LAWRENCE — It took Lagerald Vick just 24 seconds to surpass his output from Kansas basketball’s season opener, and 47 ticks to instill faith Monday night’s home debut could be a different showing.
By the end of the evening, the fourth-year player had authored a jaw-dropping career-best performance, and a surprising development, at that — just six nights after Vick was the only KU player to struggle wire-to-wire, the senior guard was for a long stretch the only Jayhawk keeping his team afloat in the at-times tighter-than-anticipated tilt.
Vick scored a career-high 32 points on a 12-for-14 shooting performance, draining all eight of his 3-point attempts in the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ 84-68 victory over Vermont at Allen Fieldhouse.
Vick soared through the air for dunks. He foxtrotted up the floor after 3-pointers. Simply put, the stoic senior had fun — at the Catamounts’ expense.
Here's how it happened.
The Jayhawks (2-0) held a four-point advantage at the end of a laborious first half.
The Catamounts (1-1), who at one point led 26-18, converted 6 of 15 attempts from 3-point range in the opening period, with Stef Smith connecting on all three of his tries. Projected to finish first in the America East Conference’s preseason poll but 22½-point underdogs Monday, Vermont’s fast start perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise — it put a scare into Kentucky last year in an early-season contest at Rupp Arena, eventually falling by just four points.
KU was paced early on by Vick and Udoka Azubuike, who had 12 of the team’s 17 first-half field goal makes. It was an especially hot opening period for Vick, who scored 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting and a 4-for-4 clip on 3s. The upperclassman duo’s more inexperienced teammates struggled at the outset, though, with junior forward and preseason All-American Dedric Lawson playing only a foul-plagued seven minutes and missing both of his shots from the field.
Freshman guard Quentin Grimes, who scored a game-high 21 points in the Jayhawks’ season-opening victory against then-No. 10 Michigan State, came alive late in the half, scoring the final five points of his team’s 7-0 run ahead of the break. His 3-pointer with 50 seconds left put KU up for good, and his full-court drive and layup brought the crowd to its feet and gave the Jayhawks their 40-36 edge at the intermission.
The teams traded blows early in the second half — that is, until Vick apparently decided he’d had enough of the pesky Catamounts’ shenanigans.
With KU leading 48-40 and 14:44 left to play, the already on-fire Vick started to smolder. He scored 11 straight team points, hitting three 3-point attempts and a long 2 released just inside the arc. His final make in the stretch came with 11 minutes to play and represented his seventh trey in seven attempts, a conversion that gave KU a 59-45 advantage. Showered with admiration from onlookers at Allen Fieldhouse, Vick strutted up the court with a toothy grin.
Once seen as a longshot at best to return for a senior season as he explored his professional options — testing the waters with his foot, his entire leg, heck, practically his whole body — Vick likely couldn’t have scripted a more electrifying home debut in his final campaign. His eighth and final 3-point make — on Grimes’ 10th assist of the evening — ballooned the KU advantage to 17 points with 3:38 remaining, icing an outcome with few positive developments outside of the Memphis, Tenn., native’s point parade.
All told, Vick's eight made 3s were the most without a miss in program history, passing a 6-for-6 performance from Ben McLemore.
Azubuike finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Grimes added 10 points to his 10 dimes to round out the Jayhawks' double-figure scorers, while Lawson was held scoreless in 19 minutes. Anthony Lamb's 24 points paced the Catamounts, who in the end hit just 41.1 percent of their field goal attempts versus the Jayhawks’ 52.4-percent clip.
KU continues its season with a 7 p.m. Friday home contest against Louisiana.