Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Notebook: Lightfoot fills in nicely; Graham shoulders blame

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) comes in for a dunk against Oklahoma guard Rashard Odomes (1) during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) comes in for a dunk against Oklahoma guard Rashard Odomes (1) during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.


Norman, Okla. — With 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike sitting for all but four minutes of the first half because of early foul trouble, sophomore sub Mitch Lightfoot did his best to hold down the fort down low.

In 14 first-half minutes, Lightfoot recorded six points, four rebounds, two blocks — one on Oklahoma phenom Trae Young — and an assist on 3-of-5 shooting to help keep the Jayhawks close at halftime.

For the game — an 85-80 Kansas loss — the reserve forward finished with eight points and five rebounds in 17 minutes, with two of his four field goals coming on strong dunks at the rim.

“Yeah, he was great,” KU coach Bill Self said of Lightfoot. “Mitch played well. Mitch played really well and he gave us a chance after, obviously, Dok got two fouls on him.”

As for whether the strong game was the result of Lightfoot having a better feel for his role on this team now that Billy Preston is no longer looming over the front court and freshman newcomer Silvio De Sousa's progress is slow-going, Self was not ready to concede that.

“I don't know if that's true,” he said. “Maybe. But he's been pretty good the last four or five games when we (our front court situation was) still up in the air, so I don't know.”

Speaking of De Sousa, the 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward who joined the Jayhawks midway through the season after graduating from IMG Academy a semester early played just one minute in his fourth game with the Jayhawks. And his inability to adapt to the environment and big-game nature of Tuesday's Big 12 showdown.

“Three turnovers in one minute,” Self said. “Two turnovers and an illegal screen, and they were all good calls. He's just not quite ready.”

Graham shoulders blame

In the ultimate senior-leader type of move, KU point guard Devonte' Graham put Tuesday's loss on his shoulders, not the right hand of troubled foul shooter and teammate Azubuike during the postgame meeting with the media.

“I just missed shots,” said Graham, who fouled out and finished 4-of-19 for 11 points, seven points below his season average. “I told the guys in the locker room, you can put this one on me. I felt like I let the team down today.”

Asked if he thought Graham spoke up to try to deflect some of the attention headed Azubuike's way.

“Sure, sure. Absolutely,” said Self before adding, “I didn't think he played bad. I thought he guarded pretty well, made some good passes and did a good job of running things for us.”

America's best conference?

Between questions about Azubuike's free-throw struggles and Trae Young's battle with KU senior Graham, Self was asked if Tuesday's clash was merely the latest example of the Big 12 Conference staking claim as the best conference in college basketball.

Ranked No. 1 in the RPI ratings by the slimmest of margins over the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big 12 already has enjoyed a monster season, both in and out of conference play, and is starting to reach that point where the league's top dogs are beating up on each other while doing their best to hold off serious challenges from the teams in the bottom half.

“I get a kick out of all coaches saying their league's by far the best when they haven't played anybody in the other leagues,” Self joked. “We're 6-2 (in Big 12 play) and I'll bet you seven out of the eight games have been games like this. So there are absolutely no guarantees, home or away.

“I don't know if it's the best (conference). You could make a case for the ACC. But I would say it's the deepest, when you talk about 10 teams and all of them RPI in the Top 85 or whatever, there's no other league in America that can line up that.”

Next up, a break

After eight straight Big 12 games over the past three weeks, the Jayhawks will get a momentary break from the Big 12 grind this weekend when Texas A & M comes to Allen Fieldhouse for a 3:30 p.m.tip-off in this year's Big 12/SEC Challenge.

KU is 3-1 in the midseason showcase, with two wins over Kentucky and a split with Florida during the past four seasons.

The Jayhawks are 20-1 all-time against former Big 12 brother Texas A & M, including a 10-1 mark in Allen Fieldhouse.

This and that...

Tuesday's loss dropped the Jayhawks to worse than 7-1 to open Big 12 play for the first time since the 2015-16 season when KU started 5-3... The Sooners' victory snapped an eight-game Big 12 road winning streak for the Jayhawks, which included the final five games of last season and the first three road games this season... KU's loss snapped a four-game winning streak over the Sooners and dropped KU's lead in the overall series to 146-67, including a 19-18 mark at Lloyd Noble Center... The Jayhawks are now 7-2 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season and Self is now 17-6 all-time against OU. 

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Oklahoma

By the Numbers: Oklahoma 85, Kansas 80.

By the Numbers: Oklahoma 85, Kansas 80.


Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 10 months ago

Sure, take all the blame, 'Tae. But if you don't follow it up with commitment to score more, to jack up your assist#s, speed up your move, that feeling means nothing. Now you know how good Young is, you've got a lot to catch up! Get out there and play like it's your last game!! Rock Chalk!

Chandler Accipiter 4 years, 10 months ago

Silvio's one minute in the game felt like an eternity...and not in a good way.

Jeff Foster 4 years, 10 months ago

I think Graham's defense on Young was awesome. I mean, Young was way more focused and only took a couple of off-balance 3's and he got to the rack pretty easily, but Graham's D limited him to only 9 shots after 39 in his previous game. Graham pushed him further out, got over screens and got Young out of good shooting positions. Of Young's points, he only got 6 on two 3-ptrs, 7 of 9 overall and most were driving in the lane, and 10 off free throws. For the most part KU kept their other players in check, defensive breakdown late on the wide open 3 that put them up, but if KU connects on a couple more shots and a couple more free throws, KU wins by 5 or 6. Tough loss, just need to take care of business at home and steal a couple more on the road and #14 is in the books!

Steve Johnson 4 years, 10 months ago

Agree with Graham, Dok missed 6 free throw sand Graham missed 9 3 point shots. Graham will bounce back next game he always does lets hope Dok can bounce back. who won't bounce back? De Sousa he is flat out horrible and if things don't change he will be a player that transfers quick. I get it that he is young and just out of high school but he is intimidated more than any player I have seen.

Craig Alexander 4 years, 10 months ago

De Sousa isn't leaving. Putting a guy who is used to destroying his opponents by talent is now having to play with developed college players. It isn't easy. He needs time and we are expecting a freshman phenom when normal freshman don't hit their stride within the first month of the season normally and that is with a summer practicing with the team.

Jerry Walker 4 years, 10 months ago

“He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.” -- P.G. Wodehouse

Bryce Landon 4 years, 10 months ago

Classy move by Devonte. I see what he's trying to do. He's trying to keep Udoka from feeling like he cost us the game. Ultimate teammate move there.

Kent Richardson 4 years, 10 months ago

Devonte your conciliatory actions are contrary to the message coach sent to Udoka and the team. Udoka is a liability which had to be shown in terms that he and the team understand. We all need to suck it up and bask in the gift we received. Lol.

Tom Jones 4 years, 10 months ago

You think Coach Self was trying to send the message to the team that Udoka is a liability?

That's certainly an...interesting...take.

Justin Kruse 4 years, 10 months ago

We just stopped throwing the ball inside to Udoka. This team has been doing it all year long and I don't get it.

Mitch played great! If all of our players had his energy and passion we'd be incredible.

Udoka didn't lose this game b/c of his free throws; he shouldn't have been in there to miss them in the first place.

Not even looking forward to this SEC/Big 12 Challenge. I just want to get back to Big 12 play and run through the rest of the conference!

Clara Westphal 4 years, 10 months ago

Coach Self was right. This game loss was on him. How could he sit there and watch the same thing happen three times and not take Udoka out of the game? What were the assistant coaches doing besides sitting on their wallets. Didn't one of them have a clue what Oklahoma was doing. I feel bad for Udoka. He couldn't take himself out of the game.

This loss was not Graham's fault.

DiscGolfer Jason 4 years, 10 months ago

TAM may not be the best team but they have 4 guys 6'9 or taller. I bet they do the same thing to Dok.

Barry Weiss 4 years, 10 months ago

Sure would have liked to see Mitch put in with 3 minutes to go. I kept waiting for that to happen, but it never did.

Craig Alexander 4 years, 10 months ago

Yeah I don't get that at all. If Mitch missed a defensive assignment but made 4 out of 8 FT then we potentially have a different result. It baffles me. If Dok isn't making 75% during non-crunch time then how is making him deal with the pressure going to make him more battle tested? His form is bad and until that changes between this year and next year, we will need a different approach during close games if teams employ this strategy.

DiscGolfer Jason 4 years, 10 months ago

I bet Self will put in Mitch in future games now that all coaches know what to do with Dok and his FT %.

W Keith Swinehart II 4 years, 10 months ago

Self's a great coach. Listen to what he says. Pretty spot on thinking, I think. It's hard to be right 100% of the time. He adjusts. He's a winner.

Bill Keebler 4 years, 10 months ago

I like everyone else can look back and say if only HCBS had put Mitch in for Dok we would have won the game (No Guarantee). But that's something we will never know. There are lot of "if only" issues in this game to produce a win. Has anyone really took time to look at the stats for this game? We came up short in every stat. We put Oklahoma on the line for 25 free throws of which they make 20. We were out rebounded, if only we were more aggressive in rebounding. We were only 6 - 16 in 3's the first half, if only we could have been that bad in the second half. We made 4 more 2 point shorts but shot 14 more to get the 4, if only???

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