Jayhawk Insider: Three stats that stood out vs. Michigan State
Time to dive deeper into the box score from the Jayhawks’ 92-87 win over No. 10 Michigan State Tuesday night inside Bankers Life Arena, including some input from Kansas head coach Bill Self.
DOTSON AND GRIMES HAVE BIG OPENING NIGHTS
Kansas would not have left Indianapolis with a season-opening win had it not been for the contributions of Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson, two Jayhawks making their collegiate debuts. The freshman duo combined for 37 points on 13-of-25 shooting (52 percent), which included a torrid 9-of-15 mark from 3-point range.
Much of the preseason hype surrounding the Jayhawks centered around the loaded KU front court which many believe will be the driving force behind the squad this year, which may still be the case, but it was the Kansas guards that stole the spotlight Tuesday evening.
On a night when preseason All-American Dedric Lawson and senior guard Lagerald Vick experiences some shooting struggles (combined 6-of-25 from the field) and Udoka Azubuike was saddled for much of the game with foul trouble (20 minutes played), these two 18-year-olds ignored the glare from the bright lights brought on by a national television audience and a top-10 opponent, and managed to will their team to a win.
“Quentin and Devon were really good,” said Self after the game. “They were both ‘gamers’ tonight. I had a great talk with Devon just a couple of days ago, just about who he needed to be an extension of and he said, ‘You.’ So I said, ‘How do you think you can be an extension (of me) if you don’t believe in what I think is important?’ I told Quentin yesterday, ‘Hey, I’ve screwed up a lot of good players early in their careers.’ He asked, ‘Did they get out of it?’ And I said, ‘Every one of them.’ So I was glad Quentin got out of it tonight.”
Quentin Grimes connects on a big 3-pointer in the 2nd half vs. Michigan State
Dedric Lawson’s Jayhawk debut seemed much more subtle than his freshmen teammate’s, however you’d never know it by looking at his stat line. Believe it or not, the redshirt junior forward was creeping up on a triple-double with 20 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. Those figures, added with a pair of blocks and a pair of steals, would have most players and coaches calling it the best performance of the game. But an off shooting night (5-of-18 from the field) was the one blemish on an otherwise impressive opening-night outing for the preseason All-American.
His double-double, the 37th of his collegiate career and likely the first of many as a Jayhawk, made him just the fifth KU player to hit double figures in points and rebounds in a Kansas debut. But more importantly he gave his team a life in a variety of ways down the home stretch to help the Jayhawks fend off the Spartans. Lawson drew nine Michigan State fouls during his 38 minutes on the floor, which included five over the final 11 minutes. In the final quarter of the game he also connected on 5-of-6 from the free throw line, adding to impressive 10-of-12 tally for the game
If Kansas fans take one thing from Lawson’s performance in Indianapolis, it’s this: If that is one of his “down” nights, what kind of numbers will he put up one of his good nights?
“I thought, offensively, he passed the ball well. He’s a good post feeder. He made his free throws. But, offensively, I thought the physicality bothered him a little bit,” Self said of Lawson’s performance after the game. “But he didn’t play poorly because he missed shots; there’s so much more to the game than that. He had six assists and 14 rebounds and made his free throws down the stretch – those are all pretty important things.”
Lawson finds Azubuike for one of his six assists
FOUL TROUBLE? NO TROUBLE.
The 18,907 inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse as well as the millions watching at home got used to the referee’s whistle Tuesday, as both team’s combining for 53 fouls, 28 of which were infractions on the Jayhawks. It marked the most fouls by a KU squad in a 40 minute game since the 2013-14 season. A figure like that a year ago would’ve had Kansas fans in a panic, as a much shorter Jayhawk bench may have not been able to cover for the KU starters in foul trouble. But this year’s squad is much more equipped to handle such troubles and the win against Michigan State is the first evidence of that.
With Mitch Lightfoot and Udoka Azubuike each collecting a pair of fouls in the opening 13 minutes of the game, Coach Self was given the opportunity to exercise his upgraded bench. David McCormack tallied some valuable minutes during their absence, posting three points and three rebounds. Seven Jayhawks went on to commit three or more fouls against Michigan State, but most importantly none of them picked up his fifth. This meant KU had their full allotment over the final minutes as the Spartans made their late push for a comeback.
But while, the Jayhawks are certainly capable of playing out of foul trouble, most agree they shouldn’t make it a goal, including Coach Self.
“We obviously have some options,” Self said of his bench. “I thought Mitch gave us some good minutes and I thought David (McCormack) played really well the first half, so it was nice. But Udoka (Azubuike) needs to play more than 20 minutes; if he plays more than 20 minutes, we’re a different looking team.”
Kansas will host Vermont in a campus round game of the NIT on Monday, Nov. 12, at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 and on the Jayhawk Radio Network. The Jayhawks are 1-0 all-time against the Catamounts dating back to 2005.
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