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Kansas defeats George Mason, 76-67

  • 4 p.m., Jan. 1, 2022
  • Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Kansas bench saves 6th-ranked Jayhawks in 76-67 home win over George Mason

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) throws down a dunk against George Mason guard DeVon Cooper (0) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) throws down a dunk against George Mason guard DeVon Cooper (0) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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It’s unlikely that George Mason basketball coach Kim English circled the names of Kansas reserves Mitch Lightfoot and Jalen Coleman-Lands on the white board during his final pregame talk with his team on Saturday.

But maybe he should’ve.

After weeks of watching the starting five — and, really, the team’s top two players — carry the KU offense, the sixth-ranked Jayhawks received a couple of much-needed contributions from their bench during Saturday’s 76-67 victory over George Mason at Allen Fieldhouse.

Coleman-Lands led everyone with 20 points on 7-of-9 shoooting, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. And Lightfoot, in 21 minutes, made all seven of his shots and tied a career-high with 14 points. Together, the two shot 14-of-16 from the floor and combined for 34 points, six rebounds, four assists and just two turnovers.

“Our starters were terrific against Nevada and probably that poor today. And our bench was awful against Nevada and, as bad as it was, we were probably even better than that today,” KU coach Bill Self said after the victory. “We wouldn’t have won the game without probably either one of them and both of them, collectively, gave us a chance to win.”

Lightfoot’s performance, though highly efficient and nearly perfect, was not all that unusual. The sixth-year senior has had plenty of games in the past where he has come in for KU big man David McCormack and provided a scoring or rebounding spark.

“The buckets I was getting, they were all set up by my teammates,” said Lightfoot, who scored with a variety of jump hooks in the post and dunks on bursts to the basket. “They were the ones that allowed me to get easy baskets.”

Coleman-Lands, however, did a lot of the work on his own. And Self marveled at how much better the super-senior transfer performed when he focused on filling up the stat sheet and shooting the shots when they came to him, rather than dribbling too much and looking for the ones he wanted.

“Of the times he looked to score, how many times did he bounce it,” Self asked. “Not many. … He needs to shoot it whenever he’s open (because) he’s the best shooter on our team.”

Coleman-Lands’ 24:38 of playing time on Saturday was 10 minutes more than his output in any single game this season. Self said the fact that senior guard Remy Martin did not play because of a swollen knee made it easier to give Coleman-Lands more minutes. But Self also said he showed he deserved them.

Never one to complain about his usage, Coleman-Lands admitted that his prolonged time on the court allowed him a better opportunity to find his rhythm. Once he did, he was nearly unstoppable. There were shots in rhythm off the catch, step-backs off of one bounce. And even a couple of near-heat checks that never actually went up because of the George Mason defense’s understanding that it would probably fair better with Coleman-Lands not shooting.

Despite the strong days by KU’s two reserves, the Patriots (7-6) were in the game the entire way. A late first-half surge that featured a dunk by Christian Braun that just beat the halftime buzzer put Kansas up by 11 at the break. But GMU stuck around all the way down to the 3-minute mark. That’s when Lightfoot delivered what might have been his biggest play of the game.

With just over 3 minutes to play, and Kansas leading by just five, GMU forced a miss of a drive along the baseline by KU’s Ochai Agbaji. As the ball came off the rim, Lightfoot fought for it, secured the offensive rebound and fired a pass out to Braun, who let fly with a 3-pointer from the wing in front of the Kansas bench.

At first, it looked like the shot missed. But after a soft bounce, it circled the rim and fell through. That put Kansas up 69-61 with 3:11 remaining and effectively ended the game.

“Juan (Dajuan Harris), CB and Och and J-Will (Jalen Wilson), they were just out there,” Self said of four of his starters. “They didn’t play poorly, didn’t play well. So, we needed a spark.”

Coming off a month in which they became the first Jayhawks to average 20 points per game in a single month since Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce during the 1997-98 season, Agbaji and Braun combined for 25 points but on just 7-of-26 shooting.

KU big man David McCormack also struggled. He played just 11 minutes and missed all three shots he attempted, finishing with a -6 number in the plus/minus category. McCormack played just 4:17 in Saturday’s second half.

While KU’s starting five powered through an off day, Self left the arena pleased with the effort, both because his bench rose to the occasion and because Allen Fieldhouse was nearly full despite the game being scheduled a little more than 72 hours before tipoff.

Saturday’s game was supposed to be the Big 12 opener for Kansas against TCU, but COVID-19 issues with the Horned Frogs program led to that matchup being postponed.

“It was a win on New Year’s Day, so there’s absolutely nothing that we can be negative about,” Self said after the victory. “And the crowd was unbelievable. To have that many people at a game that was not part of the season ticket package, selling it in 72 hours, in minus-15 degree weather (with) ice all over the road and most of them have to come from distance; it’s just incredible to me that our people show up like they do. That was people that just love KU.”

Next up, KU (11-1) travels to Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Tuesday for an 8 p.m. clash with the Cowboys on ESPN2.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Our super seniors played great today. McCormack should be fired, can they send him off to another college team and swap? I'd take Oduro any day.

Ted Hume 10 months, 4 weeks ago

watching second half of the GM game and i have a serious rock-chalk challenge: After 3+ years of watching and taking data, I'm 99.7% confident that no player in KU history- history!- has missed more bunnies than D-Mac. Not even close. Any challengers?

RC

Jim Keen 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Yep, fired! So frustrated watching his inept performance... weak hands, dropped passes and rebounds, missed bunnies. Offense often stalls when he's in the game. Time for him to retire.

Rodney Crain 10 months, 4 weeks ago

What does McCormack do well? I was hoping they would call a 3 second violation on him just to stop him from trying to miss from every angle. Maybe he will "make" ESPN's Not Top 10.

Mallory Briggans 10 months, 4 weeks ago

I once joked about giving Mccormack the nickname EDWARD SCISSORHANDS because he cant seem to hang on to the ball, today he missed dunks bunnies and rebounds because lack of ball control, and the insistence of Bill Self wanting to continue to run the offense through him led to several turnovers on the entry passes . Lightfoot came in and seemed to be much more efficient with better low post position and less fear of him mishandling a pass from other players Why is Self not developing Zach because Dmac has seemed to struggle this season .Hes a senior playing like a freshman.

Lee Short 10 months, 4 weeks ago

What disparity: McCormack 0-3, Lightfoot 7-7 on the night. Mitch was positioning and aiming so much more accurately. Great court awareness. Wonder if Bill Self will change his mind on how we are so much better when McCormack is in. It doesn't seem to meet the eye test that is the case, unlike the second half of last year. Now, it's showtime, conference games start and there seems to be a fair amount of uncertainty, unfortunately, as to who the best 5 are to put on the floor to start.

It's concerning to see our struggling against small schools while we are playing with homecourt advantage when we are about to step into the big league with 50% of our games being played in hostile environments.

Barry Weiss 10 months, 4 weeks ago

no doubt in my mind our offense runs much better with Remy in there. Hope he is back for our opener.

Bryce Landon 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Thank God for JCL and Mitch! Those guys were beasts tonight. Hopefully after this game, Self will finally realize that D-Mac, for whatever reason, just doesn't deserve to be starter and has Mitch as the starter in D-Mac's place for the rest of the season. Those of you old-timers might remember when Larry Brown pulled the plug on Lincoln Minor and replaced him with Jeff Gueldner; the Jayhawks went from 13-8 and staring down the barrel of an NIT bid to 27-11 and NCAA champions.

Great to see KU in red uniforms tonight; hopefully they will use them more in the future. I might go so far as to say it's the Jayhawks' best uniform in their wardrobe! That said, even if KU was in alternate red instead of the usual home white, why couldn't George Mason have worn green since they were the visitors?

Rodney Crain 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Retire the Grey uniform, use the Crimson uniforms 5 times a season.

Bryce Landon 10 months, 4 weeks ago

HELL TO THE YES, RODNEY! Gray is NOT one of KU's school colors. It's CRIMSON and BLUE! Let's use the school colors and not bother with any other colors.

Len Shaffer 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Nice recollection of Gueldner. He was not just a great shooter (who actually shot over FIFTY percent in three-pointers for the year), but was a tremendous clutch player who made a lot of big plays when it counted the most. One of the real unsung heroes on that championship team.

Mallory Briggans 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Bryce you know how stubborn Self can be and he is determined to let Mccormack play himself out of his funk. Problem is Mccormack has reached his ceiling he will never be a smooth polished player .I love Mitch's hustle but he gets a lot of fouls hes better in his role bringing energy off the bench. He wont play Zach he needs some development after all he will possibly be our big going into next season ,Mitch will be gone as well as Dmac if Zach doesnt develop this year then he will be no more than an unproven freshman in a sophomore body. Self played K.J. at the 5 briefly but that was telling to me I like K.J but all i see him do is pass and set screens. In a nutshell Dmac will be the man in the paint so guess we better get used to it . But when you get 1 point and 10 minutes out of your starting big that is a bigger problem

Benjamin Shear 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Obiter Dictum:

*DMac was the only player who played that had a negative team points tally for his minutes. Will HCBS finally stop starting him? One can only hope.

*I've been saying all season that Coleman-Lands is the best KU player not getting meaningful minutes. It was awesome to see what he can do when given the chance.

*I'm glad KU had a flat victory. Great teams learn how to win even when it's not the best night.

*Mitch was great tonight. Truly he is such a smart player. Why won't DMac go to the basket like Mitch does?

*Why did we play in Red uniforms? Seemed a bit odd for the home team.

*Let's give credit to the KU fan base for supporting the team with short notice, on a holiday, and the cold temperature. I don't live in Kansas (I'm in SoCal), but I tip my hat to everyone who bought a ticket and went to the game.

Steve Zimmerman 10 months, 4 weeks ago

A good coach will know how to make best use of his players' strengths. He will adapt his philosophy. Offense-wise I'm talking about. Unfortunately coach BS is not one. I don't understand why he's forcing inbound pass play knowing Dave is NOT the right player. From day 1. Day freakin one, coach. This one is on you & the staff.

Look at how many inbound passes that led to TOs. Even guys like Ochai does not have instinct WHEN TO INBOUND PASS - you don't pass when there's 2-3 guys around the post player. Even JWil - still does not know HOW TO INBOUND PASS. We saw other teams playing hi-low inbound passing to their Center, i.e. SFA, they do it from the corner, low bounce pass, very effective... VS our high inbound passes which a lot of times, especially to DMac, end up getting stolen, or he loses balance while trying to catch the ball in the air, or defenders collapsing on him.

It's embarrassing. It makes DMac looks bad - well, he's bad, but the inbound plays make him even badder.. not worse.

---- so there’s absolutely nothing that we can be negative about - coach BS

WT* are you talking about????

Dirk Medema 10 months, 4 weeks ago

White is not a school color and yet we play in it. Hmmmm?

If I recall correctly from decades ago, one of the first times we played in red the results were ugly. It use to be that multiple conference opponents were Red, so only appropriate that we were “Go Big Blue”. Things have changed over the decades.

What is David’s ceiling? Did he play better during the second half of last year? Coach has shown over the years that he knows what it takes to win big. There are some players that have the potential, such as TTaylor, and he rode him through rough play all the way to the NC game. Dok was an example as well even if the rug got yanked out from under him and the rest of the’20 team.

There are other times when the player doesn’t respond. Some find it easy to blame Coach Self for those times.

Cam Martin will be legible next as well as the freshmen. He seemed to have a legit outside shot as well so might be a real wrinkle in the O. I guess it’s still possible for him to burn a redshirt and play this year if necessary. Precedence has been set with burning a redshirt when players aren’t performing.

Bryce Landon 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Every team has to wear a white jersey because, by rule, white is the designated color for the home team. I'm fine wearing white, but I'm not a fan of wearing gray or cream.

Dirk Medema 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Ted - Go back if you can and watch some video of Lucas. He was horrendous even on bunnies. He did so many other things right though that the other starters lobbied for him and we were so much better for it.

Dirk Medema 10 months, 4 weeks ago

So nice to see JCL step up to his preseason expectations even if some were writing him off. Apparently, Coach has been talking to him about how he can be most effective even if some don’t think the HOF coach knows what he’s doing.

It would be great to see Joe respond as well. The potential is there.

Eventually, it will be nice to get Bobby back. Hope he’s healing well.

Lonnie Ross Dillon 10 months, 4 weeks ago

I noticed that the box score shoed the game as a 16,300 sellout. Curious if anyone that was there comment on the attendance...

Len Shaffer 10 months, 4 weeks ago

I echo what others are saying about McCormack, and am really worried that he's going to cost us a game in the tournament. As I posted elsewhere, I don't think I've ever seen anyone worse at scoring around the basket. As someone posted above, Edward Scissorhands is a perfect name for him.

Joe Baker 10 months, 4 weeks ago

DMac needs DMan. Would someone please get DMan back on staff. He’s in Maryland wasting his time as the interim. He would do wonders for KJ and ZClem. I really wish TRob or JoJo had the time to assist with our bigs.

Michael Leiker 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Self went into the season thinking David was going to be able to step up and handle the load inside by himself. This team needs to play more with two bigs. Jalen doesn’t count. Your ceiling is too low with Mitch, he played great and is solid but can’t carry the load by himself. Harris, Mitch, David, Ochai, Braun is our best lineup at both ends. Lands off the bench at 2/3, Martin at the 1, maybe he starts as it goes along depending on how the season goes, Wilson at the 4/5.

Michael Leiker 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Lonnie, donor bought the rest of available tickets so anyone who wanted could get in free yesterday, this a sellout. Guessing 11500 in AFH yesterday.

Jeff Kallmeyer 10 months, 4 weeks ago

Here's hoping DMac turns it around in this season's 2nd half like he did last year. I think he'd be a good candidate for a sports psychologist.

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