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Jayhawks enter postseason still looking for some ‘oomph’

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with the Jayhawks during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, March 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with the Jayhawks during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, March 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

If the only objective on the last day of the regular season was to pick up another victory, Bill Self would have been thrilled with the play of his Kansas basketball team on Saturday.

The truth is he was looking for more.

Self had no complaints about the way the Jayhawks handled Baylor’s zone defense in a 78-70 win at Allen Fieldhouse. In fact, the coach thought his players executed solidly for the most part.

With Devon Dotson attacking off the dribble and Dedric Lawson and David McCormack knowing exactly where to locate the Bears’ weak spots, the Jayhawks had few issues finding high-percentage shots.

On a couple of occasions, the Big 12’s third-place team even achieved near perfection in the half court, staging in unison the actions, screening and precise passing that allowed Quentin Grimes to lob alley-oop assists to freshman skywalker Ochai Agbaji.

Still, KU’s 16th-year head coach didn’t think the Jayhawks were “anything exceptional,” he would say afterward.

“We executed OK. It was just that the game didn’t have any oomph,” Self bemoaned of the performance. “Which obviously is a little disappointing, being our last game this year (at home).”

The Jayhawks (23-8 overall, 12-6 Big 12) needed a springboard of a finale to launch them into the postseason on a high note. Instead, they got a ho-hum home victory that didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the idea that they’re about to take off and finally play to their ceiling.

At least during the immediate aftermath of the win, Self was tepid on the state of the Jayhawks’ play following the 31-game regular season.

“I don’t really think I’m in love with how we’re playing, but I also don’t think that I’m ultra-concerned with how we’re playing,” he said. “You’re gonna be concerned this time of year, because from this point forward it’s one-and-done, so to speak, if you lose in both tournaments.”

KU’s most recent three-game winning streak came in mid-January, when the Jayhawks bookended an overtime road win over TCU with home victories against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. You many recognize those three opponents as the Big 12’s eighth-, ninth- and 10th-place teams in 2019.

The Jayhawks also won three in a row in January, beating TCU at home, Baylor on the road and Texas in Lawrence.

Even though Sprint Center often turns into a de facto home game for Kansas during the Big 12 tournament, it’s hard to talk yourself into believing there’s a scenario in which these Jayhawks win three games in three days.

“It’s gonna be hard to do,” Self admitted. “We know that, with playing guys as many minutes as we play them. But we’ve done it before and we’ve done it last year, and certainly we’re capable of going over there and putting together a nice run. I think it’ll be good for us to kind of get our batteries recharged.”

Maybe the Jayhawks didn’t win emphatically versus Baylor because they were still experiencing the hangover of disappointment that accompanied them coming up short in the Big 12 title race.

A first-team all-conference performer as well as the league’s top newcomer, redshirt junior Lawson reiterated Saturday that Self never put pressure on this team to extend KU’s title streak.

“I just wanted to win a Big 12 title just for myself and things like that. Plus, you want to keep the legacy going,” Lawson said. “At the end of the day we fell short and it’s not the end of the world”

The current Jayhawks may not have dominated their peers like their predecessors so often did. But they should at least be able to put all of that behind them now.

“Going forward we’re just trying to be the best team that we can be, have the best year we can have,” Lawson said, “going into the Big 12 tournament and finishing strong, and March Madness from there.”

KU still has close to four full days to prepare for Texas and its postseason debut. We’ll find out Thursday night in Kansas City, Mo., whether the Jayhawks have found the “oomph” needed to outperform their irregular season.

Reply 12 comments from Surrealku Brad  Watson Jayscott Chad Smith Robert  Brock Dane Pratt Goku West_virginia_hawk Len Shaffer Dirk Medema and 1 others

Postgame Report Card: Kansas 78, Baylor 70

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) puts in a bucket over Baylor forward Flo Thamba (0) during the first half, Saturday, March 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) puts in a bucket over Baylor forward Flo Thamba (0) during the first half, Saturday, March 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 78-70 win over Baylor on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B

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.

Defense: B+

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.

Frontcourt: A-

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).

Backcourt: B-

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.

Bench: B-

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.

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Postgame Report Card: Oklahoma 81, Kansas 68

Oklahoma guard Miles Reynolds, right, tries to score in front of Kansas guard Quentin Grimes, left, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Oklahoma won 81-68. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)

Oklahoma guard Miles Reynolds, right, tries to score in front of Kansas guard Quentin Grimes, left, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Norman, Okla., Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Oklahoma won 81-68. (AP Photo/Nate Billings) by Associated Press

Norman, Okla. — Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 81-68 loss to Oklahoma at Lloyd Noble Center

Offense: D

It took KU a little more than 34 minutes of action to hit the 50-point mark in its latest road loss. The game never looked close on the scoreboard until it was basically over, with OU leading by as many as 24 points in the latter stages of the second half. Let’s not give the Jayhawks credit for a 13-2 run in garbage time.

The offense lacked the type of flow and confidence to challenge the Sooners. The Jayhawks shot 40.9% from the floor, only made 7 of 31 3-pointers and turned the ball over 15 times. KU’s giveaways led to 21 OU points.

Defense: D

The Jayhawks had no answers for the energy and focus of OU’s offense. The Sooners connected on 7 of their first 8 shot attempts and KU never could squash that momentum with some defense.

Both Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle destroyed Kansas time and again, with the visitors showing no ability to counter the attack and come away with stops.

The Sooners shot 49.1% from the field and outrebounded KU 41-31.

Frontcourt: C+

Both Dedric Lawson and David McCormack contributed 18 points for the Jayhawks, and Lawson registered another double-double with 11 boards.

But neither big was the type of presence that could give OU serious concerns. Crazily enough, KU needed even more from them with the Sooners making KU’s guards mostly non-factors.

Backcourt: D

Not one member of KU’s backcourt stood out in this one, and, boy, did it cost the Jayhawks.

Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji combined to shoot 7 for 25 and turn the ball over 7 times in defeat. They went a combined 2 for 14 on 3-pointers and were never able to adapt to OU’s inspired efforts.

Bench: D

The substitutes couldn’t give KU much of a spark either. Marcus Garrett’s 8 points and 5 boards made him the best of the bunch.

Mitch Lightfoot didn’t score, and neither did K.J. Lawson.

Reply 6 comments from Surrealku Cassadys Kall3742 Robert  Brock Layne Pierce

Big 12 Player of Year award still up for grabs in final week of regular season

Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) jumps back to shoot the ball over TCU's Kouat Noi (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver (23) jumps back to shoot the ball over TCU's Kouat Noi (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson) by Associated Press

Just as the Big 12 title race has yet to be resolved with mere days to go in the regular season, this year’s conference player of the year award remains up for grabs, too.

There’s no one dominating the league the way Blake Griffin did at Oklahoma in 2009 or Kevin Durant did in 2007 — not even close. Nor is Kansas a shoo-in for the crown, making the Jayhawks’ most valuable performer an obvious choice for the honor.

So which player is the most deserving of the hardware in 2019?

Bill Self, who has coached five Big 12 Players of the Year during his 15-plus seasons at KU, doesn’t have a winner in mind quite yet. But he will by the time this wild race wraps up on Saturday.

This year, Self opined, the award should go to the candidate from the league championship team.

“I don't think anybody has separated themselves,” Self said this past week, when asked for his thoughts about a possible Big 12 Player of the Year. “Like, last year, Trae (Young) and Devonte' (Graham) separated themselves from everybody else. You know, you’ve got two first-team All-Americans. This year, we're not going to have that in our league.”

Using Self’s parameters, only three players entered the final week of the regular season in contention for the Big 12’s top individual honor, because only three teams headed into the final two games of league play with at least a somewhat realistic shot at the conference title. (Sorry, Baylor.)

There’s Texas Tech sophomore guard Jarrett Culver, Kansas State senior guard Barry Brown Jr. and KU junior forward Dedric Lawson.

Kansas State guard Barry Brown, Jr., left, drives to the basket against Texas forward Jaxson Hayes during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

Kansas State guard Barry Brown, Jr., left, drives to the basket against Texas forward Jaxson Hayes during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

“Whoever’s team plays the best down the stretch and wins the league, to me, that’s the most deserving in this particular year,” Self said.

Entering Monday’s games, here are the individual statistics in Big 12 play for arguably the three best players in the conference:

Culver: 17.9 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals, .486 field goal percentage, 14 for 65 on 3-pointers, .706 free throw percentage and — per sports-reference.com — 21.1 Player Efficiency Rating in league games.

Brown: 16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.0 steals, .472 FG percentage, 25 for 75 3’s, .658 FT percentage and 21.1 PER vs. Big 12.

Lawson: 18.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals, .479 FG percentage, 18 for 44 3’s, .782 FT percentage and 26.5 PER vs. Big 12.

Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff, right, watches as Kansas guard Dedric Lawson, left, takes as shot under pressure from Oklahoma State forward Yor Anei during an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 3, 2019. Lawson led scoring for Kansas with 20 points in the 72-67 win over Oklahoma State. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff, right, watches as Kansas guard Dedric Lawson, left, takes as shot under pressure from Oklahoma State forward Yor Anei during an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 3, 2019. Lawson led scoring for Kansas with 20 points in the 72-67 win over Oklahoma State. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt) by Associated Press

All three candidates have proven to be crucial to their respective team’s success over the past couple of months, but not one of them has emerged as an obvious choice for player of the year in the conference.

And perhaps no separation will ever take place. What if there’s a tie for the Big 12 title this season? Should the existence of co-champions mean co-Big 12 Players of the Year, as well?

“I don’t know,” Self admitted. “Then, it would probably come down to stats or whatever if it’s a tie. But to me, if there is an outright winner, that guy deserves it.”

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 72, Oklahoma State 67

Kansas forward Charlie Moore, left, watches as Oklahoma State guard Lindy Waters III takes a shot during an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Kansas forward Charlie Moore, left, watches as Oklahoma State guard Lindy Waters III takes a shot during an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, March 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt) by Associated Press

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.

Offense: C+

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.

Defense: B

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.

Frontcourt: B-

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.

Backcourt: C

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.

Bench: B-

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.

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 64, K-State 49

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) watches his three pointer behind Kansas State guard Barry Brown Jr. (5) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) watches his three pointer behind Kansas State guard Barry Brown Jr. (5) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 64-49 win over Kansas State on Big Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B-

Considering that K-State has one of the better defenses in the nation, the Jayhawks were highly unlikely to blow out their rivals in this Sunflower Showdown.

KU shot 39.6% from the floor overall and only made 8 of 24 3-pointers.

But the ball security (see: 10 Kansas turnovers) kept the Wildcats from feasting off takeaways.

Freshman David McCormack accounted for 2 of those mistakes, while the rest of KU’s rotations players combined for just 8. That may be the most important thing accomplished offensively for Kansas in this one.

Defense: A

KU’s ability to switch defensively, Barry Brown said after shooting 1 for 8, turned the Wildcats’ offense stagnant.

Mitch Lightfoot (credited 3 blocks) defended the paint well, too, and with Dedric Lawson competing inside as well, the Wildcats couldn’t manage any more than 8 points in the paint.

K-State only connected on 31.6% of its shots in the loss and the Big 12’s first-place team hit 8 of 24 3-pointers.

Frontcourt: B-

Lawson was back to his double-double ways, putting up 18 points and 14 rebounds. But he shot 6 for 20 from the floor and missed all 4 of his 3-point tries.

The big man’s passing proved useful, though, as Lawson dished 5 of KU’s 14 assists.

While McCormack started once again, he made little to no impact.

Backcourt: B-

Devon Dotson attacked off the dribble, seeking out the paint whenever he could. Even when those ventures didn’t conclude with baskets or assists, his successful drives for paint touches forced the K-State defense to react, making the freshman point guard a critical cog for the offense.

Dotson produced 16 points on 5-for-12 shooting and hit 1 of his 5 3-pointers.

Fellow freshman Quentin Grimes was in catch-and-fire mode all night from beyond the arc, and shot 3 for 6 from deep on his way to 12 points.

Ochai Agbaji had a rare ineffective home game offensively, finishing scoreless in 16 minutes.

Bench: B+

Lightfoot at points controlled the game while fueling a crucial KU victory. His energy and want-to were off the charts, making it easy for him to finish with the stat line: 9 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists in 31 minutes.

Marcus Garrett played 27 minutes in his second game back from his ankle injury and knocked in a couple of 3-pointers (one of them banked in).

KU’s bench outscored the K-State reserves 18-10.

Reply 2 comments from Dirk Medema Oklahawk58

Rejuvenated Dedric Lawson will be crucial in KU’s push for another Big 12 title

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) drives to the bucket between West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1) and West Virginia guard Jermaine Haley (10) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) drives to the bucket between West Virginia forward Derek Culver (1) and West Virginia guard Jermaine Haley (10) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

After spending much of the season’s first three months doing his best to carry the Kansas basketball team, things are finally beginning to settle down for Dedric Lawson.

Not only has the emergence of freshmen guards Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji meant the Jayhawks can actually win games without Lawson scoring 20-plus points and registering a double-double, KU’s leading scorer and rebounder will get some hard-earned time off in the days ahead.

During the last week of January, Kansas dropped back-to-back games at Kentucky and Texas, and Lawson spent much of both defeats getting bodied and pushed around by opposing bigs, who often doubled him inside and wore him down.

But the redshirt junior forward from Memphis, Tenn., who has spent more time on the perimeter in the five games since the loss at Texas, said he hasn’t felt as beat-up lately.

“I haven’t been as sore just after the game. I’ve been doing a lot of different things to take care of my body and things of that nature, like cold tub, hot tub, things like that,” Lawson said after contributing 14 points and 4 rebounds to KU’s 78-53 win over West Virginia on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. “Sometimes, we have a quick turnaround from Saturday, then to Monday. You don’t really have as much time to put your body into treatment.”

That won’t be the case this week. Lawson and the Jayhawks (20-6 overall, 9-4 Big 12) get a full seven days between their WVU win and a crucial road matchup at Texas Tech, the team with which they’re currently tied for second in the Big 12 standings, a half-game behind first-place Kansas State (19-6, 9-3).

It seems KU’s longest break in the schedule since late December couldn’t have come at a better time. Then again, is there ever a bad time to have a week off?

“That’s a good question,” Lawson said. “It’s a good time because, hopefully, it gives Marcus (Garrett, injured ankle) time to come back. I’d say it’s definitely a good time for all of our pieces to get healthy and for us to go into Texas Tech all together as a team, and go in there and be able to compete with all of our guys.”

Even if Lawson doesn’t want to admit it, his head coach, Bill Self, said several times on Saturday that he thinks KU’s multiskilled, 6-foot-9 forward has looked tired. Lawson is averaging 33 minutes a game this year, and providing Kansas with 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds, plus 50.6-percent shooting. Between the effort he exerts and the amount of defensive attention he receives from KU’s opponents, it’s enough to overtax even a physically and mentally prepared athlete.

KU’s victory over WVU marked the team’s fifth game in 15 days. Lawson said he has felt more vigorous than may be expected because the team’s head trainer, Bill Cowgill, puts all of the Jayhawks in position to recover — “keeping guys fresh and keeping them not so banged up,” as Lawson put it.

Only five games remain now on the Jayhawks’ regular-season schedule, and running the table would qualify as an exceedingly tall task. But that’s the surest path to another Big 12 title for Kansas. And it’s far more feasible now than it looked a couple of weeks ago.

A rejuvenated Lawson, more capable of finishing inside, draining 3-pointers outside and cleaning the glass coming off a seven-day break, could carry KU to a fantastic finish to the season.

His load to bear won’t feel so heavy, either, now that he’s facing up instead of posting down low, and has Dotson and Agbaji co-starring with him in the Jayhawks’ late-season push.

Reply 10 comments from Surrealku Dirk Medema Dane Pratt Len Shaffer Navyhawk Joe Ross Mlbenn35

Even without Lagerald Vick, Jayhawks capable of producing from 3-point range

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) puts up a three over Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff (12) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) puts up a three over Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff (12) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) puts up a three from the corner over Oklahoma State guard Isaac Likekele (13) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) puts up a three from the corner over Oklahoma State guard Isaac Likekele (13) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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.”

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) puts up a three over Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) puts up a three over Kansas State guard Kamau Stokes (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

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.

None by Nick Schwerdt

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.

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 84, Oklahoma State 72

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) is hounded by Oklahoma State forward Duncan Demuth (5) and Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff (12) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) is hounded by Oklahoma State forward Duncan Demuth (5) and Oklahoma State forward Cameron McGriff (12) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 84-72 win over Oklahoma State on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B+

A slow start from 3-point range kept KU from building anything larger than a 6-point lead in the first half. Then the Jayhawks needed some late-half 3-pointers from Ochai Agbaji to head into the locker room tied with the Cowboys.

KU wasn’t finding a lot of easy baskets in the paint in the first 20 minutes, when they scored just 12 inside, leading to the tight game against the Big 12’s ninth-place team.

But the Jayhawks opened up the second half by establishing Dedric Lawson as a focal point and high-percentage looks and some needed energy followed for the Jayhawks.

KU shot 51.5 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes.

Defense: B-

Some defensive breakdowns late in the first half allowed OSU to score easily and head to halftime with some confidence.

While Kansas didn’t allow OSU to take a ton of 3-pointers, the defense often left the Cowboys’ most capable shooters open for great looks when they did take them. The Cowboys shot 9 for 20 from long range and the makes always seemed timely.

Ultimately OSU wasn’t able to hoist enough 3-point bombs to keep pace with the home team, and the Cowboys shot 38 percent from the floor in the second half.

Frontcourt: B+

Although David McCormack made the first start of his career, it was, of course, Dedric Lawson who did most of the damage inside for Kansas.

Lawson began to take over in the second half, exactly when KU needed him to. His smooth finishing and shooting touch were on full display, but so was his passing, decision-making and feel for the game, as the Jayhawks’ most talented player put up 25 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

McCormack had trouble making much of an impact early, though his energy and effort and want-to was plenty evident.

The freshman’s 10 first-half minutes netted 1 rebound and 0 points. By the end of the game, McCormack had played just 4 more minutes and had 0 points and 5 boards to show for his starting debut.

Backcourt: B+

Playing without two potential starters in Marcus Garrett (injured ankle) and Lagerald Vick (leave of absence), Kansas went with a three-guard lineup versus the Cowboys.

Devon Dotson’s innate ability to find steals and take off the other way for a bucket reached new heights in the first half, when the freshman delivered the first dunk of his KU career. A few minutes later he had an even more impressive finish on a layup, because he was challenged this time, by OSU big Yor Anei, and finished off glass over the 6-foot-10 freshman.

With Vick out of the mix, Kansas definitely needs someone stepping up in the scoring department and Dotson did his part Saturday, putting up 18 points to go with his 4 assists and 5 rebounds.

Fellow freshman Ochai Agbaji, one of four freshmen in the starting lineup, was even better in that department, providing the offense with a real boost, as well. Agbaji (23 points, 5-for-7 on 3-pointers, 6 rebounds) drained 3 of 4 from 3-point range in the first half, as KU entered the locker room tied with the Cowboys at 36.

Freshman Quentin Grimes (6 points, 4 rebounds) had a difficult start to his day, twice called for a charge while trying to be aggressive off the dribble. He didn’t score until the 12:20 mark of the second half, but his contributions proved timely, as a pair of 3-pointers in a little more than a minute, out of a timeout, pushed KU’s lead to 8.

Bench: B

Mitch Lightfoot and Charlie Moore were the first players off KU’s bench, and got in much earlier than they would have a couple of weeks back, when they were at the end of the rotation.

Lightfoot (6 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks) pleased the crowd in the first half by going all out for a tough defensive rebound at one point and later on challenging Cameron McGriff for a would-be highlight dunk that ended a foul.

Lightfoot, who started the second half in place of McCormack, got the half off to an electric start on defense by smothering a would-be Anei dunk attempt up in the air.

Moore came out firing off the bench, but was 1 for 5 in the first half and missed all 3 of his 3-point tries. The redshirt sophomore finished with 4 points.

Reply 3 comments from Dane Pratt Roger Ortega Dirk Medema

Postgame Report Card: K-State 74, Kansas 67

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) is defended by Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) along the baseline during the second half, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) is defended by Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) along the baseline during the second half, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 74-67 loss on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum.

Offense: D

The Jayhawks’ 23 turnovers destroyed their chances of winning on their rival’s home court.

Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji combined to commit 17 between them.

K-State’s defense repeatedly kept KU off balance, leading to KU’s fourth loss in a row on the road.

Defense: C-

K-State, not known for its offense or 3-point accuracy, drained 10 of 24 from deep.

KU played competent defense for stretches in the half court, but a lack of consistency on that end against one of the Big 12’s worst offensive teams caught up with the visitors.

Frontcourt: C

While KU would be lost without Lawson, the Wildcats harassed him and kept long defenders on him, making for a long night for the leading scorer.

Lawson shot 6 for 15 from the floor and only made 1 of 5 from 3-point range.

Backcourt: C-

Boy, did the Jayhawks’ guards look uncomfortable versus the defensive-minded Wildcats.

Quality shots were rare at best, impossible to find at other junctures. The same issues that have plagued KU on the road haven’t gone anywhere.

Bench: B-

Charlie Moore was a surprising bright spot, providing KU with 8 points and a pair of assists.

Mitch Lightfoot looked like someone who had experienced the Sunflower Showdown before, and his characteristic go-hard approach led to 6 points and 5 boards.

KU’s bench was outscored by K-State’s subs, 20-17.

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