University of Kansas

‘Student of the game’ Dedric Lawson abandons Netflix for now, gears for Baylor game

Bill Self’s thoughts on Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson

Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self discusses the performances of Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson following his team's 74-71 victory over No. 17 Villanova on Dec. 15, 2018.
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Kansas Jayhawks coach Bill Self discusses the performances of Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson following his team's 74-71 victory over No. 17 Villanova on Dec. 15, 2018.

Dedric Lawson’s late-night TV and Internet viewing habits have changed the past couple weeks in his McCarthy Hall apartment on Kansas’ campus.

“I ran out of shows on Netflix,” Lawson, KU’s 6-foot-9 junior power forward from Memphis, said with a smile.

So, since scoring a mere eight points against Eastern Michigan on Dec. 29, 13 points against Oklahoma on Jan. 2 and 13 more versus Iowa State on Jan. 5, Lawson has immersed himself in films of himself — and films of other college basketball players and teams — rather than review any Hollywood releases.

“Like on our iPads … I stay up late and watch (tapes),” Lawson said. “I see where the guys on defense are coming from, just different reads. It’s definitely something I like to do, to break down the game, try to be a student of the game. I watch the way the guys on other teams are guarded. I try to evaluate it like that, too.”

Lawson — he has said he’s the type of person who goes to bed late and gets up early — believes working overtime on his game is paying off.

He scored 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds in KU’s 77-68 victory over TCU on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse. Lawson — he averages a team-leading 19.8 points a game on 50 percent shooting — hit 13 of 36 shots (.361) during the three previous games.

He’s hoping to have busted a mini-scoring drought heading into Saturday’s Big 12 battle between the No. 7-ranked Jayhawks (13-2, 2-1) and unranked Baylor Bears (9-5, 1-1). Tipoff is 3 p.m. at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, with a live telecast on ESPN.

“I saw (on film) Iowa State and Oklahoma double-teamed me a lot. I tried to get as close to the basket as possible,” Lawson said of strategy for the TCU game. “I tried to get into my moves quicker — before the defense comes. When they (Horned Frogs) double-teamed, I tried to find the right teammate, tried to play basketball the right way,” he added.

Lawson realizes his performance could be a huge factor in determining KU’s fate in the Big 12 race and the postseason. KU has lost a dominant big in Udoka Azubuike to a season-ending hand injury.

KU, which is vying for a 15th straight Big 12 title, is 1-1 since Azubuike tore a ligament in his right hand at practice the day before the Iowa State game.

KU coach Bill Self previews the Kansas-Baylor game and talks about Udoka Azubuike's surgery. The Jayhawks will travel to Waco to take on the Bears at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

“Just keep trying to be an inside presence offensively and defensively,” Lawson said of personal goals for coming games. “Not let guys get baskets easy around the rim, try to improve in all areas of the game.”

KU coach Bill Self went with a four-guard (Lagerald Vick, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Marcus Garrett) starting lineup that included one big (Lawson) to open Wednesday’s home victory over TCU.

Things could change against Baylor.

“I haven’t watched a lot of tape on them. They’re playing more man (defense), but they’ll play a ton of that 1-1-3 zone,” Self said of Scott Drew’s Bears. “It’s so much easier to attack the zone if you have two bigs, so they have bigger targets to throw to in the middle. I do think we’ll maybe need to play two bigs more in that game. We have to do a good job attacking the zone.”

The Bears played both zone and man in their first two league games — Tuesday’s 73-70 victory over Iowa State in Waco, and an 85-81 loss on Jan. 5 at TCU.

“I think we are 15 for our last 62 (from three for 24.2 percent; 33.3 percent from three on season). That’s not good enough to beat anybody and unfortunately we are 2-1 in those games,” Self said. “When we go up against the zone on the road, we need to make 10 or 11 threes to give ourselves the best chance. I know we have it in us, but we need to shoot it better than we have.”

KU hit 5 of 21 threes to TCU’s 9 of 21. The Jayhawks forced 20 turnovers playing their first game with athletic freshman guard Ochai Agbaji, who had two of KU’s 10 steals.

“I think we were more athletic on the perimeter for sure than we have been. Ochai brings something to that,” Self said of the Oak Park High graduate who had his redshirt status lifted before the TCU game in response to Azubuike’s injury. “We’ve not been very good scoring the ball.”

Yale graduate transfer Makai Mason averages a team-leading 15.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game in this, his one and only season with the Bears. Forward Tristan Clark contributes 14.6 points, 6.3 boards and 2.4 blocks. Guards King McClure and Mario Kegler average 10.2 and 8.8 points respectively.

“Mason will present a challenge for anybody who plays them,” Self said. “He can shoot, stretch it with range. He has kind of an uncanny ability to get people off balance, get his shoulders past them. He can get in the lane. Some of the plays he made in the game (against Iowa State) were inside the paint. Tristan Clark is having as good a year as anybody in our league. They have some nice pieces. They have a good team,” Self added.

Baylor coach Drew expects a close game.

“Each and every game you watch in the Big 12 comes down to one or two possessions. That means it’s anyone’s game,” Drew said. “I think in every Big 12 game the first thing you want to do is take care of the ball and keep people out of transition with turnovers. With them playing with more guards and faster (with Azubuike out), you’ve definitely got to do that,” Drew added.

KU will meet Texas at 8 p.m. Monday in Allen Fieldhouse.

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Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.