LAWRENCE — The question posed to Kansas basketball sophomore guard Charlie Moore was a relatively straightforward one, but for some reason, the following query sent teammate Dedric Lawson into a bout with the giggles:
On the heels of a team-high 18-point, six-trey performance off the bench in the top-ranked Jayhawks’ 89-53 victory over South Dakota on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse, does Moore feel he’s made his case to be the team’s long-sought-after third scoring threat beside Lawson and senior guard Lagerald Vick?
Lawson laughed, and Moore smiled.
“I shot it pretty well today,” Moore said modestly. “Just going to go back to the drawing board in practice and get ready for the next game.”
Moore hit 6 of 9 attempts from beyond the arc, also dishing out four assists in 21 minutes off the pine. Still, the matter of Lawson’s amusement to the idea of Moore’s offensive prowess loomed during a subsequent breakout interview with the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds against the Coyotes. After saying “that was a good question for Charlie,” Lawson sat down for his session, where he was asked what head coach Bill Self told Moore in the postgame locker room.
Always honest, Lawson may have tipped his hand as to the root of his chuckles.
“He just told Charlie, he said, ‘You’re 9 for (31). You’re getting better,’ ” recalled Lawson, with Self referring to Moore’s 3-for-22 clip from 3-point range entering the contest. “That’s all he said.”
Lawson laughed again, only this time, the assembled media joined him in that reaction.
Moore kick-started a 31-6 run for the Jayhawks (10-0) with one of his five second-half 3-pointers, this one coming with 10:07 left to play. By the end of the stretch, KU had ballooned its advantage from 12 to 37, putting away the at-times pesky Coyotes (6-6) in what represented the first game this season in which KU hadn’t trailed.
After Lawson, Moore and freshman forward David McCormack (12 points, six rebounds) cleared the media room, Self entered for his postgame news conference. There, Self spoke for himself on his thoughts on the breakout evening for Moore, who entered averaging 3.4 points on 25.6 percent shooting from the field — “It was really nice to see somebody other than Lagerald (Vick, 12 points) knock it down. That was good,” Self said.
The KU bench scored 40 points — or 46 percent — of the Jayhawks’ total on the evening, a sharp contrast to the team’s first nine games. Moore was the biggest contributor to that effort, a scenario Self envisioned since the start of the season but one that had yet to play out for the former Cal transfer.
“That’s what we thought all along, that he was going to be our marksman off the bench, so to speak, and give us some offense off the bench. It hadn’t happened, but tonight it did,” Self said. “Hopefully that will give him some confidence moving forward shooting the ball, because he and Lagerald can shoot it at a different level than everybody else can.
“We see that every day in practice, so that didn’t surprise us. That didn’t surprise us at all, him knocking down those shots.”
Nothing about Moore’s recent play at practices or shootarounds hinted at this performance, Self said. Rather, it was a matter of playing time, afforded by the Jayhawks finally playing an opponent they could put at arm’s reach — though, admittedly, it took 30-or-so minutes for KU to make it happen.
“I think opportunity was probably the biggest thing,” Self said of Moore’s evening. “We told him before the game that the way they play defense, they make you score over the top. We thought we could get some shots — you’ve just got to knock ’em down. We were 1 of 8 (from 3-point range) the first half. To see the ball go in the second half was good. First time it’s gone in for some of those guys, so that was a positive thing.
“There’s nothing that I knew a breakout game was coming. It was just opportunity.”
It wasn’t a flawless performance for the Jayhawks, who allowed South Dakota’s Stanley Umude to come off the bench and score a game-high 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting — “He doesn’t have to score in his next three games to keep his average. He killed us,” Self said.
Still, it was an impressive enough effort as the team readies for its first true road contest, an 8 p.m. Saturday tilt against No. 18 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz.
Lawson and the Jayhawks enter that game with confidence — and, in Moore, perhaps a new offensive weapon.
“I’m looking forward to it being loud. I’m looking forward to it being great,” Lawson said. “I haven’t played a road game in a while. I’m looking forward to the assignment.