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Postgame Report Card: No. 1 Kansas 83, Oklahoma State 58

Kansas guard Isaiah Moss (4) pulls up from the corner over Oklahoma State guard Lindy Waters III (21) during the first half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Isaiah Moss (4) pulls up from the corner over Oklahoma State guard Lindy Waters III (21) during the first half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 83-58 win over Oklahoma State on Big Monday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B+

• The Jayhawks weren’t always knocking down the 3-pointers the Cowboys invited them to take. But the offense didn’t ultimately suffer for KU as a result.

After a low-percentage first half of shooting (34.4% from the field), the Jayhawks finally got rolling a few minutes into the second half.

They connected on nine shots in a row to bury OSU, with four of their baskets in that stretch coming at the rim.

• KU finished 44% from the field in the easy home victory. The Jayhawks went 10-for-28 on 3-pointers and scored 28 points in the paint.

Defense: B+

• The Cowboys spent much of the loss shooting in the low 30s, percentage wise.

Their 13 turnovers didn’t help, either, on a night OSU shot 38% from the floor. The Cowboys had to find and hit 3-pointers to stand a chance, but KU held them to 3-for-12.

Frontcourt: A-

• KU star senior center Udoka Azubuike looked ready for the attention OSU would give him from the opening moments of the rout.

Four OSU defenders zeroed in on the KU big man on an early touch and Azubuike wisely and quickly kicked the ball out to Ochai Agbaji for a wide-open 3-pointer, which the sophomore guard drained.

Azubuike wouldn’t be denied his chances to score, though, as he helped KU demolish OSU inside, all while he kept giving the Jayhawks high-level rim protection, too.

The Jayhawks’ 7-footer left the latest win with 19 points, 16 rebounds 3 blocked shots and a 7-for-8 night at the free throw line.

Backcourt: B-

• Devon Dotson only shot 3-for-12 in the win. The sophomore point guard helped make up for that with his defense, as well as 4 assists and 5 boards on his 11-point night.

• Isaiah Moss quickly set his feet for his second shot attempt of the evening, a great look at the hoop from the top of the key, and the grad transfer knocked it down with the OSU defense collapsing on the interior any time KU got the ball inside. He looked like the perfect solution to OSU’s defensive strategy.

Moss finished 3-for-6 on 3-pointers. Not exactly a game-changer, but the exact kind of solid production KU need from him.

• Ochai Agbaji bounced back nicely from a scoreless game at Baylor, putting up 15 against OSU, to go with his typical defensive effort.

• Marcus Garrett was the best creator and distributor among KU’s guards, dishing 7 assists.

His defense, as always, made him a huge bonus for the Jayhawks’ lineups, too, on a night Garrett produced 5 points and 3 rebounds.

Bench: B

• David McCormack early on looked explosive on an offensive rebound and follow jam, hranessing his energy for good.

McCormack wasn’t done there, either, with the blowout allowing him to get plenty of quality minutes. The sophomore backup big came away with 10 points and 4 rebounds, plus 1 block.

• Christian Braun looked confident with the ball in his hands again, and was a shooter that gave OSU trouble, as he went 3-for-4 from deep.

• The KU subs outscored OSU’s, 24-13.

Reply 2 comments from Surrealku Dirk Medema

Jayhawks need to give Isaiah Moss some help outside the arc

Kansas guard Isaiah Moss (4) scores on a 3-point shot as TCU forward Diante Smith (10) looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Kansas guard Isaiah Moss (4) scores on a 3-point shot as TCU forward Diante Smith (10) looks on during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) by Associated Press

There’s no question that Kansas coach Bill Self is happy with the recent play of his team’s 3-point specialist, Isaiah Moss.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Self said Friday, when asked about the surging senior marksman, who helped No. 3 Kansas stay unbeaten in Big 12 road games, with a 58-49 win at No. 14 West Virginia.

Self didn’t share his specific feelings about the recent 3-point accuracy — or lack thereof — from the rest of the Jayhawks. But KU’s coach did mention his team made exactly four 3-pointers in each of its two road wins this past week.

“He’s made six of them,” Self pointed out of Moss, a 38.8% career 3-point shooter over the course of three seasons at Iowa and 23 games at KU.

The past couple of games in particular, Moss has proven to be the exact version of himself KU needs offensively — 3-for-8 from long range at TCU and 3-for-5 at WVU.

He could clearly use some help. While Moss was fulfilling his role in two impressive, defense-first road victories for the Jayhawks, the rest of the team combined to shoot 2-for-14 in the past week.

In the two games prior to those, KU went 4-for-13 against Texas Tech and 2-for-12 versus Texas. No single Jayhawk made more than one 3-pointer in either of those home wins.

“It’s ridiculously poor how we’ve shot the ball beyond the arc,” Self remarked. “But also you can look at it like thank goodness we’ve got (Moss).”

With the end of the regular season now just three weeks away, KU is shooting 34.2% on 3-pointers as a team this year (131st nationally as of Friday). However, the Jayhawks are making only 31.9% of their 3-pointers in Big 12 play, placing them fifth in the conference entering this weekend’s slate of games.

KU’s lack of consistent shooting has been an ongoing discussion this season, and when those conversations are happening Moss isn’t the only player considered a reliable option. Freshman Christian Braun needs to be a good shooter for the Jayhawks, too, as Self doesn’t mind bringing up.

If Braun’s more assertive on catch-and-shoot chances, following Moss’s lead, it will bolster KU’s scoring and offensive spacing.

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) puts up a three from the wing during the first half on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) puts up a three from the wing during the first half on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Braun didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer in KU’s two wins at TCU and WVU, while playing a combined 36 minutes. He also went 0-for-2 against Texas and last connected on a 3-pointer during a game on Feb. 1, going 1-for-2 versus Texas Tech.

Yet Braun is responsible for some of KU’s most eye-popping 3-point displays this season, going 6-for-10 versus Kansas State and 4-for-8 at Oklahoma State.

So far during his freshman year, Braun can boast 41.8% 3-point accuracy. In Big 12 games, no Jayhawk has been as on the mark from long range as Braun, who is 14-for-29 (48.3%).

The Jayhawks need Moss and Braun firing because they’re easily the best shooters in the rotation.

Sophomore point guard Devon Dotson hasn’t hit more than one 3-pointer in a game since KU played at Iowa State on Jan. 8. WVU strategically left him open earlier this week, as Dotson went 1-for-5 while playing through some right knee soreness that had kept him out of practices the previous few days, Self shared.

In the nine games Dotson has played since going 2-for-5 on 3-pointers at ISU, he has shot 7-for-34 (20.6%) from deep. And he’s just a 27.7% 3-point shooter on the season.

Junior guard Marcus Garrett will take 3-pointers when the defense leaves him wide open and the shot makes sense in the moment. But he hasn’t buried a 3 since KU’s Jan. 14 win at Oklahoma. Garrett didn’t put up a single 3-pointer in four outings of that eight-game stretch, during which he was 0-for-7.

A 26.4% career 3-point shooter, Garrett has connected on 28.6% of his 35 tries during his junior season. He’s just 3-for-15 (20%) in Big 12 games this year.

Sophomore Ochai Agbaji gets hot from behind the arc occasionally. But since a 3-for-7 afternoon in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge against Tennessee on Jan. 25, Agbaji has gone 4-for-18 (22.2%) over his most recent five games.

Agbaji enters Saturday’s rematch with OU shooting 34.6% from downtown as a sophomore, but that number dips to 25.6% in KU’s 11 Big 12 games to date.

Moss is KU’s green-light shooter, and Self thinks the graduate transfer understands that. But the Jayhawks will need Braun to adopt a little bit of that same mentality and wait for Dotson and Agbaji to shoot their way out of their slumps before the offense is able to peak.

KU has gotten away with being a mediocre to poor 3-point shooting team this season because the Jayhawks are playing elite defense (No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com). But if they’re somehow able to pair that defense with some consistency from outside, they would become a dominant team.

The key will be confident shooting from Moss and Braun, paired with Dotson (a good free-throw shooter, at 80.6% this season) and Agbaji improving for the stretch run.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 3 Kansas 60, TCU 46

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) handles the ball inside a TCU center Kevin Samuel (21) and guard Francisco Farabello (3) defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) handles the ball inside a TCU center Kevin Samuel (21) and guard Francisco Farabello (3) defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) by Associated Press

Fort Worth, Texas — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 60-46 win over TCU on Saturday.

Offense: C

• An ugly couple of opening minutes for the Jayhawks had the makings of a performance that would cost them a game in the standings if something didn’t change in a hurry.

• The solution proved to be getting the ball inside, with heavy doses of Udoka Azubuike, mixed in with some layups and dunks for KU’s guards when they could find them.

KU outscored TCU, 22-10, in the paint in the opening half, while only shooting 36.1% from the floor overall.

• KU wasn’t putting an emphasis on 3-pointers in the first half, but the few looks they sought out weren’t dropping early. Finally, marksman Isaiah Moss buried their fifth attempt from deep, and in a game with so little scoring, KU led by 11 before halftime. The Jayhawks shot 2-for-7 from deep in the first half, with Moss providing both makes.

• The Jayhawks’ offense struggled through much of the second half, unless they were able to get Azubuike the ball in the paint or score in transition.

• KU got another road win while hitting 41% from the floor, going 4-for-13 on 3-pointers and scoring 36 points in the paint. The Jayhawks turned it over 10 times.

Defense: A

• The first half was not exactly pretty to watch, but KU made sure that the TCU offense looked even uglier. The Frogs shot just 8-for-27 in the opening half, with 8 turnovers.

TCU headed to the locker room with only 18 points on the scoreboard, after its shooters went 2-for-11 on 3-pointers.

• The Frogs, of course, found relatively more success in the final 20 minutes, but finished the game 35% from the field, 5-for-22 on 3-pointers, with 26 points in the paint and 17 turnovers.

Frontcourt: B

• Azubuike got off to such a rough start that Bill Self opted quickly to take him off the floor and sit him on the bench, a little more than 3 minutes in.

Message received.

After a brief seat that didn’t even last a full minute of game clock, Azubuike returned to the court and immediately began destroying TCU inside.

Azubuike had 12 points and 7 boards by the time he took a rest at the midway point of the first half. He added another basket and 2 rebounds before the break.

• The senior 7-footer wasn’t at his personal best, but was by far and away the best player in a KU uniform, contributing his 10th double-double, with 20 points and 15 rebounds, plus 5 blocked shots.

Backcourt: C-

• Devon Dotson got off to a 1-for-6 shooting start, but was getting decent looks while remaining assertive. His spin move into a lay-in that gave KU a 21-13 lead at the time seemed in the moment it might be a turning point for him versus the Frogs.

Even though that wasn’t the case in the first half, as Dotson shot 2-for-9 and missed both is 3-point attempts.

Although Dotson gave KU some rare points here and there in a low-scoring second half, he turned the ball over 3 times in the first portion before getting his game back on track.

The sophomore point guard’s steal and layup and transition offensive rebound and putback proved crucial in the final 6 minutes. Dotson gave KU 18 points and 11 assists.

• The Jayhawks weren’t getting much production out of anyone except Azubuike and Dotson in the first half, as Marcus Garrett and Christian Braun went scoreless and Ochai Agbaji had 2 points at intermission.

That trend carried over into the second half, as Dotson and Azubuike were the only Jayhawks scoring until McCormack hit a long jumper with 7:58 to go.

Garrett, Braun and Agbaji combined to shoot 2-for-23 at TCU, and between the three of them had 7 points, all from Agbaji.

Bench: C+

• McCormack and Moss were in the game early at TCU, a result of the Jayhawks’ ugly start and Self’s unhappiness with the play of Azubuike and Braun.

Moss would be the only sub KU leaned on heavily in the first half, though. The senior shooter went 2-for-4 from deep in the first half, burying one in the corner in front of TCU’s bench in the final seconds to give KU a 31-18 halftime lead.

The grad transfer played well enough to start the second half, in place of Braun. Moss’ 3-pointers looked off the mark, though, and he finished with 9 points on 3-for-8 3-point shooting.

• McCormack, in limited minutes produced 6 points and 4 rebounds while filling in for Azubuike.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 3 Kansas 78, Texas Tech 75

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) comes away with a steal during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) comes away with a steal during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 78-75 win over Texas Tech on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B+

• The Jayhawks looked poised to blow Texas Tech out in the game’s opening minutes, seeking out open shots and making sure to get the ball inside. The great start would be short-lived but needed.

• KU scored 18 points in the paint in the first half, even as Udoka Azubuike went without a made field goal inside.

• Kansas shot 55% from the floor in the first half, but four players combined to go just 9-for-15 on free throws.

• With Udoka Azubuike finding it hard to stay on the floor versus Tech, and the Red Raiders adjusting well at halftime, the KU offense began to unravel at times in the second half, allowing Tech to make it a one-possession game on a couple of occasions.

• Timely responses to Tech scores and runs made the difference down the stretch. KU shot 48% in the second half and 1-for-5 on 3-pointers. The Jayhawks scored 38 points in the paint.

Defense: C

• Texas Tech missed its first 7 attempts from the field as KU raced out to a 10-0 lead behind strong defense from its four-guard starting lineup, which happens to be anchored by the very large Azubuike. The Red Raiders fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half. But were able to go on a key spurt when Azubuike checked out of the game with two fouls.

KU limited the visitors to 38% shooting in the game’s first 20 minutes, when the Red Raiders were 2-for-9 on 3-pointers.

• Tech’s offense got comfortable from time to time in the second half, and the Jayhawks quite a few times let the visitors do that by giving up 3-point looks. The Red Raiders went 7-for-12 from deep in the final 20 minutes.

Frontcourt: D

• KU’s only starting big man picked up his second foul at the midway point of the first half. A charge call and a third foul a couple minutes into the second half meant the most valuable man on the roster would spend even more time on the bench.

• The Jayhawks led, 53-48, when Azubuike finally came back in with 12:55 to play in the second half.

• KU needs Azubuike on the floor to overwhelm opponents and truly be great. This was not the big man’s day and the senior 7-footer had 5 points and 8 rebounds in 16 minutes.

Backcourt: B

• KU’s guards all brought an assertive offensive approach to the afternoon. And with the way Marcus Garrett remained intent on getting to the paint, Tech’s defense had to keep moving and reacting. Garrett kept the Red Raiders off balance and set himself and his teammates up for great shots in the game’s opening minutes.

The Jayhawks led by 15 less than 8 minutes in after Garrett made his way inside for his second layup. When he wasn’t scoring off drives, he was assisting for uncontested, high-percentage looks.

• Garrett fell hard on a drive inside late in the first half, appearing to bother his ankle or foot. He already had 7 points and 2 assists when he checked out with 4:25 left until halftime.

He’s Marcus Garrett, though. So he was fine. And by the end of the game he was blocking shots inside in a one-possession game to seal a KU win.

Garrett willed the Jayhawks to a win and gave them 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.

• Devon Dotson proved just as impossible for Tech defenders to stay in front of, as the sophomore repeatedly blew by Red Raiders for layup, on his way to 13 first-half points.

After Tech made it a 2-point game with less than 9 minutes to go in the second half, Dotson seemed to take it personally. He sought out a layup, grabbed two defensive rebounds and threw a lob for a powerful David McCormack slam in the following minute-plus, as KU extended its lead to 8.

Dotson came through with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists.

• Ochai Agbaji came out hot for KU, nailing his first three shot attempts, all jumpers. Those quick 7 points would remain his total at halftime, but his quick start helped KU create some crucial separation against a strong Tech defense.

Agbaji finally scored again when the game was tight in the second half, and his defense, as always, was a must on the perimeter. Plus, taking his first free throws of the game with KU up 1 points with 14.3 seconds left, Agbaji made both on a 1-and-1.

The sophomore had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.

• Christian Braun wasn’t finding open looks from 3-point range early, but he didn’t force the issue, either. The freshman, inches second career start, took hard-nosed drives to the paint instead, seeking contact and getting to the foul line.

His first bucket of the day felt meaningful, though, as he cashed in an open 3-pointer to give KU a double-digit lead minutes after it was a 2-point game.

Tech defended Braun well, though, mostly, and he gave KU 6 points and 5 boards.

Bench: B+

• When David McCormack made his return from his two-game suspension, the Red Raiders initially looked more effective on both ends when the sophomore was on the floor.

But McCormack eased his way back and eventually helped KU keep its head above water for a while in the second half, when Azubuike picked up his third foul early on.

His size and athleticism helped him erase a couple of Tech layups. And the sophomore even showed off his passing with one bounce pass assist and another feed on an Isaiah Moss cut.

McCormack provided 6 points and 6 boards, plus 3 rejections.

• Moss missed his first 3-point try and turned the ball over before he did anything productive, but didn’t let a rough beginning to his afternoon deter him.

The senior guard really tok off in the second half, and even put up points in bunches without getting them from deep as one might expect.

Moss finished with 12 points and looked perfectly suited for his 6th man scorer role.

• The KU rotation now has two starting level players coming off the bench in McCormack and Moss, and the Jayhawks’ subs outscored Texas Tech’s, 20-5.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 3 Kansas 65, Oklahoma State 50

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, right, watches as Kansas guard Marcus Garrett, left, drives the ball under pressure from Oklahoma State guard Chris Harris Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, right, watches as Kansas guard Marcus Garrett, left, drives the ball under pressure from Oklahoma State guard Chris Harris Jr. during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt) by Associated Press

Stillwater, Okla. — Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 65-50 win over Oklahoma State on Tuesday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Offense: C+

• Sometimes the Jayhawks looked right at home in the first half against the Cowboys’ zone defense. But their 3-pointers (6-for-19 before intermission) weren’t always falling. And they could only find consistent good looks in the paint in transition.

• KU made only 34.5% of its field goal attempts in the first 20 minutes and turned the ball over 6 times.

• The Jayhawks improved to 4-0 in Big 12 road games by opening the second half with some more consistent 3-point shooting in the opening minutes after the break. A 3-for-4 start from deep helped KU quickly build a double-digit lead.

• KU shot 39% in the win, connecting on 11 of 33 3-pointers. The Jayhawks turned it over 10 times and were outscored in the paint, 24-16.

Defense: A-

• The Cowboys hit just 26.7% of their shots in the first half and went 2-for-12 on 3-pointers.

• It didn’t get much better for the home team in the second half, when KU outscored the Cowboys, 36-26.

OSU hit only 28.1% of its shot attempts in defeat and only got 2 of 18 3-pointers to drop.

Frontcourt: B-

• With Udoka Azubuike able to stay on the floor and avoid a third personal foul in the second half, the Jayhawks, predictably, began to pull away with their best lineup on the court.

OSU’s zone aimed to take away Azubuike in the first half, and between that and his two fouls sending him to the bench for two stretches, he didn’t even attempt a shot before halftime.

But on this night, KU just needed the senior center on the court to make everything else function. Even when he wasn’t getting catches in position to score — he saw virtual triple teams on multiple occasions — his presence alone was enough to overwhelm OSU.

Azubuike finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks.

Backcourt: B-

• In his first career start, freshman Christian Braun showed the assertive approach that has fueled his growth throughout the past month.

KU’s ball movement and patience against OSU’s defense often allowed Braun to shoot open 3-pointers or attack off the dribble.

Even better, Braun put in work on the glass, finishing with 9 rebounds to go with his 16 points and 4-for-8 3-point shooting.

• Junior guard Marcus Garrett was up to his do-everything tricks. Defense. Rebounding. Attacking the paint. Passing. A little scoring.

The versatile guard came away with a stat line worthy of his overall game: 7 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists.

• Ochai Agbaji’s up-and-down season in terms of offensive effectiveness continued.

The sophomore shot 2-for-9 from the floor and 2-for-7 on 3-pointers. But the Jayhawks are better off with him on the floor than not, thanks to his defense and athleticism.

Agbaji provided 9 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists.

• Devon Dotson only played 25 minutes, keeping his production a little lower than what KU is used to getting out of the speedy point guard.

Some foul issues led to the dip, but the Jayhawks actually played well without him, surprisingly enough.

Dotson had 11 points and 3 assists.

Bench: B

• Isaiah Moss looked like a great sixth man option, coming in off the bench with some scoring punch.

After starting against Tennessee he looked better as a substitute specialist. Moss pourred in 13 points and went 3-for-8 on 3-pointers as KU rolled.

The KU bench outscored OSU, 16-11, even with its shortened rotation.

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Postgame Report Card: No. 3 Kansas 81, K-State 60

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) knocks the ball loose from Kansas State forward Antonio Gordon (11) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) knocks the ball loose from Kansas State forward Antonio Gordon (11) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of the Kansas basketball team’s 81-60 win over rival Kansas State on Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B+

• A few unimpressive possessions in the game’s first couple of minutes wouldn’t become the trend. After three turnovers and two misses on long jumpers, Bill Self abandoned his two-big starting lineup.

What followed in the next 8 minutes amounted to a clinic, with the Jayhawks showing the assertive approach on offense Self has been looking for lately.

Smart passing and some patience in the half court led to both layups and 3-pointers, as KU sprinted to a 17-point lead.

• KU scored 20 points in the paint in the first half and went 5-for-13 on 3-pointers. The Jayhawks also kept active, with 8 offensive rebounds.

• The Jayhawks’ offense started to look a little sloppy early on in the second half, often as they were a little too eager to pull the trigger on 3-pointers.

• KU reached 70 points for just the second time in Big 12 play and shot 46% in the Sunflower Showdown victory. The Jayhawks were 9-for-26 on 3-pointers and scored 40 points in the paint.

Defense: A-

• KU’s energy and effort was just as evident on defense in the first half, as they tried to bury their rivals in a hurry. K-State opened the game 4-for-13 from the floor, and also turned it over 8 times in that stretch. K-State also had two shot clock violations during that span.

The Wildcats ended up shooting 40% from the field in the first half, but their 11 turnovers led to 18 points for KU.

• The perimeter defense by KU kept K-State junior guard Cartier Diarra ineffective much of the night.

• The visitors from Manhattan, down 16 at the half, shot 39% in the final 20 minutes and 39% on the night. K-State definitely missed some open looks, though.

Frontcourt: B

• Udoka Azubuike proved to be as crucial a player as KU had on the floor, even though he only scored one field goal in the first half. The Wildcats’ defenders spent so much time focusing on the 7-footer and collapsing on him when he caught the ball that it left plenty of space for the rest of the Jayhawks to operate in the half court.

KU outscored K-State by 20 when Azubuike was on the floor in the first half, and he scored 4 points.

The big man ended up controlling the glass, though, securing 14 rebounds to go with his 10 points and a double-double.

• David McCormack missed a long jumper from the baseline and turned the ball over in the game’s first couple of minutes, leading to him spending most of the first half on the bench and KU playing four guards.

Just like he did at Texas, McCormack opened the second half on the bench, with Christian Braun replacing him. McCormack finished with 2 points and 4 rebounds.

Backcourt: B-

• Devon Dotson again relied on his speed on both ends of the court to help KU create separation early, coming up with steals, layups and trips to the foul line.

In his second game back since missing KU’s game at Oklahoma due to his hip pointer, Dotson finished with 18 points and 3 assists, plus 5 boards.

• Ochai Agbaji didn’t let some missed shots keep him from asserting himself on offense. Better yet, his activity led to 4 offensive rebounds.

As usual, it was Agbaji’s defensive work that kept him on the floor. The sophomore guard produced 6 points on 3-for-11 shooting.

• Marcus Garrett didn’t stand out quite as much as usual in the first half, and a lot of that had to do with KU’s other role players coming out eager show they could in fact chip in.

Garrett’s defensive awareness and ability to keep KU functioning on that end kept the Jayhawks comfortable most of the night.

Statistically, Garrett’s night picked up in the second half, as the spacing on the floor and his drives and all-around smart decisions helped him give KU 8 points and 5 assists in the win.

Bench: B+

• When Isaiah Moss barely played more than one minute as the first sub of the night, before going right back to the bench, it was freshman Braun’s opportunity to shine.

Braun checked into the game ready to attack. His style of play was the exact opposite of the “timid” approach Self bemoaned regarding KU’s bench three days earlier, at Texas. With Braun as the fourth guard, the Jayhawks took off. He shot 3-for-4 from 3-point range and also showed off his finishing ability on a tough drive and finish over defenders, putting up 11 points in the first half.

On an impressive night for the freshman backup, Braun reminded everyone what great potential he has as a shooter (6-for-10 on 3-pointers) and often stole the show, putting up 20 points.

• Moss at least showed a willingness to catch-and-shoot on quality looks from 3-point range, even after missing his first couple tries early on. The Jayhawks need him taking those open looks from deep to space the floor, even if they’re not dropping.

Moss ended up 1-for-4 on 3-pointers, with 7 points.

• Thanks to Braun and Moss, KU outscored K-State’s bench, 37-8.

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Bill Self considering both data and chemistry while sticking with KU’s two-big starting five

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) loses control of the ball as he tries to score 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 forward David McCormack (33) loses control of the ball as he tries to score 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

Anyone out there pondering the pros and cons of the Kansas basketball team continuing to start two bigs — even though it ends up playing more four-guard lineups — isn’t alone.

Bill Self is right there with you.

While the Jayhawks’ head coach has started sophomore forward David McCormack in 16 of KU’s 17 games, Self these days seems more contemplative on the matter.

The way he explained on Monday his recent line of thinking, Self suggested slightly altering the starting five was on his mind this past week. He may have even come closer than ever to switching it up for one of KU’s road games at Oklahoma and Texas, but the moving parts gave him pause.

The Jayhawks didn’t know for certain going into those games whether sophomore point guard Devon Dotson, who was dealing with a hip pointer, would be able to play. Before the game at UT, Self said, if he decided to start senior guard Isaiah Moss instead of McCormack, and then Dotson wasn’t cleared to play, he would have essentially been taking McCormack out of the starting five just to put him right back in. The coach didn’t want to “mess with” his big man’s mind with any juggling.

“So I thought it was best just to leave a status quo,” Self explained, “so you’re only messing with one guy, as opposed to messing with two.”

Dotson, of course, ended up returning and starting at Texas, so Moss, who started in Dotson’s place at OU, was the only Jayhawk waiting to find out his role at UT.

The approach worked, as Kansas (14-3 overall, 4-1 Big 12), now ranked No. 3 in the nation, won back-to-back road games. But the fact that he thought so hard about the starting five leads one to wonder whether Self’s more open than ever to making a change.

He said Monday, ahead of KU’s Sunflower Showdown with Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse, he doubted one was imminent. Even so, Self went on to describe a potential benefit of starting Moss.

“We know that our five most productive players on the floor is with Isaiah in the lineup,” Self said, clarifying that five-man group teams Moss with four other KU starters, Dotson, Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji and Udoka Azubuike. “Stats, analytics prove that out.”

To Self’s point, in Saturday’s win at Texas, that lineup played 15:36 and outscored the Longhorns, 28-18, while committing three turnovers. The starting five, with McCormack on the court instead of Moss, played 7:32, was outscored, 15-10, and turned the ball over once.

McCormack, a 6-foot-10, 265-pound sophomore, still brings a different kind of presence to the floor that Self appreciates. The coach valued the big man’s play so much at UT that McCormack logged 20 minutes, a new high for him this season in Big 12 play. The starting forward who so often plays a backup’s minutes contributed 6 points and seven rebounds.

More importantly, overall, lineups with McCormack worked against Texas. When he was in the game, the Jayhawks outscored UT, 34-24. When McCormack sat, Texas outscored KU, 33-32.

“From a chemistry standpoint, I think up until this point it’s still been best for us to go the way that we've been going,” Self said of starting McCormack, “because you're still going to have ample opportunities to have that other lineup.”

Self wants KU to have experience playing bigger in case the Jayhawks need that type of lineup at some stage of the NCAA Tournament. And while a change to the starting lineup wouldn’t make getting those in-game repetitions impossible, it’s easy to see how it could be less appealing. Self didn’t hide the fact that KU has been better with four guards this season. If he removed McCormack from the starting lineup and gave the spot to Moss, carving out time to use two bigs probably isn’t going to give KU much of a spark against most teams.

Plus, if KU started four guards around Azubuike and didn’t at some point play two bigs, it would become even harder to find McCormack the minutes Self thinks the big man deserves.

Right now, Self is trying to take into account both chemistry and data as best he can.

“It's something that I think’s fair,” Self said of sticking with McCormack, “and I've actually thought quite a bit about.”

To McCormack’s credit, he’s amenable to his coach’s instincts, even when those lead Self to play smaller. At Texas, KU opened the second half with its best four-guard look, and Moss in for McCormack.

“Same approach as always,” McCormack said of the eight minutes he spent as essentially a second-half reserve. “Control what you can control. Coach felt like it was a better lineup, like going smaller would give us a better chance to win. And that’s what I want. I want the benefit of the team. And, you know, it’s not the first time that he’s done that. So I just stick to it and give myself up for the team.”

Happy with McCormack’s play at Texas, Self said it was an example of why people shouldn’t get hung up on starting roles, based on how a certain player performs in one game, because McCormack “was probably better” than Moss versus the Longhorns.

“He just has a different type of role,” Self said of his sophomore big man. “But I know what I hope for, and it doesn't have anything to do with who starts. It has everything to do with how are we able to be successful playing two bigs? Because we're going to some. And then how do we maximize the opportunity to play small, which we have to the majority of time?”

Moss (24.8 minutes a game in Big 12 play, 23.2 minutes on the season) is playing more than McCormack (14.6 minutes in the Big 12, 16.3 overall) anyway. Swapping one out for the other in the starting five isn’t going to change that.

“We’re still going through the process of trying to figure that out,” Self said of finding the proper combination of two-big and four-guard lineups, “but I do think getting some offense off the bench (Moss is averaging 8.1 points per game this year) hasn’t been bad for us.”

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Jayhawks’ bench gets smaller in 2nd half of road win

Texas forward Kai Jones (22) blocks Kansas guard Christian Braun, right, from scoring during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Texas forward Kai Jones (22) blocks Kansas guard Christian Braun, right, from scoring during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) by Associated Press

In the heat of a Big 12 road battle Saturday in Austin, Texas, the Kansas basketball team’s typically ample nine-man rotation shrunk.

It wasn’t injuries that had the Jayhawks shorthanded. Rather head coach Bill Self decided for the stretch run he liked his chances with six players in particular.

“I obviously was so frustrated with the bench in the first half,” Self said after a 66-57 KU win, “that I really didn’t give them a chance to play.”

The only sub Self trusted to play in the second half at Texas was graduate transfer Isaiah Moss. After brief appearances in the first half, freshman Christian Braun (four minutes), junior Silvio De Sousa (two minutes) and freshman Tristan Enaruna (one minute) didn’t play at all.

KU’s bench got outscored, 13-5, at UT, marking the 10th time in 17 games this season an opponent’s reserves produced more points than KU’s. Moss, of course, scored all 5, shooting 2-for-3 from the floor over the span of 32 minutes. Moss knocked down one of KU’s two 3-pointers on the day in the first half, then buried a fadeaway baseline jumper in the second half.

That was the extent of KU’s bench scoring, making it the fourth time this season the Jayhawks’ reserves combined for 6 or fewer points, and the sixth time they failed to reach double-digit points.

“We’re not going to be any good over time unless Tristan, Christian and Silvio, not only give us more, but because I give them an opportunity to play more,” Self said. “But I thought we were so timid when we went to our bench (in the first half). So timid.”

Moss wasn’t exactly assertive at Texas, but just having KU’s best 3-point shooter on the floor helps the Jayhawks’ spacing on offense. That’s why the 6-foot-5 senior who played his first three seasons of college basketball at Iowa as a starter opened the second half on the court.

In fact, Self never subbed Moss out in the game’s final 20 minutes, when KU outscored Texas, 40-26.

As usual, it wasn’t KU’s starting lineup that spent the most time on the court. It was a four-guard look that made a difference, with Moss, over the course of the victory spending 15:36 playing alongside starters Marcus Garrett, Devon Dotson, Ochai Agbaji and Udoka Azubuike. That lineup outscored Texas, 28-18, and turned the ball over three times.

While Self found a group that worked in the ugly road win at UT, he prefers having more flexibility and expects more from the Jayhawks’ other backups. Their trip to Texas would have felt a lot less stressful for them if they could have gotten some productive minutes out of reserves not named Moss in the second half. But based on what he saw in the first half, Self didn’t even feel good enough about that possibility to give it a chance.

“We did enough,” Self said of the six players who helped KU win in the second half. “Not pretty by any stretch, but we did enough.”

Braun hadn’t played so few minutes since early December and seemed to have solidified his spot in the rotation. But Saturday was a reminder that Self has a shorter leash with freshmen and less experienced players and will lean on veterans if that’s what it takes to win.

Just like Braun, De Sousa and Enaruna will continue to get their chances in the weeks ahead. But they will have to impress Self when they check into a game to make sure they get additional cracks at contributing.

That will be even more important during KU’s five remaining Big 12 road games. Self says there are no upsets on the road, and he enters every one of them expecting it’s “going to be tight.”

He wouldn’t mind being proved wrong on the subject between now and the end of conference play if that meant KU’s reserves had turned a corner and helped the Jayhawks expand their leads when starters need some rest.

This team will be much better suited for a deep run in March if Braun, De Sousa and Enaruna are playing consistent minutes. And those won’t come without them showing Self they can play up to his standards.

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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.

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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.

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