A late-game Remy Martin 3-pointer helped the No. 8-ranked Kansas basketball team survive a scare Saturday night against Stephen F. Austin at Allen Fieldhouse.
The 80-72 victory was a hands on hips or face in palms type of night for head coach Bill Self.
“It didn’t have to be that way,” Self said of the Lumberjacks giving KU such fits. “If we’d have played better and smarter I think we could have had it not come down to the last minute.”
KU junior Christian Braun led the way for the Jayhawks (9-1), with 21 points, but one of his biggest contributions was an offensive rebound with under a minute to go following an Ochai Agbaji misfire from 3-point range.
That second-chance opportunity led to Martin’s clutch 3, and a 76-70 lead.
View a gallery of images from Saturday night's game between the Kansas Jayhawks and Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at Allen Fieldhouse.
“I wouldn’t say it was a defining moment,” Martin said after shooting 3-for-10 from the floor and 7-for-9 from the foul line and scoring 15 points.
KU veteran Mitch Lightfoot said Martin’s teammates expect those types of plays from the starting guard.
“He’s a gamer. And he’s the reason we won the game at the end,” Lightfoot said.
Self was less pleased overall with Martin, saying the guard made both good and bad plays late.
“He made a big 3 and celebrated and his man went right around him for a layup,” Self lamented. “He’s a winner, but not always making winning plays.”
At other points down the stretch, Self added, Martin gambled and missed defensively.
“Those aren’t the right plays,” Self said. “We wouldn’t have won the game without him. But he’s got to tighten some things up.”
That message came through as Martin spoke to media members after the win, too. He said he didn’t care about the box score, and he needed to improve his energy and defense.
“Little things like that, I’ve got to get better at,” Martin said, adding big shots will come. “My effort and my attitude have to come.”
Dajuan Harris spotted Braun for a lob and lay-in to make KU’s advantage 71-68 with just more than three minutes left to play.
The lead was only 67-66 with 3:46 left and Martin headed to the foul line for two chances after drawing contact near the rim, a theme throughout the night for the 6-foot guard from Burbank, California. Martin knocked them both down to give KU a three-point edge for the stretch run.
The Jayhawks went 21-for-27 at the foul line, and Harris was 4-for-4 in the final minute.
Lightfoot (six points, six rebounds, two blocks) said the Jayhawks expected SFA (8-4) to play well.
“They’re a well coached team,” Lightfoot said, adding a great defensive scheme, with changes in man and zone coming abruptly, made KU take pause.
After SFA went ahead, 50-49, on a Jaylin Jackson-Posey 3-pointer, the Jayhawks finally found some consistency and energy.
Braun drained a right corner 3 to answer and regain the lead for KU, 52-50. Soon after, Martin leaked out and Braun pitched it ahead to let the speedy guard chase it down. Martin finished through hard contact to score a layup and ignite the KU crowd.
As the Jayhawks looked to be on the road to recovery, a smooth Agbaji 3-pointer stretched the lead to nine.
David McCormack, who sat most of the first half due to foul trouble, got his first — and only — bucket of the night with 14:27 to play. The next trip down the floor, he turned the ball over and Self sent him back to the bench.
The senior big played only 10 minutes and had no rebounds.
Self opened the second half with a revised starting five, plugging Wilson (10 points, four rebounds) in for Harris.
However, the first five points of the second half were scored by SFA, as Latrell Jossell knocked down a 3-pointer and a KU turnover gave Gavin Kensmil an easy layup, prompting Self to call timeout 1:03 into the second half, with KU’s halftime lead quickly cut to two.
The Jayhawks even turned the ball over out of the stoppage, but would create some energy on the defensive end of the floor. That got the ball zipping on offense, too, and soon after Braun finished a jam off a Wilson dish to make it a 43-36 KU advantage.
Wilson stole the ensuing in-bounds pass, too, and exploded to the rim for a layup and a nine-point lead.
Wilson had already established a new season-high with his eight points in the first half. Wilson scored three of KU’s final five field goals leading up to halftime, including a short jumper near the foul line with just seconds remaining.
The last-second shot from Wilson allowed KU to head to the locker room with a 38-31 advantage, even though the Lumberjacks outrebounded the home team, 20-16, and outscored the Jayhawks in the paint, 26-18, in the opening 20 minutes.
The Jayhawks had to go on an 11-2 run in the final 3:40 of the half to take a seven-point lead into intermission. Martin made his first shot of the night, a 3-pointer, to answer a brief two-point lead for SFA.
Martin’s 3, which made KU 4-for-13 from deep in the first half, sparked the closing run, as did KU’s ability to capitalize off SFA turnovers in the final minutes of the half.
The Jayhawks set themselves up for a battle with a brutal few minutes in the first half, after building their lead up to as many as 12 points. The lowlights during the stretch included turnovers, at times a complete absence of transition defense and/or awareness, SFA outworking the Jayhawks on the glass. And that all coincided with a 1-for-10 shooting stretch.
Before the rough patch, KU actually played some stifling defense early against the Lumberjacks, who saw a 9-7 deficit turn into a double-digit hole in a little more than three minutes as a result. SFA opened the game 3-for-12 from the floor before the Jayhawks’ energy fell off and the visitors got themselves back in the game.
The Jayhawks were up 19-7 and looking well on their way to a ho-hum nonconference win when Agbaji converted a tip-in on the offensive glass while getting his feet knocked out from underneath him and drawing a foul. The acrobatic feat put KU ahead 19-7.
KU might have built an even larger lead out of the gates, but despite finding good looks from beyond the arc and avenues to the paint off the dribble early on, they weren’t coming away with points on many possessions.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Agbaji (18 points) after KU opened the night 1-for-5 from deep gave the Jayhawks some short-lived separation.
McCormack picked up his second foul 2:02 into the game. That opened the door not only for immediate minutes off the bench for super-senior Lightfoot, but also some significant first-half playing time for freshman big Zach Clemence. A 6-foot-10 post player from San Antonio, Texas, Clemence checked in for the first time at the 13:00 mark.
Lightfoot gave KU four points and four rebounds in the first half, while Clemence scored one layup and brought down one offensive rebound in his four minutes.
“At no point did I think that the game was in the books,” Lightfoot said.
The Jayhawks will be right back in action on Tuesday, with a trip to Pac-12 country and a road test at Colorado.