Jayhawk Insider: An Assist from the Bench
By Allison Thomas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – With conference play right around the corner, head coach Bill Self has been in search of offensive production from players not named Dedric or Lagerald. Thankfully, he got his wish Tuesday night as the Jayhawks pulled away from the South Dakota Coyotes in an 89-53 win at Allen Fieldhouse with an enormous lift from the bench.
The win hoisted the Jayhawks to a 10-0 start to the season and it was truly a team effort from the opening tip. Each Jayhawk who saw action on Tuesday showcased their individual talents as nine of the ten players scored, with four recording double-digit performances. None was more impressive than redshirt sophomore and Cal transfer Charlie Moore’s 18 points off of the bench. Moore took the offensive reins after a slow first half from the KU starters, and recorded six threes on the game including five in the second half alone.
Prior to Tuesday night’s contest, the Jayhawk bench came in averaging less than 13-points. However, a combination of lineups and foul trouble gave Self the perfect opportunity to play to an area he hasn’t seen much out of yet this season and one he’s been wanting to excel at – his bench. When all was said and done, the Jayhawks ended the night with 40 points from their bench, and what resulted was KU’s largest margin of victory this year.
“We needed it; our starters weren’t very good at all, for at least the first half,” Self said following the win. “Mitch (Lightfoot) had a really good first half … The second half there’s no question we were at our best when David (McCormack) and Charlie (Moore) were both in the game. It was good to see those guys step up.”
The Jayhawks were balanced on the stat sheet with nine of the 10 players who saw the floor enter the scoring column. This after starters Dedric Lawson, Lagerald Vick and Devon Dotson accounted for 68 of their team’s 74 points in the win over Villanova three days prior.
Lightfoot gave his usual spark of energy off of the bench throughout the entirety of the game, but his seven-point, five-rebound performance in the first half helped the Jayhawks salvage a 10-point halftime lead as they went into the break.
Aside from Lightfoot, four of the five players that came off the bench took over the scoring load, proving that this squad’s depth could be a great advantage for the team to utilize.
“I thought David was great,” Self said. “I thought Charlie obviously shot the heck out the ball and did some good things. But on a night where Lagerald (Vick) was okay, he was still 2-of-3 from (behind the) 3-point arc, Dedric (Lawson) didn’t have his best game and certainly Devon (Dotson) didn’t and Q (Quentin Grimes) didn’t, it was nice to have those other guys step up off the bench.”
Of the 40-points accumulated from the bench, 30 of those points came from Moore and McCormack. Both of them played strong minutes and recorded career-highs in points in which the scoring came in all forms: emphatic dunks, transition 3’s and jump hooks in the post.
“It felt good, that I can contribute to the team, help in whatever way I can,” McCormack said. “Tonight was just a night where I got more minutes, so I had more opportunities to get the ball in the basket, rebound, block, defend whoever I could, do whatever I could to help us win tonight.”
Striking plays from McCormack in his 17-minutes gave him a new career-high of 12 points and two blocks. He also matched a season-match of six rebounds.
“The most impressive play he (McCormack) had was the blocked shot,” Self said of McCormack’s emphatic swat at the 7:00 mark of the second half. “I mean he at least went after the ball, it was nice to see. They say your performance is usually a direct reflection of your attitude and his attitude is a ’10’ every day. I was really happy for him and I was really happy for Charlie too, to see the ball go into the hole because he needs to be a (scoring) threat. Because we’ve labored shooting the ball other than Lagerald. We’ve got to get a second guy who can be a threat.”
Moore was resilient throughout the game, recording a season-high of 18 points in only nine shots taken, a statistic that the team hasn’t seen off of the bench since Malik Newman’s 27-point performance at Iowa State on January 9th of last season.
“I shot it pretty well today,” Moore said. “I just have to go back to the drawing board and practice, just get ready for the next game.”
Aside from an impressive shooting night, Moore ramped up his assists in the second half recording four of the team’s 16 second-half assists.
“Coach (Self) talked to us about that during halftime,” Moore said. “(He) told us we only had three assists, (that) we needed to get the ball downhill more and get others involved. We just took his words and used them in the second half and it worked out for us.”
The successful 36-point win was positive and a relief for Jayhawk fans who have had to endure five KU wins this season by five points or less. Kansas showcased the team’s depth and versatility when starters aren’t providing all of the scoring. The ability to step-up when another player is off is a good sign of things to come and the Jayhawks will surely need consistent production from their bench heading into the gauntlet that is Big 12 play starting next month.
Kansas travels to Tempe, Ariz. to meet Arizona State Saturday, Dec. 22 at Wells Fargo Arena. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2.
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