The following is a breakdown of each Kansas scholarship player from the team’s 99-71 victory Saturday night over Players Group.
Lagerald Vick: The guard had his best offensive night, picking up MVP honors with 18 points on 8-for10 shooting. “I think the one thing that’s a little misleading is how good Lagerald has played (in Italy), and he hasn’t really shot the ball much or that well,” KU coach Bill Self said. “But I was happy to see him score some points.” Vick frequently outran Players Group down the court for transition points, and Self also said after the game he’d likely be KU’s third option at point guard this season behind Devonté Graham and Malik Newman. “I think Lagerald is the best we have at getting in the paint and getting his shoulders past people,” Self said. “I can see him playing more on the ball when Devonté isn’t in the game.”
Devonté Graham: I undestand this impression is based off three exhibition games in stuffy gyms, but I don’t see how Graham won’t lead the Big 12 in assists this year. His quick first step, vision and unselfishness have led to many open shots for teammates, and Graham had six assists Saturday when it actually seemed like he had more. He also had 10 points and no turnovers in 25 minutes.
Svi Mykhailiuk: Poor shooting night for him, as he made 3 of 12 shots and was 1-for-7 from three. Self also challenged him in the second half to rebound better, though he did finish with four boards in 17 minutes.
Billy Preston: The freshman had his best performance of the trip, as he seemed to better understand how Self wants him to play. Twice, he had strong moves with his back to the basket in the post, which resulted in Self coming off the bench to applaud the effort. Preston also had seven rebounds, clearing out space especailly well in the first half and filling a needed role with fellow big man Udoka Azubuike sitting out. Preston made 3 of 11 shots and missed both three-point attempts, but this still was a definite step forward.
Malik Newman: He appears to be KU’s most reliable scorer. Newman posted all 13 of his points in the first half, creating well in transition while also continuing to show his strong mid-range game. He lost concentration on one defensive possession late in the second quarter, as his man drifted to the corner for an open three that led to a few Self screams. Other than that, Newman continued his solid play with 4-for-10 shooting and three steals in 21 minutes.
Mitch Lightfoot: Had good moments and bad ones. He hustled for a pair of offensive rebounds on one possession before turning it over. He had a nice stepback shot from the baseline but once again struggled from three-point range, where he has left most of his shots short (the box score has him 1-for-4 from three, but I don’t remember his make ... maybe I missed it). The final stats gave him eight points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
Sam Cunliffe: Got a three-pointer to fall, and he also had a nice drive and kickout to Marcus Garrett for an open outside shot. Cunliffe had six points on 2-for-4 shooting while also picking up five fouls in 18 minutes.
Charlie Moore: He seems to be following Graham’s lead, driving often before looking for creative ways to get the ball to teammates. He had a nice feed to K.J. Lawson for a score in the first half and also made a floater in the lane for the second straight day. Moore finished with six points and six assists in 17 minutes.
K.J. Lawson: He’s still learning as a late arrival to KU, with one example coming early in the second half when he kept his hands low when hedging a screen near mid-court. That drew an immediate foul, with KU’s coaches instructing him to keep his hands high in the future. Lawson still finished with 11 points and went 5-for-6 from the line in his 17 minutes.
Marcus Garrett: Played just four minutes. After the game, Self said there was nothing to it other than a “coach’s decision.” Garrett made his only three-point attempt and also had an assist.
Udoka Azubuike: Stayed at the team hotel and did not play because he wasn’t feeling well, according to Self. He’s also doubtful for Sunday’s final game in Italy.