Kansas sophomore Jalen Wilson goes beast mode in 2nd half of Sweet 16 win over Providence
1 – Jalen Wilson – Shooting slightly better than 5-of-16 would’ve made this arguably Wilson’s best game as a Jayhawk. And it wasn’t necessarily the numbers that made it close to that. Instead, it was the way Wilson answered the bell when KU was reeling and really needed someone to take charge and lead it back to safety. Wilson did exactly that on drives to the basket after Providence both tied it and took a one-point lead late in Friday’s 66-61 Kansas victory. Wilson looked like a man possessed and he continued to go to the well on his drive to the rim that features him taking contact and finishing through it. KU coach Bill Self said after the game that Wilson was the most efficient weapon KU had in driving to the rim. And the way Providence defended Ochai Agbaji and showed it was not afraid to be physical made Wilson’s contributions all the more important. He’s locked in. He’s as confident as he’s ever been and he looks an awful lot like a guy who simply refuses to be denied.
2 – Remy Martin – I can’t quite remember seeing anything like what Remy Martin is doing right now. He’s fearless, totally loose and having a blast out there. And it’s almost reached the point where you can set your clock by both the specifics and the timing of his production. For the third NCAA Tournament game, Martin checked in midway through the first half and immediately made an impact. In this one, he scored 11 of 13 Kansas points in a first-half stretch that helped KU take control. But it was more than that. Late in the first half, he hit a bucket, told the crowd to get loud (it did) and then talked through a defensive possession with Jalen Wilson before it played out almost exactly the way he saw it coming. His offense is huge and it has been so important for the Jayhawks during this run. But his increased effort on defense has been just as important and you’re looking at a guy who is incredibly comfortable in his own skin right now and someone who is having a blast doing exactly what he came to Kansas to do.
3 – Christian Braun – Braun scored just 6 points, Agbaji had 5 and Kansas still won. Whaaaaat? Braun wasn’t much better offensively than his teammate (see below), but he did grab 10 rebounds and dished 2 assists. He flashed a few moments of his signature fire in this one, never bigger than after his hammer dunk down the lane early in the game. He also played an important role defensively, especially early on when KU’s defensive intensity and effort was as good as it had been all season. Braun no doubt would rather make more than just 2 shots, but the Jayhawks survived without him doing that and he found other ways to make an impact in his 35 minutes.
4 – Ochai Agbaji – We all know he hasn’t shot it well in this tournament yet, but anyone who knows basketball knows that he’s still played a big role in Kansas winning and advancing. Look no further for proof of that than Friday night, when he made just 2 of 8 shots for 5 points, but blocked 4 shots and made one of the game’s biggest plays on offense. He doesn’t appear to be pressing, but he does appear to be off. That’s fairly decent news for Jayhawks because, as Self said after Friday’s win, it just takes one game for Agbaji’s shot to get back on. And Self and his teammates believe it’s coming. In the meantime, Agbaji is finding other ways to help this team win — a lot of it has been on defense — while not forcing up shots and trying to shoot his way out of whatever’s going on. That could be worse than just missing five or six shots a game, so give the veteran All-American credit for knowing better than to do that.
5 – Dajuan Harris Jr. – Harris made a couple of aggressive offensive plays that I thought were both underrated and pretty important. And they were both early in each half. Harris continues to take a back seat to Martin at times, but the two can play together and have shown that that can be effective in spots. Harris’ biggest contribution the rest of the day will continue to come on defense. It’s obvious that he’s still a primary table-setter, too. But, if Martin is going to take a chunk of his minutes — and he very much has — Harris may not be in position to do that as much simply because he may not be the primary initiator of KU’s offense when Martin’s out there. His head’s in the right place and he’ll do whatever’s asked. That’s the theme of this team and a big reason they’re still playing.
6 – David McCormack – It wasn’t pretty. Heck, it was downright ugly at times in the first half. But McCormack’s mere presence — as in physical size — played a pretty big role in the Jayhawks righting the ship in the second half after watching a 13-point lead disappear entirely. McCormack does not look fully healthy. But if we’ve learned anything about the guy throughout his Kansas career it’s that he’s not one to make excuses or draw attention to any type of reason for why he might not be producing. He knows, as Self does as well, that if he’s good enough to be out there, he’ll be expected to perform. Late in the game, the KU big man did just that, prompting Self to say that Big Dave delivered when it counted and that KU might not have won without him. I’ve thought all week that McCormack still has one of those powerful double-doubles in him this season. I have my doubts now. But that doesn’t mean he still can’t find certain stretches of games to really help this team the rest of the way.
7 – Mitch Lightfoot – Lightfoot’s lone bucket put the Jayhawks up 13 points early in the second half, but it was far from the most important thing he did in this one. Like Agbaji, Lightfoot recorded 4 blocks in this one, showing good lift and his typically terrific timing in tallying 4 of KU’s 11 blocks. Still battling back from that sprained knee, Lightfoot looked almost all the way back to normal against Providence and he appears to be feeling good, now two weeks removed from suffering the injury. He could be needed even more against the smaller, more athletic Hurricanes on Sunday, so getting some significant run and producing likely positioned him well to head into that game with his regular dose of confidence.
8 – Jalen Coleman-Lands – Coleman-Lands played just four minutes and did not record a single statistic, as Self chose to shorten the heck out of his bench, playing just eight players total and six of them the majority of the minutes. Remember, with the longer timeouts and the season on the line with every possession, Self made it clear a while ago that, in order to win games at this time of the season, he would play his horses as much as he could and needed to. That limited JCL to just 4 minutes and kept Joe Yesufu, KJ Adams and Zach Clemence from checking in at all. Expect more of that in the Elite Eight, as well.
1 – Ochai Agbaji, 326 +
2 – Christian Braun, 303
3 – Dajuan Harris Jr., 274
4 – Jalen Wilson, 264 •
5 – David McCormack, 218
6 – Remy Martin, 182 z
7 – Mitch Lightfoot, 180
8 – Joseph Yesufu, 117
9 – Jalen Coleman-Lands, 114 b
10 – KJ Adams, 90
11 – Zach Clemence, 80 y
12 – Bobby Pettiford, 50 x
• Missed first 3 games to serve a suspension
x – Out with abdominal injury starting Dec. 6 (returned Jan. 11) Done for the season on Feb. 25.
y – Out with a toe injury starting Jan. 11 (returned Feb. 12)
z – Missed 10 games with a knee injury (returned Feb. 26)
- – Missed 1 game because of COVID-19
b – Missed 1 game because of a migraine headache
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