Guard play reigned supreme for the Kansas Jayhawks against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday, with sophomore Devon Dotson leading the charge in a 78-75 win.
KU is now 7-1 in Big 12 play this season and has won six games in a row overall.
Dotson played every minute of the Jayhawks’ win, scoring a team-high 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting
“We had to get Dot and [junior guard] Marcus [Garrett] downhill, and they did it multiple times,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I thought that those two guys did a great job of getting downhill.”
Dotson made just one three pointer in the victory, but was able to carve up the Red Raiders inside. He went 8-of-11 on two-point shots and got a couple opportunities at the free throw line.
The scoring itself was vital for the Jayhawks, but Dotson’s leadership played a major factor this weekend as well.
“I think Devon does a great job of rallying the troops together,” sophomore forward David McCormack said, with Garrett adding that Dotson’s ability to win one-on-one matchups was key to stopping a few Texas Tech runs.
Self lauded Dotson’s ability on the drive as well, saying that his finishes at the rim are even more difficult than former All-American point guards Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham.
Dotson’s key moments weren’t lost on Texas Tech coach Chris Beard, who complimented the KU point guard’s poise and effort.
“It’s frustrating,” Beard said. “You know what’s coming … When they needed it most he made big baskets.”
Garrett finished the game with 15 points and had to play through injury again as he continues to deal with a foot issue that originally came up last Saturday against Tennessee. Self said that it’s an issue with his arch, and while he doesn’t expect the injury to linger he hopes the time off between Monday and next Saturday will help the healing process.
Dotson and the rest of the Kansas backcourt had to pick up the slack for senior center Udoka Azubuike, who had an uncharacteristic performance on Saturday. He scored just five points on 1-of-5 shooting, although he did make 3-of-4 free throws, and he led the Jayhawks in rebounds with eight.
Beard said that he thought the Red Raiders did a good job of getting Azubuike in foul trouble early, then limited what he can do defensively because of senior forward T.J. Holyfield’s ability to stretch the floor.
Even with Azubuike’s smaller statistical impact, Dotson said Kansas is equipped with players who can pick him up.
“That’s how some games go,” Dotson said. “There’s going to be times when a player doesn’t have it or there’s foul trouble, and it’s just got to be next man up.”
Azubuike has now scored in single digits in consecutive games. He had six points in a win over Oklahoma State earlier this week.
This was, however, the first time in over a week that the Jayhawks had a backup big man to use, with McCormack back from his two-game suspension.
“It’s just a great feeling to be back, of course,” McCormack said. “Everyone just had my back, so I’m just happy to be back.”
Not only was McCormack able to dress again, but he played significant minutes while Azubuike was out with foul trouble.
“He gave us some great minutes,” Dotson said in regard to McCormack. “He did some really great things out there tonight, I feel like he’s a big reason why we won this game.”
Texas Tech was led by freshman guard Jahmi’us Ramsey, who had a game-high 26 points, and Holyfield, who had 19. Beard said that he hoped Holyfield’s effort, which included two late threes to keep the game close, would be appreciated despite the loss.
“[Teammates and coaches] want me to take open shots, and that gives me the confidence to do so,” Holyfield said.
Kansas has a quick turnaround but will get to stay in Lawrence this week, with a game coming up against Texas on Monday night at 8:00. The Longhorns beat the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday.