LAWRENCE — It took Lagerald Vick all of 24 seconds to surpass his output from Kansas basketball’s season opener, and just 47 ticks to instill faith Monday night’s home debut could be a different animal.
A short time later, the contest began to take on the appearance of a special evening for the fourth-year player, and by the end, Vick had authored a jaw-dropping, career-best performance, a head-turner considering just six nights prior he was the only KU player to struggle wire-to-wire.
Against Vermont, he was for a long stretch the only Jayhawk keeping his team afloat.
“He was great,” said KU coach Bill Self of Vick’s 32-point performance in the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ 84-68 victory over Vermont at Allen Fieldhouse. “I tried to remember — I don’t think I’ve ever coached a better offensive performance, ever.”
Vick orchestrated a 12-for-14 shooting performance, draining all eight of his 3-point attempts on a night where he also soared sky-high for dunks, foxtrotted up the baseline after deep makes and had perhaps the most fun he’s had on a basketball court — all at the Catamounts’ expense.
Amazingly, Vick’s night could’ve been even better — his two misses came on a hard-luck jump hook and, as Self described, a “dipsy-do” layup, and two of Vick’s 2-pointers came with his foot barely on the 3-point line.
“So yeah, he was fabulous,” Self said. “I mean, he was great. He obviously carried us.”
Udoka Azubuike scored 23 points and hauled in 11 rebounds, Quentin Grimes scored 10 points and dished 10 assists, but the story of the night was Vick, who last Tuesday scored just two points in 32 minutes in the Jayhawks’ season-opening victory against then-No. 10 Michigan State.
Vick drained 3s on KU’s first two possessions and four total in a first half Monday that saw the 22½-point underdog Catamounts at one time lead by eight points. The senior guard out of Memphis, Tenn., kept KU afloat, though, until Grimes scored seven straight points to cap a 9-0 run that put the Jayhawks (2-0) up for good just before halftime.
The teams traded blows early in the second half — that is, until Vick apparently had enough of the pesky Catamounts’ (1-1) shenanigans.
With KU leading 48-40 and 14:44 left to play, Vick went from red-hot to smoldering. He scored 11 straight team points, hitting a trio of 3-pointer in the rally. His final make in the sequence came with 11 minutes to play and represented his seventh trey, ballooning the KU advantage to 59-45.
Showered with admiration from onlookers, Vick strutted up the court and flashed a toothy grin.
“You know, didn’t have a good shooting night last time we played,” Vick said. “Just went into practice, focused on some small things, went in there and worked on my jump shot. Team and coaches giving me confidence to be prepared and shoot the ball whenever it comes to you. So (it was) just coming out, having motivation.”
Vick claimed it took just one 3-point make for him to realize he’d be on fire Monday.
“After the first one, I just heard Coach say, ‘Just keep shooting the ball,’ ” said Vick, who added this on his thought process after each consecutive make: “Shoot the next one.”
Once viewed as a longshot at best to return for a senior campaign, Vick likely couldn’t have scripted a more electrifying debut for his final season. His eighth and final 3-point make bloated the KU advantage to 17 points 3:38 remaining, icing an outcome with few positive developments outside of Vick’s scoring parade.
All told, Vick’s eight made 3s were the most without a miss in program history, a mark Grimes said was acknowledged and celebrated by teammates in the victorious postgame locker room.
“We were all pumping him up like, ‘Man, you’re probably the best shooter in Kansas history, going 8 for 8,’ ” Grimes joked. “So just little things like that. But yeah, we did give him a hard time there for sure.”
A notorious hot-and-cold player across his first three seasons at KU, Vick acknowledged he’s “definitely” better suited to have bounce-back performances as a senior, citing his time in the program and overall experience.
“He didn’t really have the game he wanted to have (against Michigan State), and sometimes last year, Lagerald (would) have a bad game and all that (and) the next game, he really didn’t want to play much or whatnot,” Azubuike said. “But it’s just the way he responded. He knows he may not have had the game he wanted to have. In practice, Coach was telling him, and I spoke to him too, about keeping his head up, go out there and play, all that stuff.
According to Azubuike, Self told Vick after the game that, although it’s still early, the senior has “made a lot of improvement from last year to this year” in the way he responds to poor outings.
“Me personally,” Azubuike said, “I’m really happy for him.”
KU continues its season with a 7 p.m. Friday home contest against Louisiana. If Vick takes the free-minded mentality he had Monday into that contest, he’ll be thinking this every time he touches the ball:
“You just let it go,” Vick said.
#2 KANSAS 84, VERMONT 68
Lamb 8-15 6-6 24, Kpedi 1-3 1-2 3, E.Duncan 0-0 0-0 0, E.Duncan 5-13 4-4 17, Smith 4-8 2-4 13, Moli 2-7 0-0 4, Davis 1-7 0-0 2, Nash 0-0 0-0 0, Shungu 2-3 0-1 5, R.Duncan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-56 13-17 68.
D.Lawson 0-6 0-0 0, Azubuike 10-17 3-6 23, Grimes 4-8 0-0 10, Vick 12-14 0-0 32, Dotson 3-5 0-0 7, Lightfoot 0-1 1-2 1, K.Lawson 0-0 0-0 0, Garrett 1-6 2-2 4, Moore 3-6 0-0 7. Totals 33-63 6-10 84.
Halftime — Kansas 40-36. 3-Point Goals — Vermont 9-26 (Smith 3-5, E.Duncan 3-8, Lamb 2-6, Shungu 1-1, Moli 0-1, Davis 0-5), Kansas 12-19 (Vick 8-8, Grimes 2-4, Dotson 1-2, Moore 1-3, Lightfoot 0-1, Garrett 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Vermont 27 (Smith 8), Kansas 37 (Azubuike 11). Assists — Vermont 11 (Lamb, E.Duncan 3), Kansas 19 (Grimes 10). Total Fouls — Vermont 13, Kansas 18. A — 16,300 (16,300).