LAWRENCE — Bill Self expects preseason All-American Dedric Lawson to bounce back from the rough outing in his home debut.
Still, the Kansas basketball coach admits this kind of thing isn’t an exact science.
“Just because a guy throws four picks, there’s no guarantee the next game he’ll throw four touchdowns and no picks,” said Self following the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks 84-68 victory over Vermont on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse. “I mean, who knows?”
Lawson, 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior forward and on-court Swiss Army knife, was held scoreless with seven rebounds in 19 minutes against the Catamounts. He missed all six of his shot attempts, all within the arc — three in the paint, three at the rim.
It was the second straight rough offensive outing for Lawson, who scored 20 points on 5-for-18 shooting in 38 minutes in his team's season-opening victory against Michigan State. He was, however, able to contribute 14 rebounds, six assists and two blocks in that contest.
Against Vermont, Self speculated perhaps some players got "a little comfortable," a comment made before critical remarks about Lawson's play.
“I thought he played very unathletically tonight," Self said of Lawson in his postgame radio remarks. "He got every shot blocked it seemed like. When they had him pushed off the spot, he shot some marginal shots. Then he had some decent looks that didn't go in. He had a drive to a layup that he's got to make."
Monday’s game was the first scoreless outing of Lawson’s career, which began at Memphis for a two-year stint and previously featured a low of six points done three times in his freshman campaign of 2015-16. His career-high remains a 35-point performance against Iowa accomplished as a sophomore.
Self said he isn’t concerned about having to get Lawson “engaged or turned up” in the future.
“Guys, he was almost perfect from the field in our first two exhibition games, 6 of 8 from 3, and then he didn’t make shots against Michigan State and he still had 20 (points) and 14 (rebounds),” Self said. “But tonight, he was out of it. Even when we’d run something to get him an uncontested layup he couldn’t get it to go down. But yeah, he’s a good player. This may have been the best thing that ever happened to him if he responds favorably, which I think he will.”
Still, as Self indicated earlier, a Lawson bounce-back is no certainty in the Jayhawks’ (2-0) 7 p.m. Friday contest against Louisiana (1-1) at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I do worry a little bit,” Self said. “... The biggest thing is that he wasn’t engaged tonight. We have got to have him engaged. He’s way too good of a player to have nights like that. I think it’s good for us. I think it’s good that different guys have to step up.”
Grimes' uneven evening
Freshman guard Quentin Grimes authored a double-double against the Catamounts, scoring 10 points and dishing 10 assists in the victory. He scored seven straight points as part of a 9-0 run at the end of the first half and at the beginning of the second half that gave the Jayhawks the lead for good and finished 4-for-8 shooting.
Self indicated it was a mixed-bag performance for the former five-star recruit and potential one-and-done collegiate player.
“Well, he had a great game passing,” Self said. “You know, to me, Quentin, I thought he played well, don’t get me wrong, I thought he played well — we’ll take a double-double any night, and I thought he fed the post very, very well. I think he does some bonehead things. I mean, that last pass he made to Dedric in late game, that was a bonehead play. But I thought he played sound and it was nice to see a couple balls go on in the hole for him.”
Eight of Grimes’ 10 assists went to 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike, who finished with 23 points in a team-high 34 minutes played. Azubuike agreed with the notion Grimes’ passing is somewhat similar to that of former one-and-done teammate Josh Jackson, now playing for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
“He’s a guy that can really see when he’s playing and all that. He’s got vision,” Azubuike said of Grimes. “He plays with so much pace and he’s really quick when he throws it.”
McCormack Doesn't Appear
Freshman forward David McCormack didn't play against Vermont, but Self said onlookers shouldn’t read anything into the former McDonald’s All-American’s absence.
“Doke’s not in foul trouble and (Vermont is) going to play with that (small) lineup, it’s hard for other guys to play. And I thought Mitch (Lightfoot) gave us some good minutes the first half too,” Self said. “But second half, Doke was on such a roll and I thought we were better with Marcus (Garrett) in the game at the four.”
McCormack scored three points and grabbed three rebounds in five first-half minutes off the bench against Michigan State.