All season, Kansas Jayhawks fans have been waiting for freshman guard Quentin Grimes to turn the proverbial corner and become a go-to player.
He may have had that exact moment on Friday night when an outstanding offensive effort helped propel the Jayhawks to a 88-74 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers and into a berth in the Big 12 Tournament title game.
His potential as a lights-out shooter has existed his entire time at Kansas, as originally evidenced by him making six threes against Michigan State in KU’s season opener.
It re-emerged at the Big 12 Tournament on Friday, starting early when he went 5-of-5 from three-point range in the first half against West Virginia. That was a necessity to keep KU’s offense afloat; excluding Grimes, Kansas was just 11-of-24 from the floor and 1-of-5 from long range in the opening period.
“We got hot and Quentin kind of carried us in the first half,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “…We need a guy who can catch fire like that.”
Junior forward Dedric Lawson picked up his scoring output in the second half, helping lead the charge for the Jayhawks as they put the game out of reach. He came up two rebounds shy of his 21st double-double of the year, along with a team-high 24 points.
As for Grimes, his game ended prematurely, as he had to leave with a left-leg injury late in the second half. Self said that the injury was just a cramp and nothing too serious. Grimes finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals, the latter two being career highs.
“He played great, he’s shooting it with a lot of confidence,” freshman guard Ochai Agbaji said. “That’s something we need.”
Freshman guard Devon Dotson tied West Virginia’s Jermaine Haley for the game high in assists with six, paired with 13 points. He’s averaging 15 points per game over his last three.
Kansas shot 52.4 percent from the field for the game and 40 percent from three-point range. It only made 2-of-10 threes in the second half, yet still shot at a nearly 55 percent clip in the second period.
The Mountaineers’ last gasp effort at a Cinderella run came up short, ending with a dud after winning their first two Big 12 Tournament games in nail-biting fashion. Lamont West was WVU’s leading scorer with 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting, while Derek Culver finished with a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double.
KU is now moving on to the Big 12 Tournament championship game on Saturday night, in which the Jayhawks will face the Iowa State Cyclones. ISU knocked off Kansas State in the first game on Friday. Kansas and Iowa State split their regular season meetings this year, with each team winning at home.
Self said that he expects Iowa State to fill 70 percent of the Sprint Center on Saturday, noting their ability to “hustle” tickets from the teams they beat because they played in the first semifinal.
“It should be a fun game, I think it’ll be one of the more fun games we’ve played this year,” Self said.