Jayhawk Insider: Filling the Void
By Charlie Sides
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Since Udoka Azubuike has been out of the Jayhawk starting lineup due to a high ankle sprain, Dedric Lawson has been there to take on the seven-footer’s responsibility. In a 74-71 win over Villanova Saturday afternoon, Lawson had 28 points and 12 rebounds which helped the Jayhawks to a win against the reigning national champions since.
“Dedric was terrific. We were playing shorthanded obviously and we could have really used the big fella,” said head coach Bill Self. “He got 28 (points) and 12 (rebounds) on 15 shots and he didn’t turn the ball over one time.”
The versatility of the 6-9 forward is what gave the Jayhawks an edge on the Wildcats. Switching high and low being able to matchup with both their guards and their bigs, gave Lawson the advantage.
Villanova head coach Jay Wright had high praise for the Memphis product.
“If you have a big guy like that who you can inbound the ball to and make free throws, that’s valuable.” Wright said. “When you have a guy like Lawson out there in that lineup, it’s almost like you’re playing against five guards.”
With one hole in the defense gone for the next few weeks, Lawson was the lone big man in the starting lineup where he squared off with Villanova big man Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. Lawson held the 6-9 forward to three points.
“He played well on defense and I thought Cosby-Roundtree only backed him down once,” Self recalled. “He was pretty good at his timing on traps.”
Lawson’s 28 points came off an efficient 66 percent shooting and hitting one of two beyond the 3-point line. This hot shooting helped him put up his most points in a Jayhawk uniform. But even with this impressive production, Lawson expects more, especially with the absence of Azubuike.
“I’m not the most athletic guy. I just play my own game, I guess that’s what you can say,” Lawson said. “I just wanted to win one for Coach Self and the guys, as well as the fans out there that got up at 11 a.m. on a Saturday to go to a college basketball game.”
Self talked about how there is only one advantage long term playing without Azubuike saying, “You never think you are shorthanded going into the game mentally. I don’t think there was one time where our guys thought ‘Oh, we need Dok.”‘
Marcus Garrett has also a played a big role since Azubuike’s injury and has been an asset for the Jayhawks on the defensive end. Despite only scoring one point in the contest, Garrett was a game-changer on defense, giving the Jayhawks assistance in stopping the Villanova forwards.
“Garrett was great defensively,” Lawson said of his sophomore teammate. “He slowed Paschall down, staying with him the rest of the game after he had seven points in the first eight minutes. When you look at the stat sheet, he only had one point, but he does so much for this team. He’s so valuable to us.”
As the next few weeks approach without Azubuike, expect Lawson to fill the void, with some help from Garrett. There is no debating that it isn’t easy to replace a 7-0 foot, 270 pound center that shoots over 70 percent from the field, but until Azubuike is set to make his return, the Jayhawks seem to be in capable hands.
Kansas will host South Dakota on Tuesday Dec.18, at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on the Jayhawk Network and ESPN+. The is the first all-time meeting against the Coyotes.
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