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Friday, March 5, 2021

Patience, poise paid off for Kansas junior David McCormack in 67-62 win over UTEP

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) turns for a shot in the paint and a foul from UTEP forward Tydus Verhoeven (1) during the second half on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) turns for a shot in the paint and a foul from UTEP forward Tydus Verhoeven (1) during the second half on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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For more than 25 minutes of Thursday’s 67-62 comeback victory over visiting UTEP, Kansas junior David McCormack was alarmingly quiet and more than a little off.

But, as he has done throughout the season, McCormack never let himself get taken out of the game entirely, setting the stage for a huge stretch that helped KU find a way to win.

Asked after the victory how he was able to stay patient after a first half that saw him score two points and hit just one of the six shots he attempted, McCormack pointed to always looking at the bigger picture.

“To be honest with you, it’s hard,” he said. “You just have to kind of kind of remind yourself that you can't win a game with 14 points in one possession or 15 points in one possession. You have to take it possession by possession, make sure you get stops, secure the possession and make the right plays offensively.”

McCormack, who finished Thursday’s game with 18 points and 10 rebounds, did all of those things in the second half.

He played tougher, made stronger moves in the post, attacked the glass with added energy and unleashed some serious emotion during a 10-2 run by Kansas in which he scored all 10 of the Jayhawks’ points.

While McCormack was busy finding his rhythm, his teammates simply kept finding him.

Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, Christian Braun and Dajuan Harris — the four guards who played 89% of the backcourt minutes in Thursday’s second half — all became willing passers, eager to throw the ball to their big man as soon as he found the position he wanted down low.

“I just kind of slowed down my game, read the defense, listened to coach (saying) how they were playing me and the rest just came easy,” McCormack said after the victory.

He added that UTEP basically played the same defense against him in the second half, and that he used the lessons he learned from facing it during his 14 first-half minutes to make the necessary adjustments.

"I just changed my offensive game to (adjust) to their defense and get some production,” McCormack said. “I know they wanted to be physical. So I made sure to get them in foul trouble. I know I’m a good free throw shooter and that was easy points to (help) us cut down the lead.”

Even that wasn’t automatic. McCormack, who entered the night shooting 80.7% from the free throw line for the season, missed two of the first three free throws he attempted before draining all five he shot in the final 8:19.

The free throws were important. And they came in bunches in the second half. After making just 2-of-4 from the line in the first half, Kansas hit 14 of 20 in the second half, with McCormack leading the way by hitting six of eight.

But it was his aggressive play in the post, where he scored over defenders who moved him off of his spots throughout the first half, that most impressed KU coach Bill Self.

“The way that David had to score real baskets over (UTEP forward Tydus Verhoeven), being bodied up and things like that, that was great for him to play through some contact and see some good things happen,” Self said.

Self said after the game that neither McCormack nor Agbaji practiced much during the week leading up to the UTEP game. But he added that neither player was facing any type of serious injury.

“It's just nagging stuff,” Self said. “So he'll be good to go. But I do think if you're going to rest guys going into postseason, this past week was the time to do it. So we were able to do that a little bit.”

There was no rest to be had during Thursday’s game, however, as the home team that was favored by 17 points needed all 40 minutes to hold off UTEP’s upset bid.

While several players contributed to that on both ends of the floor, Self said his team demonstrated, once again, that it’s at its best offensive when McCormack is playing

“We don't shoot the ball consistently well enough, nor do we get enough good shots, but we're at our best when we can play through David,” Self said.

McCormack sent the credit for Thursday’s victory the other direction.

“We just locked in mentally, listened to what coach said and got the job done.”

Now, while eight other Big 12 teams finish their regular season schedules this weekend, the Jayhawks will get a little more down time while they wait for the final standings and the identity of their Big 12 tournament quarterfinal opponent next week in Kansas City, Mo.

Comments

1 month, 2 weeks ago

right. same ol story. against sh*tty talent the guy looks great. against any1 half decent he looks awful. love the guy, but landen lucas 2.0. no bueno

Kit Duncan 1 month, 2 weeks ago

D’Mac scored in double figures in 14 of KU’s 18 conference games. He scored TWENTY against the number two Baylor Bears, whose four forwards committed ten fouls trying to stop him! I think BU is a little more than halfway “decent” in the talent department. Without David’s game, KU would likely have lost several more games. In at least two of their losses he was the leading scorer!

Steve Zimmerman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I hope it's not too late, but I'm seeing his development, ie. different post moves; and as coach said, playing through contacts; other than always moving away from the basket. If he pounds the ball more with a quicker spin, he'll be really hard to stop. I'd like to see he use his jittery hyperactive motion as soon as he touches the ball. Just a quick spin - a strong move towards the basket. Maaan... he doesn't realize how powerful he can be. I like 2nd half McCormack, but still wonder how he looked so dumb and lost in the 1st.

Well, at least he knows how to attempt to score, compared to Mitch - which is really hopeless in offense. It's like he's allergy to the rim. F#*$ embarrassment, but hey, he's a pretty good defender when he doesn't sleep.

Blake Brown 1 month, 2 weeks ago

There were 2 big factors that changed for McCormack in the UTEP game, one was Williams got his 3rd foul and layed off and even switched off of him and two, David used up so much energy flailing and contorting in the first half, he couldn't keep it up in the 2nd half and slowed down and became effective by default. As the announcers stated, why does he take the ball near the basket and end up 10 feet away when he shoots it? Fundamental b-ball says you go toward the basket so you can be in a better position for a rebound not to mention to improve the percent of making it. Nonetheless, we don't win if he does not dominate the last 7 minutes with 8 in a row plus. OTOH, I love the guy and he is very articulate and understands the game as most of them do; it just executing what they know to do that seems to be difficult this season.
Go Hawks!

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Well said and good info Kit.

David’s comments and this game are a reflection of his season. Listen to Coach and learn to adapt your game. There’s been so much growth and so little credit.

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I didn’t get to see the game so interesting to read that Dajuan essentially replaced Jalen in the second half. As much as playing through David and others contributing is important, it seems to me that so much of our success or failure revolves around whether Jalen is contributing or not.

Though generally second fiddle to points, it is also good to see that David didn’t just box out but went and got the ball this game as well.

Steve Zimmerman 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Dave's presence around the basket, I thought, the big reason why UTEP's speedy guards couldn't score. Jalen seems to drag his feet, body language could tell - he felt frustrated. He couldn't find ways to score - that seemed to bother him.

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