Michigan State’s Nick Ward had to be confused.
Early in the first half of Kansas’ 90-70 victory Sunday in the NCAA Tournament, center Landen Lucas received the ball on the left block with Ward positioned behind him. Three times in KU’s previous game against UC Davis, Lucas had shimmied before going over his right shoulder for a left-handed hook shot.
So Ward had to guess it was coming again here. He stayed on Lucas’ right shoulder, readying for a block if KU’s big man went to his favorite move.
Lucas, instead, delivered a curveball. After the catch, he immediately spun to his left shoulder, putting in a right-handed hook before Ward could adjust.
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“Last game was my left hook I was more comfortable with. This game was my right hook,” Lucas said after the win. “I don’t know which one it’s going to be, but once I get a feel for it, once one starts falling, I’ll keep going back to it.”
Lucas proved he would do that Sunday.
Late in the first half, he received the ball in a similar position on the left block. Ward once again shaded toward his right shoulder … so Lucas spun left and put in another right-handed hook shot.
The chess game was on. First play of the second half, Lucas went to work with both feet outside the lane.
Left hook? Not this time. After two power dribbles, Lucas gave a subtle fake before twirling inside to make his third right-handed hook.
“Maybe one game I’ll get both of them going,” Lucas said with a smile. “It’s been good.”
These moves weren’t a major part of Lucas’ repertoire even a few weeks ago. One reason for him having more comfort could be the recent removal of a brace that was protecting his right thumb from a “slight sprain.” Lucas finally was able to play without the tape starting with KU’s loss against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament.
The Jayhawks certainly benefited from the center’s offensive production last week. He made 11 of 17 shots (65 percent) and averaged a double-double with 11.5 points and 11 rebounds.
Though KU guards Frank Mason and Josh Jackson should continue to be the focal part of the offense, Lucas says he won’t be afraid to go to his new post moves when available.
“I think it’s just confidence,” Lucas said. “My team was telling me to be aggressive, so I’m just trying to be as aggressive as I can.”