Lightfoot's gutsy play lifts No. 13 Kansas to much-needed win over OSU

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) puts up a shot over several Oklahoma State players during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Allen Fieldhouse is loud.

Mitch Lightfoot is louder.

And with both his play and an audible Ric Flair-esque scream that somehow could be heard over the roar of the Allen Fieldhouse crowd as he walked to the bench for a timeout midway through Saturday’s second half, Lightfoot helped lead No. 13 Kansas to another much-needed 84-72 victory over Oklahoma State.

“He was phenomenal,” OSU coach Mike Boynton said of Lightfoot’s 6 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks in 20 minutes on Saturday. “He did what you do when you put on that uniform. When your opportunity comes, you make sure you’re ready, and you do whatever it is that your team needs on that day. And today was just bringing energy, even in the sense of not giving up a layup. It’s a really, really small thing, but it sends a message that this is what we stand for.”

The play Boynton was referencing came early in the second half, when OSU was still within striking distance and freshman Yor Anei caught a pass and had nothing but open space between him in the basket.

That was until Lightfoot saw it and decided to do something about it.

Despite giving up a couple of inches, a lot of length and 10 or 20 pounds, Lightfoot did not hesitate to challenge what, a split second earlier, looked like it would be an easy dunk for Anei.

Instead, Lightfoot rose for the block and Anei, who shuffled his feet before even going up, was called for a travel.

“They were a little ahead of me on the play, so I was just trying to dead-out sprint as fast as I could to get there and just kind of gave it my all,” Lightfoot said. “It’s worth it.”

Why?

“Like coach always says, ‘No easy baskets,’” he added. “You’ve got to earn every one of them. That’s something we’re trying to enforce moving forward. You’ve got to earn every point against us.”

After being tied at 36 at halftime, Kansas led by just 6 at the time of Lightfoot’s all guts and little glory play, but soon got five consecutive 3-point makes that turned a 2-point grinder into a 15-point Kansas advantage midway through the second half.

Freshman Ochai Agbai (23 points on 8-of-12 shooting) hit two. Fellow freshman Quentin Grimes (6 points) also hit two. And junior forward Dedric Lawson, who led all scorers with 25 points while adding 5 rebounds and 5 assists, drilled the fifth after yet another highly intelligent basketball play by Lightfoot.

Instead of falling into the fever of 3-point buckets raining from the sky, Lightfoot caught the ball reversal at the top key, turned down an open 3-point shot of his own and whipped a pass to the corner to Lawson, who caught it and shot it in perfect rhythm to put Kansas up 68-53 with 9:16 to play.

“Dedric had made a couple and I thought I’d go ahead and get an assist,” Lightfoot said with a laugh. “I’m such a selfless guy. Dedric has a great shot, and I trust his a little bit more than my own.”

Kansas made 11 of 29 from 3-point range in this one and the offensive fireworks put the Cowboys away. But everyone in the Kansas locker room was well aware of Lightfoot’s role in the victory, long before Self began talking about it.

“That’s something he does on a consistent basis,” said Lawson, noting that Lightfoot’s hustle-and-heart play had inspired him to start trying to take more charges.

Added Agbaji of Lightfoot’s block attempt on Anei: “Just the effort he gave on that shows he’s willing to give his body for the team.”

Self approved and agreed and said he never has to remind Lightfoot to play hard or do the little things.

“Mitch is always doing that,” Self said. “He’ll hurt somebody in practice — or himself — because he’s doing the same thing. But he always tries. He always tries. … I don’t think he was the best player in the game, but I thought he was certainly the most important player in the game today.”

Related document

Box score: Kansas 84, Oklahoma State 72 ( .PDF )

That importance took on even greater meaning on Saturday, as the Jayhawks were down to just eight scholarship players, with Marcus Garrett still injured and Lagerald Vick on a leave of absence.

Asked if the circumstances surrounding this team had any impact on the way he played, Lightfoot, true to form, said he was happy to contribute in any way he could.

“You’ve got to rise to the occasion,” he said. “Obviously, we’re a little short-handed, and I’m just trying to give the team what I can do to help us win. I just think it’s all about taking your opportunities and making the best of them, whether that be 2 minutes or 20 minutes. You’ve got to come out there with that same energy and give coach what he wants.”

You don’t rack up an all-time record of 465-102 at a place like Kansas unless what you want is a victory every time your team hits the floor.

Boynton, now in his second year leading Self’s alma mater, recognized that, but, as a coach who is cut from the same cloth as Self, he also recognized the importance of a player like Lightfoot.

“I know we talk about all of the Hall of Famers and Wilt (Chamberlain) and Paul Pierce,” Boynton began. “But there’s been a lot of guys like Mitch Lightfoot come here and help those teams hang those banners, as well.”

Added Self: “I thought there was a positive energy within our group, and I think Mitch really contributed to that. He brought energy today. He hasn’t had a lot of things go his way of late, but he keeps grinding.”

Comments

Barry Weiss

great game! looks like TCU is going to win it at Iowa State, so they should give us all we can handle Monday night.

6 months, 1 week ago

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['']

Proof we don't need Vick and his crap attitude. Great step ups by several guys.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Mike Greer

I don't think there's a team in the Big XII that if you don't bring your "A" game can't beat you. It's important that all 8 scholarship guys bring their game on Monday.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Bryce Landon

I used to respect OSU when Eddie Sutton ran the show down there, but I've soured on them in recent years, especially with Marcus Smart and his act, getting swept by a bad OSU team last year, and the behavior of their fans. So getting a win over the Cowgirls today feels pretty good.

But please, for God's sake, burn those hideous alternate uniforms! I don't care if they're meant as a tribute to Black History Month; those might be the ugliest things the Jayhawks have ever donned in the entire existence of the basketball program!

6 months, 1 week ago

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Michael Sillman

If Self does not start Lightfoot the rest of the year, he’s an idiot. Finally, someone who protects the rim.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Hands down to Mitch's all-out efforts today. Great contribution both on D & O. There's always rooms for improvement, now that he knows what he can do and his confidence seems to rise up. He can work on footwork, pivot on one foot more often. Practice more pick and roll, without moving screens. He'll have a chance to contribute even more to this team. Rock chalk!!

6 months, 1 week ago

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David Black

I loved the effort and enthusiasm Mr Hustle Mitch showed today. This was a total team effort that started with 4 freshman starting. Very proud old alumnus here. Absolutely a joy to watch today. No place like the Phog. Rock Chalk.

6 months, 1 week ago

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DaNeille Dani Davis

WTH Bryce? I love those uniforms. Everyone has their opinions and taste. I'm just glad we won this one. Gonna be a tough road. Let's hope they will be able to play with the same intensity away from home that they do at home. We need to win these road games.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Brett McCabe

Uniforms were super sharp. I'd prefer them, or the script Jayhawks unis to our current home suits. Thought the team look fantastic!

6 months, 1 week ago

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Steve Zimmerman

ditto, i thought it's perfect; the way the played, with the new style, on new uniforms. great move to whomever coordinated all these!!

6 months, 1 week ago

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Mallory Briggans

Bryce keep your racist comments to yourself . I didn't think the uniforms looked all that great either …..they represented a purpose . If they wore pink for breast cancer awareness would you make the same comment ….probably so.. but if you've lost someone to cancer I lost both my parents to that dreaded disease for someone to say those pink uniforms looked hideous is hurtful to anyone that has been affected. Bryce I'm not calling you a racist but the fact that you don't care is fine I'm sure many people don't...….The fact that the team you support in mostly African-American you still cheer them on ….The University Of Kansas was progressive enough to do it so that says something as well .I like to use this forum to discuss Kansas basketball not to get into politics or personals opinions. But the comment about you didn't care was a bit much for me to digest. We won the game and that's great don't take away from the victory because of something you don't understand

6 months, 1 week ago

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Bryce Landon

Just because I think the uniforms are ugly does not make my opinion a racist opinion. We've worn uniforms for Black History Month in past seasons that looked WAY better than the crap we wore today.

But good work, Mallory, you just proved yourself worthy of a job with the Democrat Party. They love crying "racist" the way the boy cried "wolf". You'll fit right in with the crazies on Capitol Hill like Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Len Shaffer

Every time Bryce says something political, he shows what an imbecile he is, but he is right about one thing, Mallory: there was nothing racist in his comment. Are you saying that people are REQUIRED to like how a uniform look if it's honoring something??? That's utterly ridiculous.

Not liking the way a symbol of a cause looks has NOTHING to do with whether or not someone supports the cause itself.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Brian Wilson

LOL...spot on!

6 months, 1 week ago

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Steve Corder

Nice win. Means little if they don’t start winning on the road, however.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Dane Pratt

Exactly. K-State is getting it done on the road. 4-0 on the road and 7-0 overall since Wade returned. Had he not gotten hurt they could be 10-0.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Mallory Briggans

Bryce to clarify my statement .To say the uniforms were ugly wasn't racist …..to say that you didn't care about the purpose of what the uniform represented was the issue with me .I didn't like them but I knew the reason for them .. You should chose your words more carefully. Again I'm not saying you are a racist …..my thoughts doesn't make me a democrat or a republican as far as your politics that your god given right ………….but I wont go down that road. I just know where you stand …..and that's o.k. too. Time to move on ...

6 months, 1 week ago

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Brianna Zaleski

*God given

6 months, 1 week ago

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Colin Fernandes

Where is Suzy Marshall?

6 months, 1 week ago

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Luan Do

It took them this long to realize agbaji can play? Now go give charlie moore more minutes.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Edward Daub

Bill Self has always used a short leash with Lightfoot. And frankly that has been Mitch's biggest confidence problem. Let the Jumping Jack play! Rock Chalk!

6 months, 1 week ago

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Alan Dickey

Based on my many decades speaking and hearing American English, I think: “I don't care if they're meant as a tribute to Black History Month; those might be the ugliest …” means something along the lines of: Regardless of whether they are meant to be a tribute to something of value, they are too ugly.

For example, in a very similar manner, someone tells his brother: “I don’t care if you are my brother, your shirt is too ugly …” The person speaking is not conveying that he/she doesn’t care about the sibling relationship. Quite the opposite. The person is saying the sibling relationship is, indeed, very important, but nevertheless does not make the wearing of an ugly shirt okay.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Brad Watson

High energy is contagious and Lightfoot brings that and the other kids feed off it....Grimes especially....look for Grimes to really start playing well....the kid looked comfortable for the first time Saturday....this team is going to start rolling now....HUSTLE TRAVELS!!!!!...We need a big time effort Monday night!...That win over Iowa State has TCU believing again....so it will take all we got to beat them and it will be HUSTLE that determines the outcome and crashing the offensive boards with multiple people and getting those tips and 2nd chance baskets....boxing out with smart angles to increase those opportunities....

6 months, 1 week ago

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Bill Lamson

I always enjoy seeing Mitch get more PT....but the formula for that is directly linked to whether or not everyone else is scoring. I think that's the main reason he got so much time yesterday....Bill didn't need him to score since everyone else was shooting well. But if that's not happening he won't see the floor since he's not a 15 pt/game guy and lately we haven't been producing consistently on offense so we need as many scorers on the floor at the same time as possible. If Grimes, Ogbaji and others continue hitting from outside then I think we'll see more Mitch.

6 months, 1 week ago

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Brian Babcock

And One.

6 months, 1 week ago

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