Just when they needed him most, C.J. Giles turned back into a productive player Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse and helped Kansas University to its 59-58 comeback victory over Oklahoma.
Giles played just 12 minutes and scored two points, but his influence on the outcome was far greater than either of those figures would indicate. He appeared to have more than the three blocked shots the stat sheet said he had, and he altered several others and had five rebounds.
"Sasha (Kaun) got tired, and we had to go to C.J.," KU coach Bill Self said. "C.J. was the difference."
Giles had been in a funk when he got away from doing what he does best, which is to be an intimidating defensive presence. He too often jacked shots from the perimeter, trying to prove he had the whole package.
"I changed my whole mind-set," Giles said. "My attitude was basically just to go back to being more defensive-minded like I was last year and the beginning of this year."
Offensively, Giles came through where he needed to, which was from the free-throw line. With 5:52 left, Giles hit both free throws to trim Oklahoma's lead to eight points.
"I didn't know my number was going to be called because I sat on the bench so long," said Giles, who played three first-half minutes and didn't re-enter until playing the final nine minutes. "Coach was yelling the whole game, 'Trap, trap, trap, trap the post.' I knew that was one thing I had to come in and do, one of the little things that we had to do to win the game that we didn't do in the first half."
Giles worked himself back into Self's favor the only way players ever can.
"He's been practicing better," Self said. "He was active. One block on (Terrell) Everett was unbelievable."
Giles also had a big hand in the play on which Russell Robinson stole the ball and went in for a layup to cut the deficit to two points with four minutes left. Everett dribbled into a waiting Giles at midcourt and had the ball stolen by Robinson.
Giles' brother Malcolm, a senior in high school in Seattle, was in the stands, seated next to his father, Chester, a former KU player. Malcolm never had been to Kansas. He picked a good debut.
His brother made his presence felt right up to the game's final second.
Giles had the presence of mind to foul Kevin Bookout, preventing him from getting the winning shot with one second left.
"He was so wide-open, I couldn't just let him get the easy basket," Giles said. "And I knew they weren't in the bonus."
The way Giles had been playing in recent games, the Jayhawks had to figure anything they got from him would be a bonus. He gave them plenty during a comeback from a 16-point deficit over the final nine-plus minutes.