LAWRENCE — Dedric Lawson is a wise man.
With his No. 2-ranked Kansas basketball squad trailing 20-point underdog Stanford by three in the final seconds of Saturday night’s game at Allen Fieldhouse, Lawson stood at the top of the key, totally unguarded. The Jayhawks’ best all-around player to this point in the season — the junior forward averages a double-double — Lawson was perhaps the best option to take the most important shot attempt of KU’s season to this point given his wide-open status.
Instead, Lawson darted into the paint. Why? The ball had already left the hands of Lagerald Vick, who unloaded a double-guarded trey from the wing with seven seconds left.
“Man, he can shoot it, man. He can shoot it,” a chuckling Lawson said of deferring in the sequence moments after the Jayhawks’ thrilling 90-84 overtime victory over the Cardinal. “It was like six seconds left so I went to the glass, and if he would’ve missed it I would’ve grabbed it and kicked it right back to him.”
Sitting to Lawson’s left in the postgame interview session, Vick cackled with laughter.
Again, Dedric Lawson is a wise man.
“Man, I haven’t seen nobody stop him,” Lawson said of Vick, a fellow product of Memphis, Tenn. “Lagerald is Lagerald. He’s been doing this since I met him in ninth or tenth grade. He’s a scoring machine. I’m glad everyone is getting to see it.”
A national audience was treated to just that in the Jayhawks’ 12-point second-half comeback, which saw Vick score 25 of his game-high 27 points and drain all of his game-high seven 3-pointers in the final 16 minutes of regulation and overtime. The extra session was almost academic, with Vick scoring the first eight points of the period for KU (6-0) on a pair of 3s and a larger-than-life posterizing dunk of Stanford’s Trevor Stanback, a 6-foot-11 forward.
Sluggish in the game’s first 20-plus minutes, Vick was “nonexistent” for much of the game, KU coach Bill Self said. With Stanford (4-4) on an 11-2 run and the Jayhawks facing their largest deficit, 54-42 with 12:18 left to play, Vick actually stepped over the line on an inbounds play for a baffling turnover.
How, exactly, does one explain a player making a mistake like that and absolutely taking over ... in the same contest?
“Uh, it’s a long game, I will say,” freshman guard Devon Dotson said with a smile. “There’s ups and downs in the game, but what you do to respond really defines you.”
Vick more than flipped a switch after that moment, producing a power plant-like burst of energy strong enough to power Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s really coaches and teammates,” Vick said of his newfound fourth-year assertiveness, ”(and) really just being around here and going out there and seeing for myself that I’ve got to do more for the team for us to be successful.”
In the victorious postgame locker room, the Hall of Famer Self bowed before Vick, according to Lawson. Self later said his eyes were on Lawson on the final play of regulation, expecting Vick to pass it out to the wide-open teammate, but he took no issue with the guarded attempt.
“When you look at our stats and we make seven 3s as a team, I’ve got no problem with the guy that made all of ’em actually shooting it. That’s not an issue,” Self said. ”... He was great down the stretch. We needed every one of ’em. We were lucky. They outplayed us and certainly deserved better than how it ended.”
Vick’s final make — a 3-pointer to put the Jayhawks up eight with 2:22 left in overtime — sent Lawson into a fit of laughter, a moment he later explained.
“It’s over,” Lawson recalled thinking.
Lawson finished with 24 points and a game-high 15 rebounds, while Udoka Azubuike (18 points, nine rebounds) and Dotson (10 points, four assists) rounded out the Jayhawks’ double-figure scorers. Stanford, coached by former Jayhawk standout Jerod Haase, was paced by a 22-point performance from forward KZ Okpala but also got an eye-popping 15 points and five made 3s from Isaac White, who entered the game averaging 1.5 points in 3.8 minutes but produced 10 in the first half alone en route to his team’s 35-29 halftime advantage.
“To have them play so well and have us not play our best and have to play our best when it counted the most,” Self said, “we’ll look at this as one of our quality wins even though we weren’t very good for about 30 minutes.”
The Jayhawks return to action with a 7 p.m. Tuesday home contest against Wofford, where Vick will look to hit at least seven 3s for the fourth time this season.
“It was really just letting the game come to me, just really the coaches and assistant coaches just talking to me and keeping me motivated, just telling me to just let the game come,” Vick said of Saturday’s showing. “When it came, it came.”
MILES CAMEO — New Kansas football coach Les Miles was in the house Saturday, glad handing with fans in the student section and watching some of the contest with recruit Cole Mueller, a two-star oral commit and to this point the lone member of the Jayhawks’ upcoming recruiting class.
At halftime, Miles took to center court, took a bow and sampled a prop he labeled “Kansas wheat grass.” Before giving away a pair of the Adidas-branded Yeezy sneakers, the coach who earlier in the week said he expects to win this season again set the bar for his upcoming tenure.
“We’re going to win,” Miles told the crowd, “and win consistently.”