from The Woodlands, Texas, shared that KU’s relatively ho-hum regular-season finale versus Baylor reminded him and his teammates about the importance of entering a game with the proper mindset.
Now that they’re embarking on the postseason, Grimes said the Jayhawks have to be “locked in” on the defensive and offensive ends of the floor. Doing so and putting together a run at the Big 12 tournament this weekend, he said, can be accomplished in large part by paying attention to the game plan.
“Not going out there and doing everything on our own,” Grimes emphasized, pointing to the need for KU’s players to trust one another when encountering key potential turning points during a game.
If you ask Grimes, the Jayhawks can be “really good” this postseason. And he said KU coach Bill Self is encouraging them go “just go out there and play free” now that the regular season is behind them.
“He knows what we’re capable of and how we played early on in the season, what we can do as a unit,” Grimes said. “So I feel like he knows how good and special this team can be. Even though we lost a couple of guys, a lot of guys have stepped up.”
Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 78-70 win over Baylor on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Baylor’s zone and its players’ ability to get back in transition made it nearly impossible for KU to play with any pace in the first half. Still, the Jayhawks looked comfortable in the half court more often than not.
The problem in the first half was KU missed plenty of very makable shots.
The Jayhawks shot 41.4% in the first half, while knocking in 3 of 7 from 3-point range and 5 of 6 at the foul line.
A focused start to the second half set the stage for a KU victory, though, as the Jayhawks opened on an 8-0 run and scored three of their baskets off layups.
KU shot 47 percent in the second half, and scored 18 points in the paint.
Baylor missed its first 10 attempts from 3-point range, but the Jayhawks weren’t able to put the visitors in any type of deficit early on, as the Bears never trailed by more than four during that stretch.
Still, KU hit the locker room at intermission with a slim 32-29 lead as the Bears had trouble both scoring in the paint (12 points) and hitting from downtown (2 for 15).
Other than Jared Butler’s 4-for-7 shooting in the half, the Bears were 6 for 21, and turned the ball over 8 times. But KU couldn’t keep Baylor from cashing in on offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes — 9 BU second-chance points on 7 offensive boards.
The Bears found more success from long range in the second half (4 for 16 on 3-pointers), but not enough to make a serious run.
They finished the loss shooting 35.8 percent from the field overall.
David McCormack came out killing the Baylor zone and its frontcourt defenders in the paint.
Oftentimes it was Dedric Lawson setting him up to do so, either with passing or spacing or screening or clearing space or a pass that led to another action. The two bigs working in tandem made the Bears’ defense far less effective.
McCormack scored 10 points in the first half and opened the second by making sure he was more involved on the glass and as a defender. The freshman registered his second consecutive double-figure performance for the first time all season, in contributing 12 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block.
After a 2-for-9 first half, Lawson was more impactful offensively in the second half, primarily by getting to the foul line, where he finished 11 for 12 en route to his 20th double-double of the year (23 points, 14 rebounds).
Devon Dotson looked explosive in attacking the rim a couple of times in the first half, and on other occasions made determined drives into the teeth of BU’s zone to set up the passing KU needed to execute in the half court.
Although Dotson (15 points, 0 assists) didn’t do a ton of direct distributing for baskets, Quentin Grimes was most effective as a passer in the first half, when he dished 3 assists, including a perfectly placed lob for an Ochai Agbaji alley-oop jam.
Agbaji often asserted himself offensively, but his aggressiveness wasn’t paying off much of the afternoon, as he started 1 for 6 from the floor.
The energy and efforts of Agbaji (6 points, 3-for-10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) on both ends of the floor kept made him a key contributor, though.
At times the same couldn’t be said of Grimes (9 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists). Fortunately for the freshman, who drew the ire of his head coach on a few occasions, he made up for that by knocking down 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
Some Mitch Lightfoot (4 points, 4 boards) energy in the paint and some Marcus Garrett defense on the perimeter highlighted the efforts of KU’s substitutes.
As a major bonus for the Jayhawks, Garrett (7 points, 3 assists) knocked in a pair of 3-pointers.
Leading up to the Kansas basketball team’s first of back-to-back road trips south to the Sooner State, both head coach Bill Self and his players spoke of the Jayhawks playing with freer minds at this late stage of the season than they had during some of the most challenging stretches of the schedule.
No one on the roster embodied that attitude in Stillwater, Okla., more than Quentin Grimes.
Given the highs and lows of his freshman season at KU, some might wonder from game to game just what Grimes will bring to the floor. But whether he was coming off a 21-point eruption against Michigan State or a 2-for-11 shooting night at TCU or anywhere in the chasm in between, Grimes’ teammates always maintained that he was one of the better — if not the best — shooters on the team and an integral piece for the rotation.
That unwavering support allowed Grimes to elevate his play, despite a recent stretch of seven consecutive games of single-digit scoring for the 2018 McDonald’s All-American.
Even before Grimes’ 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4-for-7 3-point shooting in a 72-67 win at Oklahoma State kept KU alive in the Big 12 title race, junior forward Dedric Lawson called Grimes “a very hard-working kid,” while describing why he wasn’t worried about the freshman guard’s play.
“I’ve seen him in the gym a couple nights just working on his game,” Lawson shared this past Monday. “You know, sometimes going into college, you don’t know what to expect from a coach. I had the same problems when I went to Memphis. You just have to understand that there’s something bigger than you.”
Lawson said “Q,” as Grimes’ teammates call him, is about playing for others.
“He’s not a selfish person at all,” Lawson said.
Maybe that’s why the Jayhawks who know Grimes best always are singing his praises. After he played a starring role in KU’s third road win in 10 tries, Grimes thanked his teammates for their continued confidence in him.
“And everybody has a lot of faith in me on the offensive end,” Grimes said. “They know what I can do. My teammates and coaches have been real supportive of me.”
A 6-foot-5 freshman from The Woodlands, Texas, Grimes came through at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday looking more like a veteran who carries the team on a regular basis. With 2:42 to play in the second half, Grimes tied the game at 67 with a 3-pointer, off an assist from fellow freshman Ochai Agbaji.
Grimes called it “probably the biggest” shot of his career to date.
“Just knowing what’s on the line and what’s at stake right now. Just knowing that when Ochai swings the ball, I know he has confidence in me to hit that shot,” Grimes said. “I had hit a couple 3’s before that, so I just let it fly.”
Prior to that shot, Grimes made an equally important play on defense by forcing a held ball with the possession arrow pointing KU’s direction.
“I just knew how important this game was for us,” Grimes said of the Jayhawks maintaining their spot behind Big 12 co-leaders Texas Tech and Kansas State. “I just didn’t want to lose the game.”
Although he went 1-for-2 at the foul line with 1:38 to play, Grimes’ free throw gave Kansas (22-7 overall, 11-5 Big 12) the lead for good, as he finished with double-digit points for the second game in a row — something he hadn’t pulled off since the first two games of league play, back in the first week of January.
“He played his butt off,” junior Mitch Lightfoot said of Grimes at OSU. “The kid’s been putting in the work and that’s the Quentin we all know, and everybody needs to know that that’s what he can do, and we all believed in him like that.”
You can see Grimes, who thinks the rough part of his freshman season is behind him, enjoying himself more on the court lately. He’s not overthinking things. He looks comfortable and it’s bringing out his best qualities as a playmaker.
His impact as a passer may prove as important as his defense and shooting in the weeks ahead. In the second half at OSU, Grimes’ two assists to Lawson and one to Lightfoot gave KU easy baskets in the midst of a pressure-filled road game. And he seemed to get more satisfaction out of those dishes that provided buckets for teammates than he did from any of his numerous other contributions.
Grimes is a team-first player who is beginning to show more belief in himself on this still-evolving KU team. And he insists he couldn’t have reached this point without his teammates.
“We’ve been clicking as a team in practices. When you play good as a team, you feel good as an individual,” Grimes said of his growing assertiveness. “It’s easy for you to go out there and make plays.”
Stillwater, Okla. — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 72-67 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
KU hurt itself early and often in the first half by not finishing inside. The Jayhawks only shot 33 percent overall in the first half and 8 for 21 on 2-pointers.
They missed 11 layups in the first 20 minutes, contributing greatly to KU’s 5-point halftime deficit.
The visitors returned for the second half clicking offensively, with an 11-0 outburst putting the Jayhawks ahead by 4.
The offense wasn’t nearly as smooth or easy down the stretch, however. KU turned the ball over 8 times in the second half, oftentimes killing its chances of responding to timely OSU baskets.
KU shot 11 for 23 in the second half and finished the game 8 for 23 on 3-pointers.
At the free-throw line the Jayhawks shot 20 for 23.
The Jayhawks knew coming in how deadly OSU’s 3-point shooting could be, but that knowledge didn’t help them slow down the Cowboys in the first half.
Oklahoma State led 37-32 at intermission in large part because the home team caught fire from long range. Three different Cowboys nailed two 3-pointers before halftime: Curtis Jones, Thomas Dziagwa and Lindy Waters.
Cameron McGriff nailed one, too, and OSU shot 7 for 14 on 3-pointers in the first half.
After regrouping at halftime, the Jayhawks’ defense played some part in an 0-for-4 OSU start to the second half from downtown. When Jones and McGriff hit back-to-back 3-pointers with less than 13 minutes to go, it appeared the Cowboys may be back on track.
OSU went on to finish 4 for 15 on 3-pointers in the second half.
The Cowboys scored 18 points in the paint.
Freshman David McCormack must be a morning person, because he came out assertive following the 11 a.m. tipoff.
McCormack was drawing fouls, getting to the free-throw line and scoring a layup fewer than 4 minutes into the game.
Again showing some steady improvement as well as some flaws, McCormack produced 5 points and 3 rebounds in 11 minutes.
The young big’s quick start helped offset a slow one for Dedric Lawson. The redshirt junior forward from Memphis struggled to get shots over OSU’s interior defenders in the opening minutes.
After an 0-for-3 start, Lawson got himself going by knocking down a couple of free throws. A layup and a jumper would soon follow and he had 6 points and 8 rebounds before picking up his second foul in the first half.
It didn’t take Lawson long in the second half to hit his standard double-double mark, and the big man finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
In crunch time, Lawson tied the game at 64 with a pair of free throws, fouled McGriff to set up a 3-point play for OSU, and missed a last-minute layup.
Then, with KU up 1 point and 14.2 seconds to play, Lawson nailed a pair of free throws to help keep the Jayhawks’ Big 12 title hopes alive.
Much like McCormack, freshman guard Quentin Grimes assured the Jayhawks of a competitive start on the road.
With a couple of attacks of the basket for layups in the first few minutes and a pair of 3-pointers in the minutes that followed, Grimes had 10 points fewer than 12 minutes into the must-win road game.
Grimes’ promising start carried over into the second half, as well. His 3-pointer in the opening minutes fired up the KU fans in attendance, and shortly thereafter Grimes’ passing proved to be key for KU’s offense.
The freshman guard’s three assists in the first 9 minutes set up his teammates for high-percentage looks.
His late-game 3-pointer tied the game at 67. Then Grimes (17 points, 3 assists) fouled out McGriff with a drive to the paint. Grimes’ perimeter defense also helped force a shot clock violation in the game’s final seconds.
Neither Devon Dotson nor Ochai Agbaji were effective offensively in the first half. Both of them made exactly 1 field goal in the first 20 minutes as they combined to shoot 2 for 11.
Dotson (4 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) didn’t score his second basket of the matinee until the 5:22 mark of the second half, but it tied the game at 62.
Agbaji (11 points, 5 rebounds) delivered a couple of big 3-pointers in the second half.
Agbaji sealed the KU win at the foul line with 4.4 seconds to go, hitting two freebies.
As you would expect, Marcus Garrett (6 points, 6 rebounds) and Mitch Lightfoot (7 points, 1 rebound) were catalysts as substitutes in a high-pressure road game.
Garrett came through with a critical defensive rebound with a little more than a minute to play.
At no point in the past couple of weeks did Bill Self give his team a directive to shoot more 3-pointers.
But since the calendar flipped to February, the Jayhawks have definitely been more ready and likely to fire away from beyond the arc.
On the season, KU is averaging 20.7 3-point attempts per game with a 35.9% success rate. Through 12 Big 12 games, the Jayhawks are averaging 21.4 3-point tries and hitting 35.8%. But in the past four games, KU is hoisting 27.3 per game from downtown and connecting on 36.7% of those looks.
The upward trend began after Kansas only took 18 3-pointers in its double-digit loss at Texas. As Self pointed out during his weekly press conference on Thursday, the escalation in attempts wasn’t as much a shift in philosophy as it was a byproduct of another type of adjustment.
“We will shoot more 3’s if Dedric plays away from the basket,” Self said, “because that’s another guy that can shoot a 3 away from the basket. We’ve shot more. But I do believe that Dedric has contributed to that, because he’s probably shooting four or five a game himself, where he was probably averaging one a game before that. That could be it.”
Indeed, since Self tweaked the offense to relocate Lawson to the perimeter, the redshirt junior big man has shot 9 for 19 from 3-point range in the past four games. In the 21 games before that Lawson went a combined 11 for 39, attempting only 1.9 3-pointers a game.
With Lawson providing No. 14 Kansas (19-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12) with a new offensive wrinkle, the Jayhawks made a season-high 13 from deep in beating Texas Tech, and with 11 makes against Oklahoma State, KU hit double figures in 3-pointers for just the fifth time this season.
Obviously Lawson hasn’t done this all by himself. As the Jayhawks also have adjusted to playing without Marcus Garrett (injured ankle) and Lagerald Vick (leave of absence), Lawson and three oh his teammates have put up between four and five 3-pointers apiece during the past four games:
Lawson, 9 for 19
Ochai Agbaji, 8 for 19
Devon Dotson, 8 for 17
Quentin Grimes, 7 for 21
Rest of the team, 8 for 33
Self isn’t complaining about his team’s increased reliance on the 3-point arc. Even though freshman guard Grimes, as KU’s coach put it, “hasn’t really gotten on a roll yet offensively,” Grimes took a team-high eight 3-pointers at TCU earlier this week.
It was the second-most long-range attempts in a game for Grimes this season, a campaign that began with him going 6 for 10 against Michigan State.
“But they were good looks,” Self said of Grimes’ 1-for-8 night at TCU. “They were open.”
In that same Big Monday victory, Dotson delivered a career-high four 3-pointers on a career-high seven attempts. And the third freshman guard in the starting lineup, Agbaji, went 2 for 6.
Overall, KU went 9 for 30 from distance in Fort Worth, Texas. It was just the second time this season the Jayhawks attempted 30 3-pointers, and the other came three games earlier, in a home win over Texas Tech (13 for 30).
“Maybe confidence with the young guys is probably a reason why,” Self hypothesized of another factor in KU’s 3-point attempts being on the rise. “But I also think Dedric playing away from the basket.”
Perhaps the Jayhawks are just riding the wave created by a pre-game video message from Devonte’ Graham, who told them before the Texas Tech win something along the lines of, “I don’t care what coach says. Shoot the ball.”
Whatever it is, it seems to be working for these Jayhawks. As they head into the home stretch of the regular season, while they’ll need to connect at a better clip than the 30% that they shot in their win at TCU, the absence of their best 3-point shooter, Vick (66 for 145), hasn’t led to a noticeable dropoff in productivity in that category.
In part, that’s because KU’s other 3-point threats are more likely to take open looks now than they were earlier in the season.
“I feel like everybody’s getting a lot more comfortable with the offense,” Grimes said, “and what we can do out there from a standpoint of what coach wants, and then from an individual standpoint of what we can do out there on the court.”
Grimes, who is 33 for 100 on the season and 17 for 53 in Big 12 play, said the Jayhawks just need to take good shots. That means not rushing their 3-pointers, or taking them early in the shot clock, or when two defenders are closing and an extra pass is available.
“I feel like all the shots that we’ve been taking have been pretty good shots, even if they’re misses,” Grimes said of KU’s recent 3-point shot selection.
His teammates have said all season that Grimes is one of the best shooters on the team. And he may in fact prove himself to be one in the weeks ahead.
In the meantime, with no timetable for Vick’s return in place, it is becoming clear that KU has other reliable shooters. As Nick Schwerdt, host of KLWN’s “Rock Chalk Sports Talk” recently pointed out, Vick isn’t the only Jayhawk ranked among the Big 12 leaders in 3-point shooting during conference play.
Three active Jayhawks, in fact, are shooting 40% or better in league games:
Dotson, 13 for 30 (43.3%)
Agbaji, 14 for 33 (42.4%)
Lawson, 14 for 35 (40%)
With or without Vick, Kansas has capable 3-point shooters. And, more importantly, they are more comfortable and confident in taking those shots now.
When Dotson, Agbaji and Lawson are open beyond the arc, consider it a successful offensive possession every time they shoot.
And remember: open 3-pointers for Grimes are good shots, too. KU needs to get the freshman into a groove sooner rather than later, and he’s never going to get there without being assertive.
The Jayhawks are going to need 3-pointers to peak offensively, so they may as well embrace the concept of taking them when they’re open.
As the Kansas basketball team keeps trying to leap up and reach its seemingly elusive ceiling, a recurring question persists: When will freshman Quentin Grimes become the assertive, effective perimeter player the Jayhawks need him to be?
Every time Grimes puts up double-digit points, one can’t help but wonder if this particular performance will be the game that catapults him into consistency.
Such is the case at this crucial juncture of the schedule, with 11 games to go in the regular season and that countdown clock for the postseason ticking a little louder by the day.
Grimes was KU’s second-most impactful offensive player Saturday night at Kentucky, providing 13 points off 5-for-9 shooting and — of utmost importance for this team, with its dearth of sharpshooters — connecting on 3 of his 5 attempts from 3-point range.
Though it wasn’t nearly enough to beat the Wildcats (16-3 overall, 5-1 SEC) at Rupp Arena, Grimes’ night had to be a welcome development for the freshman, his teammates and his coaches, especially when looking at the context of what happened for him earlier in the week. Grimes had his third 0-for-the-game shooting day of the season, went scoreless for the first time as a Jayhawk — and, let’s be honest, probably ever — and played only 19 minutes in KU’s home win over Iowa State.
Grimes recovered by making 3-pointers at UK when the Jayhawks (16-4 overall, 5-2 Big 12) needed them. KU cut Kentucky’s lead to 2 in the second half when he knocked down his first 3, to 3 when he buried his second and to 6 when he drained his third, with 4:33 to go. Each was essential in keeping Kansas in reach of a UK team doing its best to put its Big 12 visitors away.
In Grimes’ previous five outings, he shot a combined 9 for 28 from the floor (5 for 17 from deep) and averaged 5.2 points per game. His upsurge at Kentucky is the latest instance of promise following prolonged doldrums. You may recall his four-game stretch of single-figure scoring games in December, or a similar four-game run transpiring from mid-November to Dec. 1.
Each time Grimes emerged with a more promising night — 14 points against Wofford in early December and 16 points against Eastern Michigan to close 2018 — Jayhawks spoke of their hope that this would be the turning point.
And so it was in Lexington, Ky., after KU came up short in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
“He played solid. He played a good game today,” teammate Marcus Garrett said of Grimes. “I think that’ll help him out going forward. He was able to knock down shots, see the ball go in.”
It was a familiar refrain, and, no question, one that both Grimes and everyone else within the program hope he doesn’t have to repeat any time soon.
A 6-foot-5 prospect with McDonald’s All-American pedigree and the physical build of an NBA guard, it’s difficult to watch Grimes and not see his potential. It’s there, and the Jayhawks would enjoy nothing more than seeing him play to it each and every game.
Perhaps his 21-point debut against Michigan State in the season opener set expectations too high. But when Grimes is rolling offensively — taking and making 3-pointers with confidence, sprinting wide down the sideline on the break or taking advantage of his frame and size inside versus a smaller guard — you don’t have to squint too hard to envision a guard who has the tools to be a reliable scoring source for KU.
True, it would be even more beneficial for the Jayhawks’ trajectory if Grimes could improve in every facet of the game. Take his perimeter defense up a notch. Utilize his strong lower body to help Dedric Lawson clean the glass. Regularly set up teammates for high-percentage shots. Attack off the bounce to score in the paint or get to the foul line. All of these are in the realm of possibilities, in theory.
In reality, he’s not likely to check all of those boxes every time KU plays. But a more commanding offensive approach should only bolster Grimes’ all-around game. So why not use that as a jumping-off point?
Everyone knows Lawson (19.5 points per game) can and will score. Typically, Lagerald Vick (14.8 points) can be relied on for 12 to 18 points or so, with greater outbursts on hot shooting nights never to be ruled out. But what if Grimes (8.5 points) became just as reliable? He wouldn’t have to put up 20 points a game the rest of the way, or even 15. If he could somehow get to a place offensively where he doesn’t disappear for stretches and regularly gives KU 12 points or more with a couple of 3-pointers, it would quickly become one of the more important developments of the season.
It’s an iffy if, when looking at the highs and lows of Grimes’ season so far. But becoming a perimeter scoring option to complement Lawson isn’t asking too much of him.
Everyone who keeps up with Kansas basketball repeatedly wonders when it will happen. We’ll see Tuesday at Texas whether Grimes can turn one promising performance into two as a starting point for a turnaround. Or whether the same old questions will cycle back to the forefront.
Ames, Iowa — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 77-60 defeat at Iowa State on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.