Fearless Frank: Mason drills game-winning shot for 77-75 win over No. 1 Duke

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up the final shot over Duke guard Matt Jones (13) with seconds remaining for the win on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

— With his face plastered on all sides of a building dubbed as the World’s Most Famous Arena on the outside, Kansas senior Frank Mason III knocked down the biggest shot of his Kansas career on the inside to lift No. 7 KU to a 77-75 victory over No. 1 Duke Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.

Mason’s jumper, a pure swish after driving hard to his left with 1.8 seconds remaining, helped the Jayhawks (1-1) survive a furious rally by Duke that saw the Blue Devils (2-1) erase a 12-point Kansas lead in the final eight minutes to set the stage for Mason to win it.

And there never was any doubt about where the ball was going and who would get the opportunity.

“It was quite a play we called,” joked KU coach Bill Self of Mason’s game winner. “Just get out of his way and go shoot it. He’s made a lot of big plays for us.... He’s a stud.”

As he sat down at the postgame podium to talk to the media about his heroics, Mason, perhaps for the first time on a frantic night, exhaled hard. He then spent 10 minutes deflecting all of the praise heaped onto him to his teammates and coaches. And he meant it. So much so, in fact, that when teammate Devonte’ Graham (13 points on 6-of-12 shooting) was asked if anybody else can handle what Mason shouldered at the end of the game and still deliver, the 5-foot-11 guard from Petersburg, Virginia, quickly interjected.

“Yeah. He can,” said Mason, gesturing toward Graham. “He can. He could’ve made the same play.”

Perhaps. But on this night, it was Mason who came through.

Asked if he knew the shot was good when he let it go, Mason said he never doubted it.

“It felt good when it left my hand,” said Mason, who finished with a team-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go along with five assists. “The only thing I was a little worried about was my balance. I was a little bit off balance.”

Related document

Box score: Kansas 77, Duke 75 ( .PDF )

That Mason was still on the floor to be the hero in the first place was a bit of a good fortune.

While Kansas came away with the victory, it hardly looked like the Jayhawks would finish in the winner’s circle when the two college basketball powerhouses fired up their engines to tip this one off.

Although Duke led 11-6 on the scoreboard at the first media timeout, the officials dominated the first five minutes of this one and kept up that pace most of the night. The Jayhawks and Blue Devils were whistled for 11 fouls in the first five minutes and each team had one starter with two fouls during that stretch. For the night, Kansas and Duke combined for 48 fouls, a number that was much smaller than it looked like it would be midway through the game.

Mason, who picked up his first foul in a series of back-to-back charge calls on him and Graham and his second on a dead-ball inbounds play by the Blue Devils, was forced to sit for five minutes of the first half. If not for that, Self said Mason, like Graham, also would have played the full 40 minutes.

“Hopefully we can get under 100 in the next two games,” Self said, referencing the combined 111 fouls in KU’s first two games. “But I thought we fouled, too. I didn’t think they were bad calls, I thought we fouled. And I’m sure (Duke) coach (Mike) Krzyzewski probably thought the same thing.”

None of those whistles mattered much down the stretch, when Duke erased a 12-point Kansas lead in the final eight minutes and tied the game on a three-pointer from freshman Frank Jackson on the wing with 15.5 seconds to play. The Blue Devils, like Indiana before them, out-shot Kansas from behind the three-point line, knocking in 8-of-19 triples compared to just a 2-of-17 clip for Kansas.

As much as that 11.8 percent sounded paltry, Self actually seemed pleased by it. But not for the reason you might think.

“I think it’ll do us some good,” Self said of the victory, calling it more of a must-win game for Kansas than it probably was for Duke. “For the first time we won a game when we shot it like crap — 2-of-17 from three, 9-of-19 from the (free throw) line — but they don’t get transition points and we controlled the glass. It’s not that complicated.”

KU won the rebounding margin 38-29, including a 14-6 advantage on the offensive glass.

In the end, though, all of those little statistics and silly fouls mattered little to the game’s biggest moment from, arguably, its brightest and baddest star.

Through two games of his senior season, Mason is off to a stellar start. He has led the Jayhawks in scoring twice and is averaging 25.5 points per outing and already hit two shots that will wind up on his career highlight reel.

Asked if that’s a sign of him progressing and maybe doing some things that he could not have done as a younger player, Mason joked that he was “not sure if I would’ve been in in my younger days.”

Doesn’t matter. He was in there when it counted Tuesday night — foul trouble be damned — and he came through, just as the Jayhawks knew he would.

“That was the exact play coach drew up,” Graham said. “(We were) super confident. The last three minutes we were just wasting time and putting the ball in his hands.”


By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

— See what people were saying about KU's matchup against Duke during KUsports.com’s live coverage.


More news and notes from the win against Duke


Comments

Steve Zimmerman

2 games already, I think we know who's the alpha dog in this team. FM3 is our leading scorer, leader of the pack. Now he needs to get those lobs converted into points easily, just like our '08 team. A bunch of guys can dunk in our team, it's ridiculous to not utilize them.
C'mon Frank, we need to see double double from you every game!!!

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

Any day Puke loses is a good day; the fact that it was Kansas that beat them makes it even better.

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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Mick Allen

Amazing win. We shoot 9 of 19 from the line, Duke shoots 21 of 30. We shoot 2 of 17 from 3, Duke hits 8 of 19. The disparity in free throws and 3 pointers is a plus 30 points for the Dukies. We won the ball game because our defense was tenacious the second half and are rebounding edge led by Udoka's 14 rebounds was significant. I don't know how significant Lucas's foot injury is, but his minutes will increasingly diminish if Udoka progresses as quickly as it appears he is. Would like to see him utilize the jump hook down deep as he can't dunk everything. Josh, the second half,demonstrated why he is so highly touted as he is so quick off the bounce going to the rim. He needs to control his emotions a bit, but in a way it showed how competitive he is.His demeanor and personality to date seem more aggressive than Wiggins, who often appeared laid back and unemotional. His free throw mechanics and Lightfoot's are bad. They both short arm the shot with little follow through. Josh will draw a lot of fouls and he needs to convert at least 70% of those. Vick and Bragg, who played only 16 minutes, played well, Bragg primarily in the last 5 minutes. Devonte was solid as always, although the cramping is perplexing. We won the ball game because the second half we hit the boards and played stifling KU defense, oh yeah and because we have Frank Mason, as tough, resilient,tenacious and competitive as any college player in the country and who I believed even as a freshmen, would go down as one of the elite point guards in KU history.

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jay Scott

That little cheerleader Graham is seen with seems to be wearing him out.

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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Mick Allen

Did not know that Jay. Are you saying the physicality of their relationship has taken Devonte's legs ? If true, that cheerleader must transfer to another school. Maybe we could set her up with Nadir.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Jay Scott

The kids tell me that Graham had what amounts to the #1 pick in the draft of the lovely ladies on campus. I'm not sure that Tharpe ever had that kind of mojo, except maybe with the older and crazier types.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Marius Rowlanski

I thought that maybe he had been hanging out with his posse too much lately.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Dennis Strick

Matt, See what you can find out about Landon's foot. It was obviously bothering him a lot last night and left him pretty ineffective. Better to rest him now for several weeks so he is ready for Big 12 play. It would also help Udoka get in better game shape with more game minutes. He could develop into a beast with a few less lbs and more stamina. He was struggling by the end of last night.

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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Beate Williams

I would really like to see Udoka make a play and not congratulate himself after such a play. Hopefully Self will get him to stop his shenanigans and run back down court. I realize he is young but he needs to learn that he does not have time to flex every time he dunks the ball.

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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LJ Gee

it was literally his first dunk ever in a college game and it was at a big moment in a huge game against the #1 team in the country and he hasnt even been playing basketball that long at all... You want him to act like he's been there before but he literally hasnt. Give the kid a break. Lets see if it becomes a trend or heck even happens a second time before we start nitpicking on a young guy who played a huge role in us winning a huge game.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Mick Allen

Agreed LJ.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Barry Weiss

Awesome game by the Jayhawks. The FT's and 3's will come back, I think that was just one of those games. No doubt Udoka has served notice he is ready to compete on the big stage. What a warrior he was battling inside. I would elevate him to starter now and let Landon heal up. I think his thumb or something must be injured too as he gets stripped of the ball every game at least once or twice, then the foot deal keeps him from being an aggressive rebounder. I think he should rest and come off the bench.

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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Thomas Green

This team obviously has a lot of talent, some already obvious, some yet to be developed. It will be fun to watch it develop and progress as the season goes. So many mistakes last night, yet the mental toughness and tenacity propelled the Hawks to a win! Seems to me this team has a high upside to develop an extremely tough mental attitude that may have been a little missing recently. I certainly hope so! Go KU!

4 months, 2 weeks ago

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F Steven Blazer

Did Lightfoot ever get fouled in high school? Looks like free throws are something he's never tried before. He's active around the rim, so will need to get this figured out pretty quick.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Jay Scott

How many FT's have you shot on national TV at MSG against Duke?

4 months, 1 week ago

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F Steven Blazer

Only a few, Jay. But I don't think he has made one in either exhibition game or against IU.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Jay Scott

he's made 7...

4 months, 1 week ago

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Mick Allen

As stated before, both Jackson and Lightfoot seem to short arm their free throws, with little or no follow threw. Neither appear to pronate their wrist on the release. Josh will be fouled a lot. He needs to shoot 70% from the line. Mitch was active and is more athletic than I gave him credit for. Our "shooting coach" Townsend, will and needs to work with them on their shot release.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Suzi Marshall

Through in Azubuike in the mix and Townsend has his hands full.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Michael Sillman

Mason should be humble about his winning shot because he's the player who allowed Duke to tie the game. He unnecessarily dropped off Jackson into the lane to give him a wide open three.

Self needs to fix his three point defense. This happens way too often.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Jay Scott

Mikey. Do you work with other humans? I have actual grown adult employees. They don't always do what they're asked to. I can't imagine trying to manage college kids in this type of split second high stress environment.

Do you think Coach Self's instructions were to roam away from 3 point shooters? No.

Mason held his primary defensive assignment, the preseason POY fave to 4-15 while going 8-13 himself. It was his "fault" the game was tied?

You sir, have no clue.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Mick, you said it all. Despite the poor shooting from 3 and the foul line, KU persevered, and several players showed how much they are going to help this team. Mason and Graham were always a given, and Josh was assumed to be a given. The play of Udoka, LaGerald, and Svi (despite missing a dead layup) were key for the future.

Udoka's potential production is off the charts as a rim protector and a rebounder (12 in 15 minutes), and I really expect him to provide a clear offensive threat as well. His minutes will definitely increase, even if Landen is fully healthy. Not a knock on Landen, as I love him to death. However, his skill set just isn't as diverse as Udoka's.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Barry Weiss

Agreed Harlan. Landen is a valuable part to this team no doubt, but the future is Udoka. The sooner we can get him into the starting line up, the better. Not only was his progress from game one to this hugh, his intensity is something we have not seen at the 5 position is a very long time. He is a stud rim protector, rebounder and dunker. Obviously still raw in some areas, but giving him a starting role before conference starts could be the final piece this team needs. The guards are set, the wings are set.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Layne Pierce

As far as bench goes, Svi is doing a lot more things, a couple of great assists, and even though
he blew the easy layup, he had to be a beast to even get his hands on the rebound. If he will rebound like that when we need it, that will be big.

Vick, is just gonna get better and better. He has a drive and shoot game, can play defense, and rebound.

Big Ud is Frankenstein, man. The monster has been awakened. His presence alone is a problem for a lot of teams. He just has to not foul and let the game come more to him.

But as a whole, the bench looks really good.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Mike Greer

Even when they weren't playing well as a whole, it was a fun and exciting game to watch. Josh provided intensity that we haven't seen from a freshman in a while, while Frank is so intense all the time, you can tell neither of these two like to loose.

Devonte made an acrobatic shot while almost falling down, that was just spectacular and a showpiece of his incredible athleticism.

Svi had that incredible rebound, even though he missed the easiest shot of his life afterwards, and he made some precision passes that were impressive.

Vick was all over the court, made some good dribble drives that were impressive given his limited playing time last year, he was better than expected and I expected him to be good.

Carlton had flashes of greatness on a couple of dunks, so he too is making progress.

My one surprise of the game was Doak. He's still raw talent, but, he was impressive for just the second game of the season and his college carrier. This guy was an issue for Duke when he was just standing still. He hustled after rebounds, even ran the court, only to miss and then dunk the rebound, I think he was trying to double count the play, haha.

There were moments of brilliance and when all that talent gels in one game, I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Michael Sillman

Sorry Jay but I would not expect a senior to make that mistake at a critical juncture of the game. Ahead by three with the clock running down you don't leave a shooter open at the 3 point line. Bilas commented on it at the time. I'm very happy that Mason pulled the game out of the fire but I'm sure Self would not want that defensive lapse to happen in a tournament game.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Jay Scott

"I'm sure Self would not want that defensive lapse to happen in a tournament game."

Do ya think?

Mason is 22. NBA players make those mistakes at 35.

It's estimated that up to 3.7 million people are given the wrong medication or dosage by their pharmacist each year. Is that the fault of their supervisors?

4 months, 1 week ago

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Micky Baker

If we would have hit just 40% of the 3's and 70% from the line, we would have won by 18 to 20. Would have made a huge statement. If we fix those things and play defense like we did in the second half last night, watch out.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Jay Scott

Duke fans are convinced that with their hyped frosh in the lineup instead of matching boy band suits that they win by 20.

Does their 20 pt woulda subtract a KU 20 pt coulda still equal a 2 point Jayhawks win?

4 months, 1 week ago

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Mike Greer

Hopefully the next time we meet Duke, the boy band will be playing. Also by then Jackson will be at full potential, Az will fill the monster shoes, Svi and Vick will have a season of playing time, Bragg will have figured out his role, and we won't need to depend on Frank and Demonté to hit a game saver at the end.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Noah Oone

Correct. What we have seen so far is not the finished product. Probably hovering near 50%

4 months, 1 week ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Your're absolutely right, Layne. That's why I mentioned Svi, because I suspected that there might be some negative comments about his missed layup. His first half pass inside for a layup was a fantastic assist.

4 months, 1 week ago

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