Why KU’s Lagerald Vick was benched for most of the first half against Kansas State

By Jesse Newell jnewell@kcstar.com

The double Bill Self fist pump is usually reserved for the most joyous of occasions — like Kansas’ 2012 home comeback against Missouri.

The gesture is an emotional release. For Self, it’s often a moment filled with such jubilation it has to exit his body somehow, coming out in bursts filled with both fury and passion.

Bill Self fist pump

This was not that.

Self repeated the motion Tuesday in KU’s 74-67 loss to Kansas State. It happened less than two minutes into the game, with K-State taking an early 8-1 lead.

When Dean Wade popped available for a three in front of KU’s bench, Self pointed, then bounded out off the bench to his feet. He leaped twice, extending his arms above his head with fingers outstretched as if he couldn’t believe what was happening.

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The coach was helpless to watch from there. Wade’s three-pointer found its final landing spot in the net, sending Self’s body into the involuntary motion.

Right hook. Left hook.

And a coach still upset by that particular play more than two hours later.

“You could tell right when the game started, there were two easy switches that we’ve practiced the whole time that they get wide-open shots, then guys want to blame other people,” Self said. “That’s not how you win.”

We can rewind to the first one to get the complete story.

First defensive possession. Following a flurry of screens, Kamau Stokes found himself unguarded on the left wing, putting in a three-pointer that left confusion under the basket.

Lagerald Vick spoke with Devon Dotson, as both gestured that the other had messed up.

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It doesn’t take much detective work of Self’s actions to figure out who was at fault. Vick was subbed out at the 16:30 mark, didn’t return that half, then didn’t start the second half. Dotson played 39 minutes and wasn’t subbed out till the game’s final minute.

In short, KU wasn’t getting execution or leadership from its senior, still in search of someone on the roster who can bring the team together in tough atmospheres.

Self made the comment that some squads in his past have had to do this by committee. The 2008 national champions, for example, didn’t have one guy you’d point to as the main person to rally everyone closer.

Then again, Self said, that team had six or seven players who all contributed to a collective effort. That’s been lacking this year.

Vick’s hot-and-cold act has been mostly met with patience by Self, but it appeared to hit a breaking point Tuesday. The coach has always talked about the sideline being a great motivator, and he used it extensively in this game.

When asked if the guard’s benching was to get more out of him, the coach said, “There were other reasons” — matching up with the aforementioned blame game between Vick and Dotson from the first two minutes.

Self’s team actually wasn’t hurt Tuesday by the motivational ploy. Charlie Moore showed good activity in KU’s 2-3 zone defense and helped the team to a comeback. Mitch Lightfoot kept numerous plays alive, and K.J. Lawson appeared to have unselfish thoughts.

Vick, on the other hand, remained a mystery, someone whose effort and focus still shifts from outing to outing.

It caused a rare Self outburst Tuesday — starting with two sideline jumps, and ending with a pair of violent punches.

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