Devon Dotson knew from a scouting report that UNC Greensboro’s basketball team would likely unleash a press against Kansas on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Dotson, Kansas’ 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard from Charlotte, North Carolina, said he relished the challenge of trying to solve the Spartans’ 3/4-court soft press, which KU coach Bill Self said was designed, “to use time, not necessarily to steal it from us as much.”
The Jayhawks committed just 10 turnovers in 40 minutes, easily solving UNC Greensboro’s pressure in a 74-62 KU victory.
“I had fun. I like that,” Dotson said with a smile, referring to keeping his team calm against a press while advancing the Jayhawk offense past halfcourt in less than the required 10 seconds.
It’s safe to say KU had few problems against Greensboro’s active defense. Remember, this is the same Jayhawks team that suffered 28 turnovers in Tuesday’s 68-66 loss to Duke at the Champions Classic in New York.
Dotson had six turnovers, one assist and 15 points against Duke. He had six assists, one turnover and 22 points against UNC Greensboro.
“We know what we didn’t do Tuesday. We wanted to correct it, bring energy,” Dotson said after hitting 6 of 14 shots (2 of 5 threes and 8 of 8 free throws) against Greensboro. “It was our home opener. We just wanted to feed off the crowd. It was good to get going tonight.”
Of flipping his own assist/turnover statline from Tuesday to Friday, Dotson said, “my teammates did a great job getting to open spots, knocking down open shots, making themselves available. I tried to get in there and make smart decisions.”
Greensboro coach Wes Miller, whose squad fell to 1-1 on the season, said Dotson proved to be a huge factor. His own lead guard, Isaiah Miller, also had a big game, scoring 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting (2 of 6 threes).
“We had a tough time dealing with Dotson, staying in front,” Miller said.
Of Dotson, who also contributed eight rebounds with one steal, Self said: “I thought he was great. I thought it was a different Devon tonight (than in Duke game).”
KU seemed to play better in the second half when it went to a four-guard lineup. Sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji scored 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting (3 of 8 from three), while junior guard Marcus Garrett had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting (2 of 4 from three) with five assists and four rebounds. Graduate transfer Isaiah Moss scored eight points, all in the second half. Wing Tristan Enaruna scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting.
“With a two-big lineup, we’ll get more familiar how to play with that system as the year goes on,” Dotson said. “As the year goes on we’ll be more comfortable.”
Senior center Udoka Azubuike scored 10 points and had 10 rebounds, while sophomore forward David McCormack had four boards and two points and junior forward Silvio De Sousa no points and two boards.
“Once again, the offense was crowded (the first half with two bigs in game). We didn’t have much going,” said Self. The Jayhawks led, 36-32, at the break then broke open the contest with a 20-6 surge to start the final half.
“We thought we would try to spread them (second half). We actually defended pretty well, too. Except for defensive rebounding for a stretch of the first half I thought our four guards did well out there. We had shots we just didn’t make them (10 of 26 threes; 45.8 percent overall),” Self added.
Self said he would not abandon using two bigs.
“We’ll keep starting two bigs I’m sure,” he said. “They will be important, so is Christian (Braun, freshman guard, no points two minutes). We’re talking nine guys (available after Jalen Wilson went down with broken ankle in first half that will likely sideline him the rest of season). All will have to be important players for us moving forward.
“Losing Mackey (McBride, guard who transferred in preseason) early … we didn’t anticipate that. This with Jalen, that is certainly not what we thought would happen so Tristan and Christian are going to be real important. Isaiah … we know what we’ve got when he’s healthy. He’s done it before,” he added of Moss.
Moss said after the game he’s almost 100 percent recovered from his hamstring injury that’s slowed him all season.
Self said all in all, it was a good victory with the team ready to embark on several days of practice before the next game Friday against Monmouth.
“Duke sped us up. The guys were trying too hard. We didn’t play with much poise,” Self said. “Tonight we weren’t sped up. The press didn’t speed us up. The guys played with a little bit of poise. That’s a positive. I think we’ll continue to get better taking care of the ball.”