The Kansas Jayhawks have leaned on sophomore guard Marcus Garrett for his defensive prowess during his time on campus, but it was his scoring ability which provided a major boost on Monday night. Kansas rode a career-night from Garrett just long enough to hold on for an 80-78 win over the Texas Longhorns.
Garrett scored his first bucket of the night just over five minutes into the game, burying a three pointer, just his fifth of the entire season. The long-range threat wouldn’t stop with one make, though. Garrett added two more threes in the first half, going perfect from deep.
He was perfect from the field in general in the first 20 minutes of the game, going 7-of-7 for 17 points, setting a new career high. His previous best was 13 against Texas Southern last season. He tacked on three more in the second half, giving him 20 for the night.
“That’s the first time we’ve seen him be that aggressive offensively since he’s been here,” Kansas coach Bill Self said about Garrett’s effort on Monday.
Self complimented Garrett’s all-around ability after the game, praising both his offensive effort and general defensive skills.
“If Marcus could score the ball more he’d be a first-team all-league player,” Self said. “He’s the best defender we have and tonight he was the best offensive player, too.”
It wasn’t just Garrett who carried the KU offense against Texas, as senior guard Lagerald Vick got hot from three-point range in his own right. Vick went 5-of-8 from long range, finishing with a game-high 21 points for the game.
The two guards made a major difference for the Jayhawks in a game that featured what looked to be one of the lighter performances, relatively speaking, in recent memory for junior forward Dedric Lawson. He would, however, turn it on late and help keep the Longhorns at bay. The reigning Big 12 newcomer of the week scored 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting while pulling down a team-high eight rebounds.
“We don’t have guys that finish around the rim like past teams do, but I thought Dedric had a couple of great finishes late,” Self said.
While the veterans had important nights in the win, the Kansas freshman class had a significant impact as well. Guard Devon Dotson scored 10 points while also leading the team in assists with five. Off the bench guard Ochai Agbaji and forward David McCormack contributed solid minutes. Agbaji scored four points, hauled in four rebounds, and picked up two assists and a steal, while McCormack snagged four more boards in eight minutes.
“We needed somebody to at least get in there and compete on the glass, and [McCormack] did that,” Self said.
As for Agbaji, Self said that while he didn’t play as well as he did in the last two games, there’s still a lot about his game that is important to Kansas.
“I just think he’s got poise,” Self said. “I trust him. What he does is he makes easy plays … He’s going to be a terrific player.”
The Jayhawks had a great night shooting the ball overall, making 53.7 percent of their shots from the floor. Foul shooting wasn’t as pretty, though, with KU going just 11-of-21 from the line.
“We’ve been really struggling shooting the ball,” Self said. “We were pretty efficient in all areas except free throws.”
Texas wasn’t nearly as efficient shooting the ball, making 42 percent of its shots and just 38.2 percent from three, even with three threes in a row near the end of the game by Jace Febres. Matt Coleman led the Longhorns in scoring with 16 points.
“I thought our overall effort was very good most of the time,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “To our guys’ credit, we got down 10 a couple times and they fought to cut that lead down.”
Kansas is now 15-2 overall this year and 4-1 in Big 12 play, just half a game behind first-place Texas Tech, which will host Iowa State on Wednesday night. The Jayhawks will be off until Saturday, when they head to Morgantown to face the West Virginia Mountaineers.