The Kansas Jayhawks got plenty of productive efforts up and down their roster in Saturday’s dominant 87-70 win over the Oklahoma Sooners, but none more so than the one from junior guard Marcus Garrett.
The defensive standout played up to his national defensive player of the year hype in the win, but it was a rare explosive day offensively that propelled the third-ranked Jayhawks to their 11th Big 12 win.
More specifically, Garrett was in a groove from three-point range he’s never come close to replicating before. He nailed 6-of-9 three pointers, doubling his previous career high in made threes (set three times, including once this year). The unconscious performance from long range also led Garrett to a new career high in points with 24.
Garrett had only made three threes total since the start of the new year. He said after the game that with encouragement from coach Bill Self, he was more willing to let it fly from beyond the arc, especially if the defense gives him space.
“Coach has been saying for probably two weeks now that when I’m open I need to just take them,” Garrett said. “I don’t really care about how the defense is playing.”
Self, who generally raves about everything Garrett does for the Jayhawks anyway, glowed about his offensive output this weekend.
“If Marc makes six threes, we’ll be hard to deal with,” Self said. “Offensively, it probably was the best offensive game he’s had since he’s been here.”
Along with 24 points Garrett finished with seven assists, five rebounds and just one turnover in 37 minutes. Defensively, he added four steals, giving him 16 over the past four games.
Those steals were significant in terms of turning momentum from Oklahoma to Kansas in the first half. With KU trailing by one, Garrett forced two consecutive steals which led to back-to-back transition baskets by him and Dotson.
“The game was turned at that moment,” Self said. “And the same thing happened at West Virginia.”
Sophomore guard Devon Dotson compared his backcourt mate to former NFL cornerback Darrelle Revis in his ability to shut down a whole side of the court.
According to Stats Perform, Garrett is the first Big 12 player ever to have six made threes, seven assists and four steals in a single game, and he’s just the 11th major conference player to have that line since the 1996-97 season.
“Obviously, any time you’ve got a guy who does what he does today that makes them tougher,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Garrett’s a terrific player … To his credit, he stepped up and delivered when he had to, and that’s what good players do.”
The junior guard was one of four Jayhawks to score in double figures on Saturday. Dotson scored 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting along with eight rebounds and five assists, and fellow sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji added 10 points with a pair of made threes.
Senior center Udoka Azubuike racked up his 11th double-double of the season in the victory, scoring 15 points and grabbing a game-high 17 rebounds. Azubuike has just 6-of-12 from the floor, a far departure from his season average shooting percentage, and Self attributed that to playing with some trepidation, especially early.
However, confidence emerged for the senior big man late in the game. Most notably, after one of his four blocked shots Azubuike stood tall, raised his hands in the air and did his (now typical) finger wag. Self was far more pleased with the attitude and energy from Azubuike late.
“I like it. He’s a grown man, he’s 20 years old now,” Self said. “You think about Doke, he visits here when he’s 15 and he hasn’t matured into his body … I think that he was a little bit guarded, kind of kept to himself away from conversation or confrontation, and now he doesn’t care. He’s grown up a lot since he’s been here.”
With the win Kansas improved to 11-1 in Big 12 play this season with 10 straight wins overall, but the Jayhawks remain in second place in the conference standings depending on what the Baylor Bears do in their game this weekend. Baylor is undefeated in league play and hosts West Virginia at 4:00 on Saturday.
Next up for KU is another Big Monday appearance this week, hosting Iowa State Monday at 8:00. Along with taking on a Cyclones team that was manhandling Texas at press time, Kansas will retire Marcus Morris’ jersey at halftime.