Kansas will open with its new two-big lineup for the second straight game on Saturday at Baylor, coach Bill Self said Thursday.
“I don’t know that the starting lineup had one thing to do with us winning,” Self said of forward Mitch Lightfoot starting in place of guard Lagerald Vick in Tuesday’s 71-64 victory over TCU at Allen Fieldhouse. “But I thought he (Lightfoot) did great and we are not changing. That is certainly the case as of now,” added Self, who before the TCU game deemed Lightfoot-for-Vick a “long-term” decision.
Making his first college start while playing next to 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, 6-foot-8 sophomore Lightfoot scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes. Vick, a 6-5 junior guard, scored 10 points in 29 minutes.
“I was really excited for Mitch,” Self said Thursday at his weekly news conference. “The thing that I don’t understand with young people, and I used to be one of them 40 years ago, but I don’t understand on how it’s cool not to show excitement and energy.
“With Mitch, you don’t have to worry about that. To me, Mitch is cool because he lets everybody know how excited he is to be out there. He can screw up, but he screws up going 100 miles an hour. I know his teammates and the staff appreciate it, but I also think fans appreciate it, too. I thought he did great.”
Vick, who has started 22 of 24 games this season, earned passing grades as well.
“He definitely played with more energy and reckless abandon than what he had in quite some time, so he did fine,” Self said.
Self said the two-big starting lineup, “looked fine. I don’t think it looked any better, any worse offensively, and certainly defensively I thought we rebounded the ball better. I was happy with that.
“We’ve got to play Marcus more, I think,” Self added of freshman guard Marcus Garrett, who scored 10 points Tuesday. “I should have played Marcus more and taken Malik (Newman, four points) and Lagerald out probably more. But I think it looked fine.”
Self said seldom-used newcomer Silvio De Sousa could see some playing time in Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Baylor.
“I would like to be able to utilize him. Certainly Baylor is a team you could utilize him because they’re going to play two bigs a lot. We’ll see how it goes,” Self said.
The 6-foot-9 De Sousa, who did not play Tuesday versus TCU, has played 19 minutes total in seven games since arriving from IMG Academy in late December.
“We’re not giving up on him by any stretch. We still believe he’s going to be an impact for us before it’s said and done,” Self said. “I hope he can get a role. It’s hard.”
De Sousa’s limited role
Self said De Sousa has been understanding over his lack of minutes.
“Silvio has been great,” Self said. “I mean, the first thing he texted me the next morning (after win over TCU) was a picture of Doke shooting a free throw, saying, ‘Coach, you should be proud of him. He’s really working hard on his free throws.’
“He’s the best kid. You know that’s not easy for a guy that expects to play. But he also understands. He’ll be the first to admit it’s a little bit faster and certainly he gets sped up. He hasn’t had the luxury of having six months before he played a game going against this. Now we’re putting him in in pressure situations, hoping you deliver in a game where you’re down six, one or two possessions could be the difference in being too much to come back.”
Self said “that’s fair to say,” when asked if he thought De Sousa would be “further along” at this point of his freshman season.
“It’s also fair to say maybe I thought our guys could help him to be further along, too. I don’t put that all on him. Maybe it’s fair to say I thought our staff or myself would have helped him to be further along,” Self said.
“But it’s hard when you check into a game on the road at K-State, you’re down four in the first half, and say, ‘Hey, go out there, don’t screw up.’ He has no history of ever even being in the game, let alone playing under those circumstances. I would think a lot of it is on him, but also a lot of it is on us not putting him in the best positions.”
Self said De Sousa “will be a lot better,” next season.
“If he came here this summer (instead of leaving IMG early), he would not be as far along. Sometimes you got to get a knot or two on your head. That’s obviously occurred with him. He’ll be much further along.”
Self said another seldom-used player, sophomore guard Sam Cunliffe, hurt his hip last week.
“He’s behind. But he’s doing OK. He usually tries hard,” Self said of his work at practice. The Arizona State transfer has not played in five of the last seven games. He has played 63 minutes total in nine games since becoming eligible second semester.
“He got hurt last week and fell on his hip hard. I think it was on Wednesday. He wasn’t able to be utilized Saturday (against Oklahoma State). He didn’t practice before the OSU game. He said he could (play in game). The guy didn’t practice for three days. Unless you’re Devonté, Doke or Svi, I’m not going to put him out there much. He was available against TCU, but I didn’t think the situation called for it.”
Self: Svi didn’t look like himself
Self said senior Svi Mykhailiuk, who scored just one point in 36 minutes on Tuesday, may not have been 100 percent.
“Watching the tape, I don’t know that he felt great. He did not look visibly himself. I don’t know if anybody else noticed that. There was something. He just didn’t seem quite energetic or talkative or himself,” Self said, referring to Mykhailiuk possibly being sick.
“When other teams take you away like TCU did, you got to be able to work through that and adjust. I think Svi has been absolutely terrific. He’s had an unbelievable senior year. He’s been aggressive. For whatever reasons, they were able to take him away. I don’t know if it was as much us or a combination of us and maybe him just not having that extra oomph to maybe fight through some stuff. I ask him all the time how he feels. After the game, ‘Hey, man, you don’t look quite the same, you feel OK?’
“I’m fine. I’m fine,” Self added of Svi’s response. “He would never use that as an excuse.”
Mykhailiuk took just two shots the entire game.
“I think TCU, they did a couple of subtle things that were really clever in defending us,” Self said. “Think about that. How many shots do our perimeter get off of ball screens where help is forced? Half? Well, we didn’t force help off ball screens because of the way they switched it and did some things. There are some clever things they did that they deserve credit for.”
▪ Self also said Azubuike, who jammed fingers on his left hand in Tuesday’s game, was “fine” and would not miss any practice time.