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KU senior Ochai Agbaji back on top after big game vs. Iowa State

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Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) ducks under Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Hunter (11) for a bucket during the second half on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) ducks under Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Hunter (11) for a bucket during the second half on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

1 – Ochai Agbaji – Agbaji took over for small stretches of Tuesday’s victory and he came up clutch late, as well. In addition to showing that he was OK with the ball in his hands with the game on the line, Agbaji hit 8 of 15 shots and 4 of 8 from 3-point range to finish with a game-high 22 points along with a team-best 7 rebounds. He may not have hit the game-winner, but he impacted it. And he drove hard to the rim on the possession before it, with KU trailing by one and under a minute remaining. Agbaji has fully emerged as an alpha-type player and these games and moments merely strengthen that trait.

2 – Dajuan Harris Jr. – New rule here at the ratings: If you hit a game-winner, you can’t be ranked any lower than third. Harris was better than that, though, even with the four turnovers. He made 3 of 6 shots — 2 of which were incredibly tough — and hit all six free throws while playing 37 minutes. The game winner was big for his confidence and will no doubt go down as a career highlight someday. There are areas he can still improve in, but, offensively, he seems to be in a pretty good place.

3 – Christian Braun – Turned it over three times and missed eight of the 13 shots he took. But he was aggressive all night and he darn near played the entire game. He also tied with Agbaji for a team-high 7 rebounds and added a block, a steal and two assists to his final line. One thing lacking from Braun’s night — that fire and passion and playing to the crowd that we’ve seen so often at Allen Fieldhouse this season. The reason? Iowa State gave him and the Jayhawks all they could handle and there simply wasn’t time or energy for anything extracurricular until the final horn sounded.

4 – Mitch Lightfoot – KU’s still searching for something at the 5 spot in its lineup and Lightfoot came the closest to delivering it on Tuesday night. He played 21 minutes and scored 4 points and added 4 rebounds. He also blocked 3 shots and dished an assist and swiped a steal. All in all, pretty good numbers from a guy who has proven to be a reliable and important piece off the bench. Here’s the problem: The way things currently sit, Lightfoot might need to be more than a solid bench guy. Time will tell on that. But he was good enough — enough of the time — in this one to contribute positively to KU’s chances.

5 – Jalen Wilson – I thought Wilson was terrific in creating for others in the first half. He had all five of his assists in the first 14 minutes of the game and appeared to be on his way to a big night in that department. But he never added another and finished with just 4 points on 2-of-6 shooting, including 0-for-3 from 3-point range and a big miss at the free throw line late on the front end of a one-and-one situation. Wilson started on a night the Jayhawks were shorthanded but played just 24 minutes. That number might be all you need to know about what Self thought of the sophomore wing’s overall production in this one.

6 – KJ Adams – Let’s give Adams high marks for handling himself well in his first career start and showing that he was ready to play right out of the gate. He picked up an early dunk and was active on both ends throughout his first few minutes on the floor. But he played a total of just 10 minutes and didn’t do anything else worth noting on the stat sheet to warrant more PT than that. Overall, though, starting a game, contributing and watching Kansas win a tough game against a good opponent should keep Adams in good graces with the coaching staff, which could lead to even more opportunities and playing time sooner rather than later.

7 – Jalen Coleman-Lands – He didn’t make a shot and he was either in the locker room getting stitches or on the bench with a patch on his eye for much of the final stretch. But Coleman-Lands still played 15 minutes and started the second half, netting three free throws on the first possession to give Kansas a 34-33 lead. It won’t wind up on the end-of-the-season highlight video, but it was a pretty significant part of this game and Coleman-Lands continues to show he’s willing to compete his butt off when given the opportunity to do so.

8 – David McCormack – Kansas coach Bill Self mentioned earlier in the week that playing smaller might be a good strategy against Iowa State, so it’s not a huge surprise that McCormack only needed 10 minutes. What is shocking is that he did not attempt a shot his time on the floor. He finished with just one point and four rebounds while turning it over once and blocking one shot. That block was late and probably pretty important. But this game did nothing to help McCormack’s ever-present quest to get back on track.

9 – Bobby Pettiford – Pettiford saw his first action since St. John’s and played a little over 8 minutes. He showed flashes of what he can bring, diving on the floor for loose balls and pushing the pace. But it also was clear that he’ll have to shake off some rust before impacting the lineup again. He’ll have time to do that, though, and the Jayhawks can use him so the incentive will be there, too.

Season standings

1 – Ochai Agbaji, 147

2 – Christian Braun, 140

3 – Dajuan Harris Jr., 118

4 – Remy Martin, 99z

5 – Mitch Lightfoot, 88

6 – David McCormack, 78

7 – Jalen Wilson, 76*

8 – Jalen Coleman-Lands, 51

9 – Joseph Yesufu, 44

10 – Zach Clemence, 41

12 – KJ Adams, 39

12 – Bobby Pettiford, 34x

  • Missed first 3 games to serve a suspension

x – Out since Dec. 6 with abdominal injury (returned Jan. 11)

z – Missed 2 game with a knee injury

Comments

Lee Short 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I believe McCormack did shoot once but was fouled, hence the zero shooting stat.

The foul didn't affect the accuracy from what I can tell. He just missed the funny.

It was frustrating to see the return of the inexplicable misses 1 foot away from the basket. Really hope he can practice, practice, practice instantaneous close up shooting close to the rim.

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