Kansas defeats Oklahoma State, 74-63

  • 8 p.m., Jan. 4, 2022
  • Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, OK

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

He played his butt off’ - How KU big man David McCormack responded to coming off the bench in win over Oklahoma State

Kansas forward David McCormack (33), guard Christian Braun (2) and forward Jalen Wilson (10) reach for a rebound during the team's NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)

Kansas forward David McCormack (33), guard Christian Braun (2) and forward Jalen Wilson (10) reach for a rebound during the team's NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)


Stillwater, Okla. — Known as one of the best in the business at pushing the right buttons to inspire his players, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self delivered again on Tuesday night when he chose to bring senior forward David McCormack off of the bench in the Jayhawks’ 74-63 win at Oklahoma State.

Instead of sulking about what some might deem to be a demotion, McCormack did some soul-searching and responded to his new role — temporary or otherwise — with 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and a career-high 15 rebounds.

“I’m not a psychologist,” Self said when asked after Tuesday’s game about McCormack’s response. “But I think I (saw) a motivated guy. Sometimes the best way to be motivated is not to think and to get mad. And I think he was probably more enthused to play because he was pissed. And I don’t think that’s all bad. I thought he did a really good job. A really good job.”

It wasn’t always that way for McCormack on Tuesday night. His first few trips up and down the floor led to more calamities. A turnover here. A lazy rebounding effort there. A missed shot another time. For a while, it was a whole lot more of what McCormack has shown so far this season, which very closely resembled what he showed during the first half of last season, as well.

But then something triggered a change and McCormack began to look like the player who darn near averaged a double-double during Big 12 play last season. Some believed it was Self lighting into him after he let a rebound flub off of his hands.

“He just said, ‘You know you’ve got to grab more rebounds. Don’t try to grab it with one hand. Snatch it and be our big man. That’s what you’re supposed to do.’ And that’s what I did the rest of the game,” McCormack said, recalling Self’s message in that moment.

Others believed it was McCormack’s ability to find a much-needed dose of confidence.

“He played his butt off,” said senior forward Mitch Lightfoot, who took McCormack’s spot in the starting lineup. “I was so excited to see him play that well. He cleaned up the glass, (was) scoring, hitting turnarounds, he had confidence. He was motivated. He had a nose for the ball. Energy finds the ball, and he got the energy (going). Once he saw his first basket go in, he started to get that little roll.”

And once his teammates saw that, they knew exactly what to do.

“There was a point in the game when I was telling him to just keep going; we’re just going to keep feeding you,” senior guard Ochai Agbaji said.

That was especially the plan when Oklahoma State 7-footer Moussa Cisse was not in the game. But Self pointed out that, after McCormack found his confidence, he even hit a couple of tough buckets over Cisse, which only made his confidence soar higher.

“That just boosts your confidence so much,” Lightfoot said. “He was able to really feed off of that and took it from there.”

Seven of McCormack’s 15 rebounds came on the offensive glass. He scored six points — on three consecutive baskets — in the first half and grabbed eight rebounds. And he added 11 more points on 4-of-6 shooting a three perfect trips to the free throw line to his seven second-half rebounds.

When totaled up, McCormack’s final line read 17 points and 15 rebounds. All in just 23 minutes. More importantly, it helped rescue Kansas from a first-half collapse that saw a 29-15 lead turn into a 29-all tie at halftime. The rough stretch to close the half featured 19 consecutive misses and a scoreless drought of more than 9 minutes.

“In the first half, we were kind of playing up to their tempo,” McCormack said. “They like to kind of speed the game up, which kind of sped up our shot selection and our shooting form.”

But the Jayhawks (12-1 overall, 1-0 Big 12) regained the upper-hand when they found their poise and patience again. And so much of that came when the team ran everything through McCormack.

Kansas point guard Remy Martin was the beneficiary of some of that, and his back-to-back jumpers around the 5-minute mark effectively put the game away. But even in that moment, after two of his three makes on the night, Martin found himself feeling happiest for McCormack.

“I love it, man,” the KU guard said after the game. “I’m happy for Dave. We want him to keep building and I’m just extremely happy for our guys that have overcome adversity.”

Calling his latest outing a triumph over adversity might not be the way McCormack would choose to describe it. For him, it was merely the result of staying focused and doing what was asked of him.

“Coach decided to switch the lineup, and I think it was for the better,” McCormack said. “I think it just made everybody feel at ease, in a sense; everybody stepped into a new role and we embraced it.”

Asked if the bench role helped eliminate some of the pressure he puts on himself, which was, at least in part, some of the reason Self made the move in the first place, McCormack said his carefree night had more to do with the timing than anything.

“Actually, I just feel less pressure going into the Big 12 just in general,” he said. “I don’t know why. It’s the start of a new season and, in my mind, it’s (time) to refresh and just embrace the player that I know that I am.”

McCormack reminded everybody what that player looked like on Tuesday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena. And if that winds up being the start of the kind of turn-around that led to him earning second-team all-Big 12 honors a season ago, this could wind up being one of the most important outings of the season.

“It’s in my nature to do it either way,” McCormack said of delivering big numbers as a starter or off the bench. “The Big 12 season is the start of a new season. Coach always says we start out 0-0. Today we are 1-0, and I’ll continue to keep that mindset going forward. … I hope I set more career highs throughout the season.”


Bryce Landon 7 months, 2 weeks ago

That's the best I've seen D-Mac play all season! Too bad it took losing his starting spot to get him to pull his head out of his ass to get him to play that way.

Keith Gellar 7 months, 2 weeks ago

i'm going to hold off until i see a bigger sample. This was 1 game and against OSU. Let's see how Dave fares against better teams and how consistently he can put up these numbers.

Bville Hawk 7 months, 2 weeks ago

The last 10 minutes of the 1st half were hard to watch because of the lid on the basket, but the last 10 minutes of the 2nd half were maybe the ugliest 10 minutes of KU basketball I've witnessed in the Bill Self era.

And, speaking of Coach Self, when is he going to figure out that Ochai is NOT the best choice to inbound the ball. Ochai is tentative, and hesitant, and indecisive in the inbound department. Not good traits for an inbounder.

RJ King 7 months, 1 week ago

I've thought the same think about the inbounds. But are the four on the floor not where they are supposed to be? Remy and DaJaun are too short to inbound? Jaylen seems to also get somewhat flustered and make an errant pass (or am I remembering incorrectly?) Perhaps Braun is too reliable at positioning himself on the court to move to inbound. I can't picture Mitch screwing up the inbounds, but maybe he and D-Mac are needed around the bucket to score.

RJ King 7 months, 1 week ago

PS The announcer saying those last ten minutes resembled a Jackson Pollack painting was priceless!

Barry Weiss 7 months, 2 weeks ago

DMac was the man! Our team gets a whole lot better when that David plays. Great job David!

Brian Mellor 7 months, 1 week ago

That's what I've seen as the point of sticking with him - the team needs a solid role from McCormack to compete for the championship, so Self will take some risks through the year, and particularly the non-con, to get him comfortable and up to speed with more consistency. We have no one that can truly replace him. Mitch is great but slightly undersized. Clemence is a freshman with a freshman's game and build. Without him logging quality minutes we have significantly less of a shot. He's not going to figure things out sitting for the rest of the year.

I think the same logic has applied with most of the other 'head scratcher' decisions by Self to play or start players who are not producing to what the fanbase hopes. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but survivorship bias comes into play - 'what if' we did something different always sounds plausible, but often only because it didn't happen so we didn't see the results.

And despite all the moaning, KU is 12-1 and if a last-second luck shot by Iona didn't go in, we would be number 1 right now, all other things being equal.

Lee Short 7 months, 1 week ago

I think you mean Dayton instead of Iona.

Brian Mellor 7 months, 1 week ago

Yeah, suppose so. The other school that pulled off an upset that mini-tourney, haha. I was in puppy training classes while that game was going on, thankfully.

Robert Brock 7 months, 2 weeks ago

Good thing Mac was having a good game: the KU guards were easily intimidated by the Cowpoke defense.

Chad Smith 7 months, 1 week ago

I don't know if it's just me but the last 5 minutes of the game the refs just swallowed the whistle unless it was absolutely blatant foul-wise. A few times it appeared OSU was TRYING to foul KU to stop the clock and put them on the line, but the refs didn't call it and let the KU player lose the ball and play on. I know the analysts were saying that OSU was "active with their hands" and "scrappy" defensively, I think it was pretty poor officiating towards the end there.

DMac needs to be motivated it would appear. Big 12 does bring something else out of him, maybe because he knows he has to play his best since he's going against equal or superior competition. Whatever the case, if he gets going on the double-double trend again, KU should do pretty well in the Big 12.

Joshua Tate 7 months, 1 week ago

Completely agree on the officiating at the end of the game! It was like watching a game at West Virginia. At one point, a KU player was literally knocked over smh.....

Scott MacWilliams 7 months, 1 week ago

Great to see DMac playing like we knew he could!! He's so important to the success of this team & hope he can keep his head in the right place.

BTW, was grazing through ESPN news, and an article there by Myron Medcalf reviews the season so far. His pick for best player to date is Ochai. There's lots of competition for the big prize at the end of the year, but so far Och has been rockin'. Rock Chalk!!

Mallory Briggans 7 months, 1 week ago

Teahan ,Jankovich ,Wilhite and Mccarthy didnt end the first half on a good note missing their last 20 shots For this team to compete in the Big 12 they have to shoot better ...........................Oh im sorry when i saw the Jayhawks missed 20 in a row those were the players on the floor because i know a championship cant shoot that poorly and expect to make a title run

Rodney Crain 7 months, 1 week ago

There are 7 games before the B12 tournament that we need to play much better than we did against OSt to win. Baylor home and away, Texas home and away, ISU away, TT away, and KY at home. We are lucky to have 1 loss to a team that is 8-6 as of last night.

Our soft non conference schedule could come home to roost with weak play during the season.

For having so many veteran players on our bench only to have an 8 man rotation at this point is disconcerting.

We are very beatable right now, and have to hope that we have no injuries going forward.

McCormack has had 1 good game.

For a senior starter to have to be yanked from the game, almost every game, Remy hurts us as much as he helps us. He has no idea how to play defense for Self

We went 0-for every shot for a straight 22%+ of the last game.

Would have thought by this point in the season we would be much further along.

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