Jayhawk Insider: Who you gonna call?
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Storied Allen Fieldhouse has been described as “having a soul” by the likes of ESPN analyst Jay Bilas. “The Phog” is definitely present and welcomed, but Tuesday night against unranked Wofford there was something paranormal and unwanted in the air.
The No. 2 Jayhawks only led 29-26 at the end of the first half, while shooting 1-for-10 (.100) from 3-point range. KU was also a man down, as starting center Udoka Azubuike was sidelined with an ankle injury at the 11:38 mark of the first half. The negatives mounting against the Jayhawks at home were transcendent.
Following the intermission, the supernatural aura of a potential upset continued to brew. Wofford’s Cameron Jackson took advantage of Azubuike’s absence and scored the first six Terrier points of the second half to give Wofford a 32-31 lead with 18:05 remaining.
Hall of Fame head coach Bill Self scanned his bench for a solution and his eyes focused on 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Marcus Garrett. Little did Wofford and its big man know, but Garrett is a certified postbuster. That’s right, a postbuster. We aren’t talking about Peter Venkman and his crew, but instead of a certified defender in the paint.
Despite giving up three inches and 55 pounds, Garrett locked down the Wofford center and Jackson never scored in the paint again. Not only did Jackson not score, but the Jayhawks rattled off a 9-0 run to take a 40-32 lead with 14:53 remaining.
The Terriers countered with an 8-2 spurt, but the Jayhawks followed and finished Wofford off with a 27-0 run to cruise to a 72-47 victory. In addition to shutting down the inside game of Jackson and the Terriers, Garrett added four rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot to his second-half defensive line.
This wasn’t anything new for Garrett, whose number was called to defend another team’s center back in his prep days.
“I haven’t (guarded a five) since my last year of AAU heading into my (high school) senior season,” Garrett said. “I was the tallest player on my team and the other team’s best player was a five. I just had to guard him the whole game.”
Even though it was the first time Garrett was needed in that role as a Jayhawk, his teacher, Coach Self, gave him a high grade in the postgame press conference.
“The player of the game, without question, was Marcus Garrett,” Self boasted. “The whole game changed when he started guarding their big – the whole game did.”
Self later in the week went on to explain what makes Garrett such a formidable postbuster.
“There are a lot of things. He’s got a good size, he’s got long arms, physically, but he is very, very smart,” Self said. “As far as IQ and understanding the game on the defensive side, he’s right up there with the best we’ve ever had.”
Self added that Garrett is also one of the best defensive players in the college game right now.
“He’s tough and he’s strong and he pays attention to the scouting report so he knows when to show, when not to show, when to front, when to empty,” Self added. “He just does a better job than I would say a majority of the college players out there, earlier in his career. He does have a great feel, defensively.”
Just because he did it well Tuesday night against Wofford, doesn’t mean it was easy.
“I think guarding the post is harder (than defending a guard), because not only do you have to worry about guarding him, but then you have to make sure to box him out so he doesn’t get the offensive rebound,” Garrett said.
With Azubuike’s ankle injury and return to the court indefinite, Self and the Jayhawks will have a different look on the floor over the next few weeks. Who’s he gonna call? Postbuster!
Garrett will likely make his ninth-career start for the Jayhawks Saturday against New Mexico State at Sprint Center in the annual Jayhawk Shootout game, but this will be his first-career start at the four spot.
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