The Kansas Jayhawks had to overcome overtime and the worst offensive performance of the year from their best player, but still found a way to knock off the Texas Longhorns on senior day at Allen Fieldhouse 70-63.
And that way, in particular, was riding arguably the biggest game of the year from one of their seniors, forward David McCormack. That effort, on a day when fellow senior Ochai Agbaji shot just 1-of-11 from the floor, earned the Jayhawks not just a win, but a share of the Big 12 championship, too.
KU entered Saturday as the most efficient shooting team in the Big 12, knocking in 48.6% of their field goals this season. It was a far different story against Texas, though, with the Jayhawks shooting just 31% for the game. McCormack, for as good of a game as he played, even struggled from the floor, missing multiple shots at the rim.
But with late post-ups, a 10-of-10 effort at the free throw line and a strong day on the glass, McCormack was able carry Kansas down the stretch.
“We knew to play through Dave,” junior guard Christian Braun said. “We were pretty confident going into those last five minutes.”
That five-minute overtime session saw McCormack tack on a couple more free throws and one of the lasting images of the game, a two-handed dunk after a chaotic press break to put the Jayhawks up two scores.
McCormack’s final line included a season-high 22 points, plus 10 rebounds to seal his ninth double-double of the season. He also tallied 36 minutes, another season high.
“It’s been a hard stretch, and we don’t have a lot of depth so guys are playing a lot of minutes,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We hung in there, we defended, we rebounded, I thought we won in regulation … Really proud of David, David was great.”
For McCormack, pulling off a win on his senior day was special enough, but it was an added plus that KU pulled it out in gutsy fashion.
“I can’t even put it into words,” McCormack said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to win any other way.”
Agbaji ended the night with just eight points, the first time this season he didn’t reach double digits in points. He didn’t even hit his lone field goal until overtime, going off glass to erase a two-point deficit with 2:37 to play.
That bucket spurred on a game-ending 11-2 run for the Jayhawks.
“He always has an impact on the game regardless,” McCormack said about his fellow member of the 2018 recruiting class. “He finds a way to help us win.”
Self said that because it was senior day, Kansas, including Agbaji, played tight throughout the game.
“He was just trying too hard,” Self said.
While Agbaji struggled to score and before McCormack hit his stride, sophomore forward Jalen Wilson was the main offensive factor for Kansas. Wilson led KU in scoring in the first half with 13 points and seven boards.
Wilson finished the game with his fourth double-double of the season, scoring 17 points along with his game-high 13 rebounds.
“He definitely gave us momentum, he was kind of like the go to guy,” McCormack said about Wilson. “I really appreciated what he did.”
Self concurred, adding that Wilson made plays when the rest of the Jayhawks couldn’t find an answer.
“Jalen was great on the glass and made two big shots when we ran crap offense,” Self said.
Braun was the third Kansas player to finish with a double-double, scoring 13 points and tying his season high with 11 rebounds.
Following a stretch of three games in five days, with a loss to TCU Tuesday, followed by a win over the Horned Frogs on Thursday and then Saturday’s victory, the Jayhawks will get a few days to rest before opening the Big 12 tournament this coming Thursday. Those are crucial days of rest as Kansas continues to fight for NCAA tournament seeding.
“I think if we lost this game, we would be going into Kansas City trying to recapture some momentum, and I don’t think that will be the case now,” Self said.
Kansas is sharing this year’s Big 12 title with Baylor, which withstood a strong second half from Iowa State on Saturday to also finish 14-4 in conference play. Due to tiebreakers, however, the Jayhawks will be the No. 1 seed for the Big 12 Championship tournament. They’ll tip the event off Thursday at 2:00 p.m. against the winner of the Kansas State-West Virginia game, which takes place Wednesday night.