Landen Lucas learned he had a new superpower on Saturday: Evidently, the Kansas center can push a 6-foot-8, 220-pound man using only his eyes.
“You could tell he flopped, right?” Lucas said with a smile following KU’s 85-68 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday. “I was hoping that people saw that, because I’m like, ‘There’s no way I even touched him that much.’ ”
Let’s back up a bit, as the flop of the year in college basketball needs a little more introduction.
Late in the first half, KU guard Frank Mason came away with a steal. On a breakaway, he was fouled hard by Texas Tech’s Anthony Livingston.
Lucas — as his coaches would want him to do — walked up to Livingston to stick up for his teammate.
And that’s when the hilarity ensued.
With the two players almost chest to chest, Livingston stuck his right hand into Lucas’ shoulder and propelled himself backward, screaming out and throwing his hands up in the air for emphasis.
“I was surprised my glare sent him back that much,” Lucas said with a laugh. “It reminded me of somebody who used to play out at Oklahoma State.”
That would be Marcus Smart, who has earned a reputation as basketball’s greatest flopper.
On this day, the act didn’t work. When Livingston realized the officials didn’t go for his fake, he moved forward and pushed Lucas, saying a few words. Official Michael Greenstein gave Livingston the technical, later telling Texas Tech coach Chris Beard he had gotten it for mouthing off.
Whatever the reason, the penalty felt justified. We all know life isn’t fair and oftentimes neither is sports, as evidenced Tuesday when a three-step, game-winning layup left neither team satisfied with how the game would be remembered.
Livingston’s ridiculous play Saturday, though, ended up costing his team. Mason hit three of four free throws. Lucas scored on KU’s next possession.
And though Beard used a timeout at the 1:26 mark to plead with his players to finish strong before halftime, the weird sequence was part of a 7-0 KU run in the final minute that pushed the Jayhawks’ lead to 10.
Perhaps Lucas rushing to Mason’s defense tells us something about this team that shouldn’t be overlooked. The defense might not be up to Self’s standard yet, but the Jayhawks remain like squads of the past when it comes to cohesiveness.
“It shows that (Landen’s) about the team, protecting his point guard,” Mason said. “I’d do the same for him.”
Lucas is just happy there’s video evidence. Teammates asked him what happened at halftime, and he admitted it sounded a bit silly to say that a man had thrown himself back against the padding under the rim.
“It’s just somebody trying to make something small into something a lot bigger,” Lucas said. “I’m proud of the refs, though. They did a good job of seeing what really happened and making the right call.”
It’s the type of thing you won’t likely see from KU’s big men any time soon. Self’s teams are known for their toughness, and that mentality can’t be taken seriously if players hurtle themselves out of bounds during moments of confrontation.
“He wants us to stay in the game and not overdo anything,” Lucas said of Self. “That’s just … he wants us to play. There’s no reason to do that.”
It’s part of the reason why Lucas couldn’t remember the last time he’d tried to pull of the maneuver himself.
“Come on now. I don’t flop,” he said, flashing a grin. “We’ll leave it at that.”