Jayhawk Insider: A Resilient Response
By Sophie Darting
LAWRENCE, Kan. – If there is one thing that can be learned from Kansas’ 79-63 victory over Texas Tech, it is this: never count the Jayhawks out.
The circumstances coming into Saturday’s battle with the Red Raiders were less than ideal. Their big man, junior Udoka Azubuike, is out for the year with a torn ligament in his wrist. Less than 24 hours before the contest, sophomore guard Marcus Garrett sprained his ankle in practice, making him unavailable for the contest. Kansas also received news less than 24 hours before tip-off from the NCAA that sophomore Silvio De Sousa has been ruled ineligible for the remainder of this season, as well as the entirety of the 2019-20 season.
Kansas was also coming off of two road losses, and trying to avoid losing three games in a row for the first time since the 2012-13 season. In other words, the Jayhawks’ backs were firmly against a wall as it welcomed in a top-25 ranked TTU team that had walked away with a win from last year’s meeting with KU in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We had a lot of pressure going into this game and, obviously, we didn’t have a really good week last week, so we had a lot of pressure going into this game and I think we handled it well,” said freshman Ochai Agbaji.
Where another team might crumple under the pressure, Kansas refused to back down. In fact, the league opponents are well aware that when a Bill Self team is in a high-pressured situation, the Jayhawks are at their most dangerous. That was clear to Texas Tech’s head coach Chris Beard.
“You would have to be an idiot to not understand what we were walking into,” Beard said in his post-game press conference. “You think we aren’t going to be walking into a hornet’s nest. To me, I woke up this morning excited about the opportunity to play against Kansas at its best. But tonight, it was. Their backs were against the wall. This is how good Coach Self is; (there is) too much pride in that locker room.”
In a game that could be viewed as the turning point of the season, the Jayhawks came to play. They answered the pressure from the very beginning, jumping out on the Red Raiders early and leading by as much as 23 points in the second half.
A formula that worked so well for the 2017-18 Jayhawks proved vital for this team in their win against the Red Raiders: let the 3-pointer fly. Kansas saw six of its’ players connect on shots from beyond the arc and posted a season-best 13 triples on the day.
Redshirt-junior Dedric Lawson, senior Lagerald Vick, and freshman Devon Dotson recorded three buckets from long range each.
When Texas Tech started creeping back in the game, slowly decreasing their deficit from 20 points at halftime to 13, it was a game-changing steal that led to a fast-break layup by Dotson with 10 minutes left. The play gave Kansas the momentum to finish out the game strong. Self credited Dotson for taking over the game in his post-game press conference.
“The guy who controlled the game was Devon (Dotson),” Self said. “He wasn’t good, he was great today. And I’m so happy for him because every time he made a mistake, he went and made up for it.”
Dotson scored a season-high 20 points while adding three rebounds and four assists. He also stole the ball away from the Red Raiders three times.
Kansas received a little leadership and some pre-game tips from an unlikely source – former KU basketball point guard Devonte’ Graham. Graham gave the team a pre-game message in locker room and emphasized the importance on not passing up shots. He told the Jayhawks to shoot the ball when open. Simple advice, but effective in making a difference in the game.
“Devonte’ (Graham) said some stuff before the game, (like) to shoot the ball, but the looks were open. You know, I’ll take them if they’re open and I’ll keep shooting,” said Dotson.
No one was more proud of the team than Self.
“There was a lot of emotion (out there today) and I think frustration with Marcus (Garrett) getting hurt and Silvio’s (De Sousa’s) situation,” said Self. “I know our guys feel like they needed something good to happen today and they did it.”
This squad of Jayhawks rose to the occasion, and showed a type of resilience that the Kansas fans have been waiting to see all season. This test came at the perfect time in the season, with a battle for first place in the league against Kansas State right around the corner. Kansas is currently sitting at a tie for second place midway through the conference season.
“K-State is a different animal defensively when they are turned up and ready to go,” Self said. “They held this team (TTU) to 45 points in Manhattan, so we are going to have to go play with the same type of effort and intensity and really have a tight group ready to go fight because this is when it should start getting a little bit fun.”
KU knows it will be a tough fight against KSU, but they’re ready. Defeating Texas Tech showed that this Jayhawk squad is not about to go down without a fight.
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