LAWRENCE — Devon Dotson refuses to use it as an excuse.
And on that front, Kansas basketball’s point guard is in lockstep with his head coach.
The No. 3-ranked Jayhawks have won 11 consecutive games and 14 of their last 15 contests, the lone blemish in that stretch a 67-55 defeat to now top-ranked Baylor on Jan. 11 at Allen Fieldhouse. Dotson, who averages 34.8 minutes, had just a 28-minute stint against the Bears, suffering a hip pointer injury that sent him to the locker room for an extended chunk of a second half that saw KU pull within five but get no closer.
Speaking ahead of the highly anticipated 11 a.m. Saturday rematch at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, Dotson indicated he hasn’t given thought to whether the Round 1 outcome would’ve been different had his health permitted an unrestrained appearance.
"Yeah, I don’t try to look too much into that," Dotson said. "I know we lost and need to improve and look to see what we needed to do better from this game and learn from it. So I don’t get into that stuff."
Dotson finished that first matchup with 9 points, 3 assists and 2 turnovers, playing just eight second-half minutes in the defeat.
KU (23-3, 12-1 Big 12) trails Baylor (24-1, 13-0) in the league race by one game with five remaining.
"I guess you could say a lot is on the line in this game, but we’re gonna prepare like it’s another game," Dotson said. "We can’t let the emotion get the best of us. We’ve just got to play our game, play what we know, what we like to do, and just execute our game plan really. But I feel like we’re all hungry in there in the locker room and competitive and want to win."
KU coach Bill Self said he hasn’t and won’t go out of his way to stress the importance of Saturday’s rematch with his players.
"I don’t have to do that. They know. They know how many games are left in the league. I’m not approaching like the league race," Self said. "I’m approaching it like the opportunity to play a terrific team on a big stage away from home.
"The league race isn’t something I’m going to emphasize. Now they may talk themselves about it, and we also know this: If you go down two games with four left, even if we were to be fortunate enough to run the table, I don’t see them losing twice. So we know that this is a big game concerning the league. I don’t have to talk to them about that."
Self disagreed with the premise that KU would’ve won the first meeting if it had a healthy Dotson.
"No, no. You can’t say that because it’s not true," Self said Wednesday on his weekly radio program. "If you say, ‘Well, a guy got knocked out and didn’t come back’ or whatever, (but) he came back. We just weren’t very good. So there’s no excuse for what happened. People may rationalize some things but that’s not true. That would be taking away from them outplaying us if we were to say that."
Dotson missed KU's first game after the Baylor defeat, a 66-52 victory at Oklahoma, but since his return to the lineup, the Charlotte, N.C., native has wowed. He's averaged 19 points, 3.9 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 turnovers in the 10 games since Jan. 18.
Dotson scored 29 points on 11-for-14 shooting with six made 3s on Monday in a 91-71 home victory over Iowa State.
"I feel much better. Just getting the body right, a lot of treatment," said Dotson, who averages 18.4 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds on the season. "Just getting ready day-by-day."
Dotson missed the entire week of practice leading up to the Jayhawks’ game at West Virginia on Feb. 12, but suited up and played a starring role in his team’s 58-49 victory. So labeling him 100% at the moment may be a bit of a stretch, and the same could be said for junior guard Marcus Garrett, who has battled various ailments all season.
Still, if KU ends up on the wrong end of Saturday’s showdown, don’t expect those realities to be cited by anyone within the program.
"We’re not going to make excuses or whatever. We’ll play," Self said. "But I think going into (Thursday), I think that we’re pretty fortunate this year that we’ve had injuries but we haven’t had injuries that have created a lot of missed games."
Room to improve
The Jayhawks committed 14 turnovers in the first matchup with the Bears, who held a 21-2 edge in points off turnovers in their eventual victory. KU also couldn’t capitalize on the possessions it didn’t cough up, shooting 39.2% from the floor.
If Saturday is to have a different outcome, improvement in both of those areas will be key.
"I would like to run good offense. I would like to attack them better. I would like to not have live-ball turnovers that lead to 20-plus points or whatnot," Self said. "There’s a lot of things we didn’t do in the first game, but it wasn’t as much what we didn’t do as what they did do to make us do what we didn’t do.
"They were really good defensively. They were better than us. They were more athletic, quicker and certainly we deserve what happened to us the first time we played them."