Stillwater, Okla. — Following Saturday’s wild, come-from-behind 72-67 win over Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena, Mitch Lightfoot’s eyes lit up with that “You must be crazy” look when asked if he and the Jayhawks planned to watch Big 12 basketball the rest of the day.
“Oh yeah, we’ll watch them for sure,” said Lightfoot of Saturday games between Baylor-Kansas State and TCU-Texas Tech that could have Big 12 title implications and definitely have KU’s attention. “Usually, a couple of the guys’ll come to my room. It’s got a living room with a big TV in it and we’ll watch the games. It’ll be big time and I’m excited to watch that, and we’re glad we did what we needed to do.”
Saturday’s tough win over Oklahoma State pulled the Jayhawks within a half game of Big 12 co-leaders Kansas State and Texas Tech, with the Wildcats and Red Raiders still playing on Saturday. A win by either would keep their lead over Kansas at a full game. A loss would pull the loser into a tie with the Jayhawks with two games to play.
While Kansas coach Bill Self always has preferred the approach of worrying about Kansas and letting the chips fall where they may elsewhere, the KU leader admitted after Saturday’s victory that he, too, would tune in to the rest of the Big 12 schedule on Saturday.
“I know that Tech’s at Fort Worth (TCU) and Baylor’s in Manhattan,” Self said. “But I don’t even know what time those teams play. But, yeah, we’ll watch it. And I’ll be honest with you; I’ll hope to get a little help, but I’m not expecting it.”
McCormack’s mom in town
Although Saturday marked the sixth consecutive start of his still-young KU career, this one was unlike all of the others for KU freshman David McCormack.
It came with McCormack’s mother, Janine McCormack, seated in the Gallagher-Iba Arena bleachers just behind the Kansas bench, where she watched her son play for the Jayhawks live for the first time after making the trip from Norfolk, Va.
McCormack, whose starting streak actually began with KU’s home victory over Oklahoma State on Feb. 9, appeared to be energized by something extra early on during Saturday’s victory over the Cowboys.
The 6-foot-10, 265-pound freshman, who played 11 minutes in the win, did most of his damage in 9 first-half minutes, where he scored 5 points, grabbed 2 rebounds, dished an assist and blocked 2 shots.
The clutch gene
Fighting for their Big 12 lives brought the best out of the Jayhawks, who:
• Trailed at halftime for the 10th time this season but emerged victorious, improving to 7-3 in those games and 71-68 under Self while trailing at halftime.
• Held Oklahoma State scoreless for the final 4:02 of Saturday’s game, including forcing a key shot clock violation on OSU’s second-to-last possession while clinging to a 1-point lead.
• Played without fouling, limiting the Cowboys to just two free throws, the fewest by a KU opponent since West Virginia made just one a year ago. In contrast, KU made 20 of 23 free throws, led by a 9-of-9 clip from the free-throw line by junior Dedric Lawson.
• Got on the floor for loose balls, according to Self, “more than we have in a while.” Asked if the all-out effort was a sign of his team understanding what was at stake, Self said, “You know what? I guess, maybe. Or just a sign of how you’re supposed to play. You should have those regardless of who you’re playing or when you’re playing. I did think that we did play with a sense of urgency, though.”
Although freshman walk-on Garrett Luinstra did not play during Saturday’s victory, the trip to Stillwater, Okla., delivered a moment the Free State High grad likely won’t soon forget.
Friday night, long before the Jayhawks showed up to Gallagher-Iba Arena with their game faces on, the team took a trip to the memorial inside GIA dedicated to the 10 men who lost their lives in a plane crash in Colorado in January of 2001.
Luinstra’s father, Brian, was one of the eight members of the Oklahoma State basketball family — along with two pilots — who died in the crash, and Luinstra and his teammates posed for a photo at the memorial on Friday night.
At the memorial, under the image of Brian Luinstra, who served as a trainer for the OSU men’s basketball program, reads, “Beloved Son, Loving Brother, Devoted Husband, Nurturing Father. Born with a caring nature, sense of humor. Blessed with honorable character, principles, integrity. Memories of you fill our hearts with love.”
This and that ...
The Jayhawks now lead the all-time series with Oklahoma State, 116-59, including a 37-35 mark in Stillwater, Okla., 35-35 inside Gallagher-Iba ... The Jayhawks now have won two of their last six meetings with the Cowboys in Stillwater ... KU is now 3-7 in true road games this season and 7-7 in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse ... Self improved his all-time record against his alma mater to 20-13, including a 19-10 mark while at Kansas ... The Jayhawks, at 22-7 overall and 11-5 in Big 12 play, have now won 22 games or more for 30 consecutive seasons and 11 or more in conference play for the 25th consecutive season, the nation’s longest active streak.