It’s doubtful anyone needed to be reminded Saturday of what Devon Dotson can do on a basketball court.
Still, in his return from injury, the Kansas sophomore point guard delivered quite the refresher.
Dotson scored a game-high 21 points in the No. 6-ranked Jayhawks' 66-57 victory over Texas at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, pitching in six rebounds, three assists, a steal and a blocked shot in the come-from-behind outcome. After missing Tuesday’s win at Oklahoma with a hip pointer, Dotson played 39 minutes Saturday and helped KU overcome a seven-point second-half deficit.
“Happy with our guys,” KU coach Bill Self said in a postgame radio interview. “Obviously you don’t win that game unless Dot plays. I mean, I thought he was the best player in the game.”
Dotson’s NBA-range 3 gave the Jayhawks an eight-point lead with 2:50 remaining, and the point guard converted 4 of 4 tries from the stripe in the final 39 seconds to seal the win. He finished 8 of 9 from the stripe, helping offset a 6-for-12 performance there from his teammates.
A true game-time decision, Dotson elected to play after feeling himself out in the Jayhawks’ pregame shootaround. After participating in just a third of Friday's practice before removing himself, Dotson against the Longhorns showed no signs of the injury being a lingering issue.
“I talked to our staff, I didn’t see him grimace one time today, Self said. “I know he got tired with about six minutes left and we had to sub for him, but I thought he hung in there and fought hard.”
The victory lifted the Jayhawks to a 3-0 mark in league road contests, matching their win total in that category from last season's entire conference slate.
“We did enough,” Self said. “Not pretty by any stretch, but we did enough.”
KU (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) trailed by five at halftime despite enduring a nearly eight-minute field goal drought late in the period.
Andrew Jones scored eight straight points to kick-start a 13-1 run for the Longhorns, who held a 26-18 advantage after Jase Febres’ 3 capped the rally with 3:56 left in the half. KU, which went 1-for-5 from 3-point range and committed seven turnovers before intermission, converted just two field goal attempts in the final 11:38 of the opening frame, with Dotson’s driving layup in the final seconds trimming the halftime deficit to 31-26.
KU's elder statesman helped the Jayhawks erase their deficit right out of the break.
A Jericho Sims jumper on Texas' first possession pushed the Longhorns' advantage to seven, but that's when Udoka Azubuike took over. The senior center's dunk kick-started a 10-0 run for the visitors, with Azubuike connecting on three dunks and scoring eight points in the rally that delivered a 36-33 lead for KU. Sims hit a pair of free throws, but an Azubuike layup re-established a three-point Jayhawk lead and capped a run of eight straight team points for the 7-footer.
The teams traded blows until Sims’ back-to-back buckets locked the score at 54 with 4:48 remaining. But Marcus Garrett, who briefly went to the locker room earlier in the period after taking a hard spill, made the most of his return to the floor, converting back-to-back driving layups. Garrett’s second, originally called a charge but reversed to a foul on the Longhorns, preceded a successful free-throw try for the junior that established a 59-54 lead with 3:45 left.
Dotson then drilled what was just the Jayhawks’ second 3 of the afternoon to give KU an eight-point lead, its largest advantage of the afternoon.
“He missed two or three driving layups that he usually makes — he’s a good finisher in there,” Self said of Dotson. “But he made the 3 that was the biggest shot of the game.”
A Sims dunk and a Courtney Ramey free-throw make brought the Longhorns (12-5, 2-3) within five with 1:46 left, but that’d be as close as Shaka Smart’s squad would get. Jones missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:18 left, Ramey was off on a 3-point try with 46 seconds remaining, and Dotson was true on his four ensuing free-throw attempts to ice the contest.
Azubuike (17 points, nine rebounds) and Garrett (13 points, career-high seven assists) rounded out the double-figure scorers for KU, which went 2-for-10 from 3 but won the rebounding battle 40-29.
Speaking in a postgame news conference, Dotson said his injured hip felt “pretty good” and added that, with treatment every day, the ailment is “going to be fine.”
“When I know I’m out there and playing, yeah, I know there’s no excuses,” Dotson said. “Got to play however I’m feeling. There was no coming into it minute restrictions or anything."
Sims finished with a career-high 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting and a team-high six rebounds to pace the Longhorns, who also got 10 points from Matt Coleman. Texas converted 5 of 11 tries from 3 in the opening half but went just 1 of 9 from deep in the second.
“We hung in there and for the most part defended for 40 minutes. Needed the win because Baylor obviously is not going anywhere,” Self said. “... All games on the road (in Big 12 play) are going to be tight. No upsets on the road. There might be some minor upsets, but certainly if (Texas) had beat us today, that wouldn’t have been an upset. They’re good enough to be at anybody at home. So we’re happy to get out of here.”
KU's league season continues with a 6 p.m. Tuesday edition of the Sunflower Showdown against rival Kansas State, which earned its first Big 12 win with an 84-68 upset victory over No. 12 West Virginia on Saturday in Manhattan.
“How about that? K-State guards and so they’re always going to be in the game if you guard," Self said. "And that’s a rivalry game, so records don’t really mean much. So we’ll have to prepare hard to play them and I’m sure they can build off this win they had today. I’m sure that’ll be a good momentum boost for them.”