Deep breath. We’ll get to the back-and-forth final minute in a minute. But first, (insert freeze frame meme) I bet you’re wondering how we got here.
The players looked different on Tuesday with KJ Adams starting in place of Mitch Lightfoot/David McCormack, no Remy Martin or Zach Clemence, and the return of Bobby Pettiford. But the sloppiness and lack of defense that took place on Saturday In Lubbock was still very much the same to start the game.
The only bright spot of the first 10 minutes of the game was Roy Williams returning to Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since 2003 and being honored during the first media timeout. After KU went up 11-10, Iowa State jumped out to a 19-10 lead as KU turned it over six times.
Ochai Agbaji’s much-needed effort on defense led to an Iowa State turnover and then goaltending with an Agbaji finish at the rim to cut the lead to 23-19. After Dajuan Harris trimmed the lead to two with a drive, a Christian Braun turnover led to a Cyclone three before Wilson answered to bring it back to three. An Ochai three (this would be a theme) tied it at 26 with 3:30 left.
After all that to start the game, Kansas only trailed by two at the half, 33-31, and the deficit didn’t last long. Kansas jumped out to a quick 6-0 run to start the second half with defensive intensity led by Adams and company.
Then, it was the Ochai show. After Iowa State cut the lead to 38-35, Ochai cranked out seven straight Kansas points, eclipsing 20 points with 12:50 left in the game. Along with more intensity on defense, the Jayhawks also cut down on the turnovers, only committing four in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Credit to Iowa State, the Cyclones hung around. The Kansas lead jumped up to nine before Iowa State brought it back down to five with seven minutes left, and then four with 3:35 left after Izaiah Brockington put the Cyclones on his back. Brockington was a force in the second half (scoring 13 of his 17 points after intermission), scoring again to make it 58-54 before a massive block by McCormack kept Kansas’ lead.
Then things got interesting. Iowa State hit a three to make it 58-57 before an offensive foul on McCormack gave ISU the ball back with 50 seconds left. Another Iowa State offensive rebound led to the first ISU lead of the second half, 59-58, with 37.2 remaining, capping off a 7-0 Cyclone run. Ochai drew a foul on a drive with 25 seconds left and he hit both free throws to give the Jayhawks the lead once again.
But it was Brockington again with a mid-range dagger with 16 seconds that looked to potentially seal Kansas’ fate. Though this was not Dajuan Harris’ best game, a driving, tough circus layup gave the Jayhawks the lead and the win after one final Cyclone miss.
Ochai was the star for the Jayhawks, scoring 22 points and grabbing seven rebounds while Braun (13 points) and Harris (12) were the only other Jayhawks in double figures.
The win was massive given that at the beginning of the KU-ISU second half, Texas Tech knocked off Baylor to ensure that every Big 12 team had at least one loss so far in conference play. The Jayhawks will look to move up in the standings on Saturday when they host West Virginia at 1 p.m. CT.