The Jayhawks need Lagerald Vick to emerge from his funk.
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All year, Kansas coach Bill Self has spoken of the tightrope the Jayhawks must navigate if they do not perform well defensively, or on the boards, or if their 3-point attempts don’t fall.
Effort, however, is something he believes he doesn’t have to coach. If the Jayhawks don’t bring it, however, their deficiencies in other areas are too much to overcome, and that’s what happened in their last game, a home loss to Oklahoma State.
Kansas (18-5, 7-3 Big 12), tied for first place in the conference with Texas Tech and just one game ahead of West Virginia and Oklahoma, must now attempt to recover in a home game Tuesday against TCU (16-7, 4-6).
“I love our team, I love our guys, but there’s not much margin for error,” Self said. “When one guy doesn’t bring it or one guy has some mental lapses or whatever, it’s magnified more with us because you can’t really take anybody out much.”
That one guy for the Jayhawks since the beginning of Big 12 play has often been Lagerald Vick, a 6-foot-5 junior who often plays out of position inside while attempting to combat bigger opponents with his athleticism.
Vick and sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, the team’s two top rebounders, combined for only eight boards in the Oklahoma State defeat.
Vick is averaging just 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 37 percent since a 21-point performance at Texas in the Big 12 opener. He averaged 17.4 points through the Jayhawks’ first 13 games but has not scored more than 11 points in any game since.
“How do you get out of it? I don’t know. Worry about the right things, maybe,” Self said. “Maybe worry about defending and rebounding and doing little things that add up to teams winning, that kind of stuff.”
The issue with Vick is just one of the Jayhawks’ problems. The loss to Oklahoma State was their third in Allen Fieldhouse, the most suffered since the 1998-99 season and the most in a season under Self, their 15th-year coach.
“It’s very frustrating, because you’re supposed to win the home games and it’s supposed to be really tough on the road,” senior point guard Devonte’ Graham said. “We’ve kind of got it flip-flopped this year. We’re way better on the road than we have been playing at home. We’ve just got to find a way to come out and crush teams.”
It’s hard to do that when the Jayhawks have grabbed one more rebound than their opponents this season. In Big 12 play, the differential is minus-6, which ranks ninth in the conference.
TCU promises to be difficult to guard considering the Horned Frogs average 85.8 points and lead the Big 12 in field-goal percentage (.504), 3-point field-goal percentage (.412) and assists (19.7).
Their first six defeats were by a total of 19 points, but since losing point guard Jaylen Fisher to a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago, TCU has not won back-to-back games and is coming off what coach Jamie Dixon called “the worst performance of the year” in an 83-71 loss to Texas Tech.
“We weren’t good, and I don’t want to take away from Texas Tech, but we got outplayed in every way,” Dixon said. “It’s one loss. We played horribly, but we have to get ready for our next one against Kansas.”