LAWRENCE — If Saturday was any indication, Kansas basketball defensive ace Marcus Garrett may be getting to the point where the word "defensive" may be unnecessary in that label.
And if the third-year guard is indeed becoming a complete player, the rest of the Big 12 would be wise to watch out.
Just ask Oklahoma.
"Obviously if Marc makes six 3s," KU coach Bill Self said, "we’d be hard to deal with."
Garrett had a career-high 24 points with, yes, six made 3s in the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks’ 87-70 victory over the Sooners at Allen Fieldhouse, finishing 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. A defense-first player throughout his collegiate career, Garrett did it all Saturday, pitching in 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals in a dazzling 37-minute outing.
Devon Dotson notched 19 points and five assists, Udoka Azubuike contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds and Ochai Agbaji pitched in 10 points to round out the double-figure scorers for KU, which went 11 for 22 from 3-point range.
Kristian Doolittle's 27 points led the way for the Sooners, who were 8 for 24 from beyond the arc.
"Certainly I thought (Garrett) did a great job on Brady (Manek) for the most part the entire night. And when he guarded Kristian he did a good job on him," Self said. "But offensively, you know, it was probably the best offensive game he’s had since he’s been here."
The Jayhawks (22-3, 11-1 Big 12) took a nine-point lead into halftime thanks to the defensive — and, on this afternoon, offensive — exploits of the junior guard Garrett.
KU trailed by one, 27-26, when Garrett took command on both ends. The Dallas native’s steals on back-to-back defensive possessions led to fastbreak layups for Dotson and himself. Then, Garrett answered a 3 from OU’s Doolittle with his own trey, a make that secured a 33-29 lead with 3:32 left in the opening period.
Essentially dared to shoot 3s with the way the Sooners were guarding him, Garrett obliged.
"Coach (Self) has been saying for probably about two weeks now that when I’m open I just need to take ’em and give the defense something to look at that’s different than just driving," Garrett said. "… I don’t really care about how the defense is playing (me). I know what we’re trying to do offensively and I just took the shots when they were there."
A 28.6% shooter from beyond the arc this season, Garrett converted his third 3 in his first four attempts Saturday with a minute left before intermission, giving KU a 41-32 lead heading into the locker room. Garrett had his four steals in the game’s first 20 minutes, building off a five-steal showing in the Jayhawks’ 58-49 come-from-behind victory Wednesday at No. 14 West Virginia.
Self cited Garrett’s back-to-back thefts turned into buckets as a pivotal stretch in Saturday’s contest.
"The game was turned at that moment," said Self, snapping his fingers. "Not that it was over, but momentum was turned at that moment, and the same thing happened at West Virginia, down three or five or whatever and it (turned) just like that in the second half."
KU didn’t let up out of the break.
The Jayhawks authored a 12-2 run to start the second half, with Garrett capping the stretch with a fourth 3. That conversion set a new career-high and pushed the home squad’s advantage to 53-34.
Garrett’s fifth 3 from the right wing put KU up 69-53 with nine minutes left. While OU cut its deficit to 11, it was Garrett again with a response, this time on a nifty driving layup out of a timeout that pushed his team’s advantage to 73-60.
That make kick-started a 9-1 run for the Jayhawks, who led by 19 with 4:29 remaining, a deficit too daunting for the 11½-point underdog Sooners (16-9, 6-6) to overcome. That didn’t mean Garrett was satisfied, however — his sixth and final 3 came near the end of a shot clock and set the Jayhawk lead at 83-64.
Garrett finished his afternoon in style, heaving a picture-perfect lob pass in the paint to a dunking Azubuike, and checked out with the rest of the regulars with a little over a minute remaining to a well-deserved hearty ovation.
Among the 16,000-plus showing Garrett love was Svi Mykhailiuk, a former KU teammate. Mykhailiuk, now with the Detroit Pistons and in Lawrence after participating in the NBA All-Star Weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge on Friday in Chicago, was a 40.9% shooter from 3-point range across his four-year collegiate career.
Garrett acknowledged it felt sweeter to hit six 3s on a day where an all-time program great in that department was sitting directly behind the Jayhawk bench.
"Oh yeah, of course. Now I’ll probably get a little respect from him," Garrett joked.
Garrett didn’t pick up any steals in the second half, but there may have been a good reason for that — the junior noticed the Sooners weren’t giving him any opportunities, often keeping the ball away from him on their offensive possessions.
"Like Darrelle Revis," said Dotson, referring to the former New York Jets lock-down cornerback.
"I didn’t sense it," added Self, "but it would be no surprise to me that people say, ‘When you catch the ball be careful dribbling it.’ "
KU will next play host to Iowa State at 8 p.m. Monday, where the Jayhawks will look to keep pace in the race for the Big 12 regular-season championship.
Expect Garrett to have a say in both of those outcomes.
"The thing about it is, Marcus is a coach. He’s far more of a coach than anybody that we’ve had in the last couple of years, without question," Self said. "He understands what everybody should do all the time, and when he doesn’t understand all you’ve got to do is look at him and he’ll (pat his chest). He knows."