LAWRENCE — Facing a six-point halftime deficit Saturday against Stanford, Kansas basketball had a perhaps more troubling number in mind — one, as in the team’s total number of assists to that point.
“We did, we had one — which is better than zero,” KU coach Bill Self later deadpanned.
While joking, Self’s glass-half-full reaction in the postgame news conference following his No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ come-from-behind 90-84 overtime home victory against the Cardinal nevertheless struck a different chord from the message delivered to his team at the intermission regarding its one-assist, seven-turnover showing.
“He said, ‘That’s horrible. You’ve got to make a play for somebody, get your nose dirty and drive and kick,’ ” recalled freshman guard Devon Dotson. “He said it to everybody, but me, that was just a bad stat line and I wanted to take care of that.”
Mission accepted, and mission accomplished.
Dotson was pivotal in the Jayhawks’ 12-point second-half comeback, tallying four assists in the period with all setting up made 3-pointers from senior guard Lagerald Vick. Dotson’s second-and-third dimes came on drive-and-dish plays where he got into the paint before kicking out to an open Vick, whose second of the two makes gave KU its first second-half lead, 62-60. Dotson’s last assist set up Vick’s game-tying trey with seven seconds left in regulation.
“He was big,” Vick said of Dotson, “just making the plays that we need, finding the open players and just being aggressive.”
All told, Dotson finished with 10 points, 4 assists and 2 steals.
“I thought he played really well,” Self said. “Sometimes you can look at the stats and they’re misleading. He had 10 points but he’s 4 of 7 from the line and one of them was a big front-end that he missed. So I don’t really factor that into playing good or playing poorly. But four assists and no turnovers in 43 minutes, and I thought (Stanford’s Daejon) Davis obviously controlled the game the entire first half, but the second half, I thought Devon did a pretty good job on him.”
Stanford entered the contest allowing just 3.6 made 3s per contest on a 24-percent shooting clip, so KU’s game plan was rather obvious — get inside, and if nothing is there, find the open man.
Dotson, it seems, was the only player to heed that call on a night where the Jayhawks (6-0) at times played “selfish” offense, Self said.
“I think he’s doing a great job getting downhill. The unfortunate thing (is) nobody else is. Nobody,” Self said. ”... We’ve gotta correct that. We’ve gotta correct a lot of things, but that’s something where we’re just not gonna run good offense in my opinion until we can do that because teams are just going to play behind Doke (Azubuike) and push him out, and if Dedric (Lawson) is not gonna shoot a lot of 3s or take a lot of 3s where you have to guard him, it’s a crowded house. You’ve got to have some guards that can get downhill.”
If nothing else, Dotson has proven just six games into his collegiate career that he’s more than capable of doing just that.
“He’s a downhill guy,” Lawson said. “He’s so fast he puts pressure on the defense and when he’s doing that, when I get a rebound I’m telling him, ‘I’m just going to kick it to you and go do you and just find guys when you see them.’ I think that’s what got Lagerald going, when he started getting downhill and kicking it out.
“That’s something our offense feeds off of, those easy transition points, those kick-out 3s. They put our bigs in easy rebound positions to get the rebounds and put it back and things like that.”
As Self indicated, though, the 6-foot-2 former five-star recruit must do a better job capitalizing on his trips to the free-throw line — Dotson missed three straight at one point in the second half, including one with 40 seconds left in overtime, before making his final three attempts to seal the victory.
“Yeah, there were a couple I would say,” Dotson said with a smile. “Yeah.”