For much of the season, Kansas has leaned on its stout frontcourt to do a lot of the damage offensively. But, with senior center Udoka Azubuike virtually a non-factor, against Texas Tech, the Jayhawks were forced to rely heavily on their back court to shoulder the load.
Kansas coach Bill Self said, without Azubuike, the lone source of offense his team had came from his veteran guards driving the middle.
“Considering that’s the only offense we had, I thought it was pretty good,” Self said. “We didn’t do a good job and we didn’t have any low post, block scoring. We had to get [Dotson] and [Garrett] downhill.”
The two guards did just that. The tandem of junior guard Marcus Garrett and sophomore guard Devon Dotson combined for 36 points and six assists.
Garrett did a great job using his clever ball handling to free himself up. At the 4:43 mark of the second half, the Dallas native wowed the Allen Fieldhouse crowd, as he shook freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey with the hesitation crossover on his way to an easy right-hand layup.
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said he tried to get his team to take away the middle of the court, knowing a lot of the Jayhawks’ offense is ran from that spot.
“When Kansas gets to the middle, that’s where the lobs come, that’s where the threes come, that’s where the downhill drives come,” Beard said.
The Nigeria native, Azubuike, only played for 15:50 and finished with only five points (1-of-5 from the field). After picking up his second foul at the 9:56 mark of the first half, coach Bill Self subbed him out for the rest of the half.
The big man returned in the second half, but not for long as he committed a couple of sloppy turnovers and eventually picked up his third foul at the 16:58 mark. That essentially ended his night, as he only came in one more time but quickly got pulled again in the final three-minutes of the game.
In the post-game press conference, Self said a lot of Azubuike’s issues were his own mistakes.
“I think a lot of it was [Azubuike],” Self said. “I think [Texas] Tech did a good job. But, I think the job that they did and the foul problems got to him a little bit.”
Without Azubuike, sophomore guard Devon Dotson – the Jayhawks’ leading scorer on the season – said he took it upon himself to spark the team.
“[Azubuike] is a big piece of this team,” Dotson said. “When you see him get into foul trouble, somebody’s got to pick it up. I felt like the guys stayed together today when they made the runs.”
After stumbling out the gate falling down 22-8, the Red Raiders crawled their way back in the game. With 5:06 left in the first half, sophomore guard Kyler Edwards cut Kansas lead to three points after finishing a layup.
Moments later, Dotson used his speed to get into the lane and finish layups on back-to-back Kansas possessions. Following that, Dotson drew enough attention to hit a wide-open Isaiah Moss for a three-pointer that pushed the Jayhawks’ lead back up to 10 points.
“Dotson’s a dynamic player,” Beard said. “He’s got a poise and a composure about him – they really feed off him. When they needed it most he made big baskets.”
Down the stretch, the former McDonald’s All-American went on another scoring tear. After Ramsey knocked down a clutch three-pointer to bring Texas Tech within four, Dotson came out of the timeout hot, knocking down a short jumper.
“[Dotson] was just able to go one-on-one and just get us quick buckets,” Garrett said. “Almost every time they went on a run he would just get right in the paint and get a layup.”
Beard applauded Dotson’s performance and even compared it to the likes of his predecessors – Kansas greats: Devonte Graham and Frank Mason.
“Whenever we had the game kind of where we wanted it, Dotson goes and makes an individual play,” Beard said. “It’s like flashbacks - Is that Graham out there? Is that Mason? Oh, no, that’s Dotson.”