The Jayhawks beat a top-five team despite getting next to nothing from their best player and their best freshman. How did they do it? Dedric Lawson.
Despite playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country, Kansas is 5-0, and they’re winning games despite not yet firing on all cylinders.
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On Friday night, the Jayhawks were taking on a top-five team. Udoka Azubuike couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, and by the time the final TV timeout had arrived, he was already disqualified. Quentin Grimes, Kansas’ elite freshman, was on the bench due to ineffectiveness. Possibly regarded as KU’s top two players entering the year, Azubuike and Grimes watched as the Jayhawks muscled past one of college basketball’s best teams anyway, which was both remarkable and scary.
Dedric Lawson erupted for a fabulous showing in New York City, as he had double-doubles in both games of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament. He scored 26 points on Friday night, and, with his brother, took over in overtime to lead the Jayhawks to an enormous victory. Lawson struggled from the floor in KU’s first three contests, but he came alive in the NIT event to remind people why he was a preseason All American.
Lawson has simplified his game by sticking to what he does best – feasting near the basket. In the first three games, he spent a lot of time hanging out around the perimeter. He’s a capable three-point shooter, but he played too frequently out there while Azubuike dominated inside. Without the 7’0″ center in the paint, Lawson turned into KU’s go-to post threat, and his efficiency skyrocketed. He also benefited from playing alongside brother K.J. Lawson, who brought energy and rebounding to a matchup that Kansas desperately needed.
It’s pretty clear that Lawson is one of college basketball’s best players, it just took him a couple of games to get his feet wet. Now averaging 18 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists per contest, Lawson’s field goal percentage rose 15 points on the year in the event to 43%, and with a soft December schedule on the horizon, he should continue to thrive as the focal point in Kansas’ offense. Grimes should get going, which will lift the Jayhawks’ ceiling even higher. Will Azubuike mature to avoid silly fouls that limit his usage? Eventually, one would think so.
Just how good can Kansas be? If they’re good enough to beat a top-five team with their star center and best freshman watching from the bench, by February, the sky is the limit.