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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

David McCormack’s positivity, production lift Kansas in second-half comeback

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) turns for a shot over North Carolina forward Armando Bacot (5) during the second half of the NCAA National Championship game on Monday, April 4, 2022 at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) turns for a shot over North Carolina forward Armando Bacot (5) during the second half of the NCAA National Championship game on Monday, April 4, 2022 at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

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New Orleans — Down 15 points at halftime, David McCormack was smiling.

His Kansas teammates, understandably, were confused.

"He was looking at me and I was like, 'Why are you smiling, dude? We're down 15,'" Christian Braun said. "He was telling me, like, 'Keep your head up, keep going, we'll be all right. We've been here before.' I was like, 'Man, I don't know if I've ever been here before. Down 15 in a national championship game? I've definitely never been there.'"

"But we're just proud of him. He kept us going and then, obviously, hit a really big shot."

McCormack's positivity paid off, as the Jayhawks powered out of their 40-25 halftime hole and recovered to defeat North Carolina 72-69 at the Superdome on Monday to win the national championship.

And McCormack's steadying presence showed up in the box score as well. He finished with 15 points, tied with Jalen Wilson for the team lead, and had 10 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season.

"I smiled," McCormack acknowledged. "I laughed. Down 15, I said, 'We're built for this. Just go out there and have fun.' When you let loose and have fun, the game will come to you. Offensively, defensively, whatever you need. That's exactly what we did. I came out smart and I was ready for the second half."

McCormack scored the first points of the second half off a lob from Ochai Agbaji, and he made a jump hook with 13:11 remaining.

But the pair of baskets McCormack made over the final minute and a half proved to be the most crucial. With 1:27 left, McCormack missed a left-handed jump hook over Brady Manek, but the ball bounced off the back of the rim and back toward the two of them, and McCormack was able to tip it back to himself before taking a power dribble and letting go of a right-handed jump hook between Manek and Armando Bacot from 8 feet that restored Kansas' lead at 70-69.

The Tar Heels didn't score on their next possession — Bacot, already playing on an injured right ankle, aggravated it by planting and driving — and the Jayhawks regained the ball. Wilson fed the ball to McCormack in the low post and McCormack delivered with another jump hook with 22.6 seconds left to extend the lead to the final margin.

"It was a big play," McCormack said. "It shows how much trust Coach and my teammates have in me. Coach called the play and said, 'We're going to throw it inside and we have trust in you and faith in you to deliver and get us a basket.' I just prevailed. I made the basket happen. I appreciate them for allowing me to have that opportunity."

McCormack's performance on Monday followed another breakthrough effort in the Final Four, an 81-65 victory over Villanova in which he scored a season-high 25 points.

The senior joined Agbaji on the all-tournament team, and though Agbaji was named its most outstanding player, he said after the game that he wished McCormack earned that honor.

Coach Bill Self did, too, so instead of a trophy, he gave McCormack one of the nets, telling him that "this will mean just as much to you moving forward."

It has been a trying season for McCormack, who underwent surgery to repair a broken foot nearly a year ago and has been experiencing and managing discomfort for much of the last 10 months.

McCormack has never publicly used the pain as an excuse — though there have clearly been games in which he has not looked comfortable, and Self limited his minutes in the first two Big 12 tournament games in order to keep him healthy for the NCAA Tournament.

Sixth-year senior forward Mitch Lightfoot said Sunday that he doesn't think "people on the outside truly understand what he fights through, but the guy's a warrior." Self said the athletic training staff told him recently that McCormack has been spending at least three hours a day receiving treatment on the foot for the last 10 months.

"David is as maligned a player that we've had in large part because he can be a little bit of a tease sometimes," Self said. "He's 6-foot-10, build like a Greek god and sometimes, it doesn't always go his way, but what people haven't realized — and it's not fair to him — the kid's playing on one foot half the season. The toughness he shows ... just to be there and then to see his foot feel the best it's felt all year long in the tournament is great, and I'm so happy for him."

Agbaji, McCormack's classmate, felt the same.

"If I really had a most outstanding player throughout the entire Final Four, it would be David," Agbaji said. "We got here at the same time. These goals and dreams that we're living right now, we never would have thought it when we first stepped foot on campus — but now living it and living it with him and leaving here with history and history in our name, it just means so much to the both of us — and obviously, Mitch and all the guys here."

McCormack averaged 9.8 points per game during the regular season but 13.1 points per game during the six-game NCAA Tournament run. He has repeatedly said that he felt compelled to win the title for his teammates in 2020, who did not get a chance to compete for one given the tournament was canceled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Monday, he followed through on his promises — to his teammates of the past and his teammates of the present.

"I was in the locker room (at halftime) telling the guys, 'Just believe in yourself, have fun with it. It's our last game regardless. Do what you need to do because that's how we got here in the first place. Don't doubt yourself,'" McCormack said. "And we came out in the second half."

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 3 months ago

Great great moves by DMac, indeed. That's the kind of pick and roll play I've been wanting to see all season long. He played as if that foot didn't bother him anymore last night. Dok-possessed? BTW mr. Boyer, I thought it was Harris who threw the lob to DMac:

McCormack scored the first points of the second half off a lob from Ochai Agbaj.

Does anyone know whether DMac will be back next year? If he still has eligibility.

Bryce Landon 3 months ago

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why McCormack should have been MOP of the Final Four, and not Ochai.

Dale Kroening 3 months ago

I was wondering the same about DMac myself . Pretty sure he has one year of "covid" eligibilty left if he wants it , but nobody seems to mention it . Does Self not want him back or what ? I think he would be an asset to have back . He may have a chance of making an NBA team , but I dont see him getting drafted .

Steve Zimmerman 3 months ago

hmmm... Does Self not want him back or what ? Dale, now you made me wonder what the "moving forward" implied by coach.

Dirk Medema 3 months ago

Everyone could be back. Coach Self commented as such.

Och is definitely ready to move on.

David graduated in 3 years. He could continue with more grad work, but it’s hard to imagine replicating what they just did and leaving on a lesser note.

I think they also recognize this was their team and the need to pass the torch. I’m hoping CB, Jalen, and Dajuan will all take it. That would be a great foundation for another run, and let them be leaders.

Bj Cassady 3 months ago

I thought as the game wore on that DMac was the MVP of the game and of the final 4. OA missed a lot of FTs, had some TOs and had probably the 5th best game behind DMac, Remy, JWil and CB sorry but OA MVP no way.

Art Jefferson 3 months ago

I saw a week or so back, I believe, coach mentioned something about talking to Big Mac about the option of coming back. We could definitely use him, but I personally feel we don't need him.

Cam Martin https://kuathletics.com/roster/cam-martin/ Earnest Udeh Jr https://247sports.com/player/ernest-udeh-jr-46103232/

Steve Zimmerman 3 months ago

per ESPN: Saint Peter's star trio of Daryl Banks, Matthew Lee and Doug Edert enter men's basketball transfer portal

Do we need the mustache guy? I think we do!

Allin Herring 3 months ago

I have not been a big Mack fan. But after this tournament performance and finding out about his foot i really think it will be great to have him back. He has always been a big KU promoter and he is a great student. I think he is a great representative for the school. Lets work on his hands and tendency to loose his dribble. Either way David you will be remembered forecer in KU history. Thank you for this year

Rodney Crain 3 months ago

Bryce I agree, DMac was the MVP.

I see 2-3 players take the portal, but JW and Harris will be back they are not NBA ready. G League maybe just not their best chance to excel. CB is the unknown. I see him take the OA route, find out a few things to work on and come back to play 1 more year.

It would be very nice to have another talented experienced big to go with the recruits. If that is DMac great. He should test the water with the NBA first. G League might be good for him too.

Keep the torch, I love the torch, no need to give away the torch. Let's relight the torch for one more shining moment.

Can you imagine being a rich walk on and checking every box on your nice to get a ring, let alone 3 championships? It never ceases to amaze what money can buy.

Blake Brown 3 months ago

Of all of our players on this year's team, I was more disappointed with DMac starting with his atrocious early on free throw shooting and dropped balls and fade away shots when he started close in and on and on. He would have some good games or portions thereof and then revert back to terrible habits and missed opportunities. Then we went back to Lawrence for 2 games in February and of all of the players, I was most impressed with him and his energy and commitment to going all out. And this is on top of him being in pain and not complaining or shutting down. The guy has a lot of heart. Yes, he is intelligent, but it his is heart that speaks out and I admire his dedication and deliverance and yes, he was the MOP, at least in the Final Four. I wish David well moving forward.

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