LAWRENCE — On the surface, Bill Self’s reaction appeared to be a bit of a contradiction, the Kansas basketball coach simultaneously clapping and shaking his head after a late-game bucket Tuesday night against Wofford.
When one considers the player who made the basket, however, the response is quite fitting.
Finally pulling away from the double-digit underdog Terriers after 28 minutes of a back-and-forth contest with little offensive firepower, freshman guard Quentin Grimes received a pass at the wing and, despite being guarded, drilled a 3-pointer to expand the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ lead to 17 points. The play unfolded right in front of Self, who clapped and -- maybe in disapproval at Grimes taking the well-defended attempt, or perhaps just in disbelief the shot went in -- shook his head.
Contradictory or not, the Hall of Fame coach’s response was appropriate for the player who entered Tuesday’s contest in a Self-labeled “funk.”
But there was no ambiguity about how Self felt on the Jayhawks’ ensuing offensive possession, where Grimes scored on a nifty driving layup to post the final two points of a personal 9-0 spurt in the Jayhawks’ decisive 27-0 second-half run in the eventual 72-47 victory:
Self clapped ... and grinned.
“He was much better tonight,” Self later said. “He was good.”
Grimes finished with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting, the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder’s best output since a 21-point performance in the Jayhawks’ season-opening victory against Michigan State. The five games sandwiched between saw Grimes average a modest 5.2 points on 28.6-percent shooting, with a two-point effort on 1-for-6 shooting in his team’s 90-84 overtime victory over Stanford last Saturday the freshman’s personal low. He played 16 minutes against the Cardinal, just four in the second half and overtime.
Tuesday was a new experience for Grimes, who even against Michigan State relied on six made 3s. Self, who of late has expressed his desire to see Grimes get downhill and drive the ball into the paint, said the guard “looked different” in the second half of a game where only one of his six makes came from beyond the arc.
“I think at one point I told him during the game, ‘About time,’ “ said junior forward Dedric Lawson. “I just wanted to see him get out there and play, see them high school moves. I think that was his move in high school, the in-and-out. He got in the lane and finished and I just told him, ‘About time.’ “
Preaching patience, Self has been a calming presence throughout the three-week funk, Grimes indicated. The two recently watched film that showed missed driving opportunities for Grimes, highlighting a lack of aggressiveness from the freshman.
A lob play called by Self on Tuesday showcased the coach’s continued confidence in Grimes.
“Just seeing him draw up a play to show off my athleticism, get my mojo going a little bit was good to see out there,” Grimes said.
Grimes chalked up his struggles to “just trying to play too perfect” and added the slump “will probably help (him) moving on down the road for sure.” Despite his top-tier status coming out of high school, Grimes said he understands any consequences that would stem from a return to his previous struggles.
“I’m not a selfish guy,” Grimes said. “If I’m not producing then I can’t be out there, so I definitely have to get in the gym and work on my game. I’m probably going to go back tonight and work on some things, my free throws. Just little things like that.”
As for Lawson’s in-game feedback, consider him and Grimes on the same page.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s about time’ myself. That’s what I was thinking myself,” Grimes said. “Just going out there, playing with a free mind, not thinking too mind and (not) trying to make the perfect play, just going out there and playing basketball like I know how to play.”