Jayhawk Insider: A defensive mindset
By Luke Engle
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A struggling offensive start to the game forced Kansas to show how they can lock down opponents on the defensive side. As Wofford came into the contest averaging over 80 points per game and shooting close to 40 percent behind the arc, the Jayhawks knew solid defense was going to play a vital role in securing their seventh win of the year. Kansas held Wofford to a season-low 47 points on 26.2 percent shooting and held the Terriers to 19 percent from 3-point land.
After Udoka Azubuike left the game in the first half due to injury, Kansas head coach Bill Self decided to go to a small lineup. Marcus Garrett stepped in and matched up against Wofford’s forwards and centers. Garrett and the rest of the Jayhawks came up big, forcing 18 turnovers on nine steals, keeping Wofford from getting into a rhythm on offense.
Kansas’ 27-0 run was sparked by lock down defense from all five Jayhawks on the floor. The decision by KU players to focus in on the defensive side of the game helped open up the game.
“It was just us deciding to lock up and really focus in,” said freshman point guard Devon Dotson. “On the defensive end, we know they like to shoot, come off the screens, different actions, it was really just about locking in and focusing in.”
Wofford’s Fletcher Magee averaged roughly 18 points per game before the game and the defense by Kansas guards including Quentin Grimes held Magee to a quiet seven points on 1-of-14 shooting from the field and 0-9 from 3-point range.
“They did a great job defending him,” said Devon Dotson. “Yesterday and the day before at practice we knew they could shoot, come off of different actions. He’s a great shooter, and we knew that coming in. They did a great job guarding him.”
For Self the strong defensive effort from the team proved to be the Jayhawks best game of the 2018-19 season. Self saw a change in the mindset of his players that he believes gave his squad the energy to play lock down defense.
“It’s the best game we played this year,” said Self. “Fans may disagree, even though we didn’t score, we played the right way without Lagerald (Vick) and Doke (Udoka Azubuike). I am really proud of our guys that in a 72-hour period, we had a mindset that totally changed defensively.”
As the season moves on, the defensive energy shown against Wofford will no doubt give the Jayhawks and their fans confidence at they look to continue creating the spark to the team offensively.
Kansas will meet New Mexico State on Saturday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. in the Jayhawk Shootout at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The game will be televised on ESPN2. Kansas is 3-0 all-time against New Mexico State with the last meeting a KU 75-56 win in the opening round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.
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