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#9 Kansas Jayhawks survive wild finish, knock off #15 Iowa State Cyclones

Jayhawks Leipold

The Kansas Jayhawks withstood four lead changes in the final minute of the game to hang on and win their Big 12 home opener, narrowly edging Iowa State 62-61.

It was sophomore guard Dajuan Harris who got to play the hero role, spinning in a scoop layup with just seven seconds left to give the Jayhawks their final lead and the win.

Without senior guard Remy Martin running the offense due to an injury, Kansas struggled to get in a flow offensively for a large portion of the game, especially in the first half. Iowa State led by as many as nine points in the opening 20 minutes while KU suffered a major turnover problem, giving the ball away 10 times before the half.

Even so, the Jayhawks kept it close, going to the break down by just two before starting to surge after halftime. KU then led by as many as nine in the second half, a shift led at least in part by an improved defensive effort.

“I think we just kind of amped up the pressure a bit,” junior guard Christian Braun said. “We knew coming out we had to be more physical than them.”

ISU wouldn’t go away, progressively shrinking the gap before Maize native Caleb Grill buried a long two to give the Cyclones the lead. Senior guard Ochai Agbaji reclaimed it for the Jayhawks, and two possessions later, after another Iowa State bucket, Harris made his highlight play for the win.

Harris said it was a last-second realization that he was going to take the final shot for KU.

“I thought [Agbaji] was going to take the last shot,” Harris said. “There was five seconds left, so I had to do something with it.”

https://twitter.com/KUHoops/status/1481102708820123649

Agbaji added that he was originally planning to take that shot, but passed to Harris when the sophomore’s defender switched.

Jayhawks coach Bill Self said he thought about calling timeout but didn’t want Iowa State to switch to a zone.

“That’s about as good as you can do it in that situation, and Juan made a good shot,” Self said.

Harris ended up with 12 points in the win, including 6-of-6 at the free throw line, while Agbaji led the way with a game-high 22 points.

Kansas had to employ a unique rotation in Tuesday night’s win, making up for the loss of Martin and freshman forward Zach Clemence, who missed the game due to an injured toe. Fellow freshman big man K.J. Adams got the start at the 5-spot instead, playing 10 minutes and scoring three points with a pair of rebounds.

“It was really special seeing him get the start,” Agbaji said in regard to Adams. “He handled it well, so I’m proud of him.”

While Adams rose to the occasion in limited minutes, splitting time in the post with seniors David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, not having Martin proved to be a harsh blow.

“Certainly, we missed Remy,” Self said. “We looked like a slow team.”

Self said that Martin aggravated his knee injury, which previously kept him out against George Mason back on Jan. 1.

It was not a finesse win for the Jayhawks, but it was a vital one on multiple fronts. For one, it keeps Kansas in pace with Baylor, the top-ranked team in the country, which lost its first game of the year to Texas Tech on Tuesday. Furthermore, Self told his players that there’s something positive they can find in the way the end of the game unfolded.

“He said we needed games like that, games where the team does find a spark late,” Agbaji said.

Beyond the emotions that come with this kind of win, it was an emotional night for the Kansas program with former coach Roy Williams in attendance for the first time since he left for North Carolina following the 2002-03 season.

“I thought it was special that he was here,” Self said. “I was certainly happy he was back and I certainly hope he feels welcome to come back.”

Williams expressed gratitude when speaking to the media at halftime.

“It was pretty dang nice,” Williams said.

KU will be back home at Allen Fieldhouse this weekend when the Jayhawks welcome West Virginia to Lawrence. The Mountaineers are 12-2 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play so far this season.



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