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10th-ranked Jayhawks bounce back from tough home loss with complete road win at Iowa State

Kansas guard Christian Braun (2) celebrates ahead of Iowa State guard Gabe Kalscheur (22) and forward Robert Jones (12) after making a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. (AP PhotoCharlie Neibergall)

Ames, Iowa — With the Big 12’s leading scorer back in Lawrence with COVID and the conference’s preseason player of the year in street clothes on the bench, the 10th-ranked Kansas basketball team needed every available body to step up to survive No. 20 Iowa State at Hilton Coliseum.

And that’s exactly what the Jayhawks got.

From strong efforts by starters Dajuan Harris Jr., Jalen Wilson and David McCormack to unexpected production from a couple of reserves who were thrust into bigger roles than ever before, the Jayhawks left Iowa with one of those total team wins — 70-61 over the Cyclones on Tuesday night.

It also was their fourth Big 12 road win in five tries so far this season.

“To win without Ochai, and then not have Remy, too, it meant a lot,” said Kansas coach Bill Self of senior guards Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin.

Agbaji missed the trip altogether after testing positive for COVID over the weekend. But he still found a way to impact the outcome from afar.

“We knew what we were missing,” KU junior Christian Braun said after the victory. “But he called us (before the game) and told us what he thought we should do and we knew what to do. We knew what the job was and we got it done.”

McCormack delivered 14 points and 14 rebounds in 31 minutes and Harris added 14 points, eight assists and three steals in what Self said was probably Harris’ best game of the season.

But Self tossed seldom-used reserve Joe Yesufu into the conversation as one of the three players who “carried” the Jayhawks on Tuesday night, with Yesufu playing 23 minutes off the bench and scoring seven points to go along with five rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Related document

Box Score: Kansas 70, Iowa State 61 ( .PDF )

“Joe was great,” Braun said. “He’s similar to Remy. We’re confident in him and this was great to see.”

Yesufu said it was his defense that helped him calm down. Moments after checking in, he deflected a ball that stole the Jayhawks an extra possession and that allowed him to settle into the flow of the game, truly feeling as if he was a part of it.

“The kid was fearless after he got past the (first couple of trips up the floor),” Self said of Yesufu. “There in the first half, we only had guy that could dribble against their pressure. So getting Joe in there really helped take some pressure off Juan.”

The Jayhawks (18-3 overall, 7-1 Big 12) turned it over 16 times in the first half but, thanks to their defense, still led by six.

Making the start in place of Agbaji, former Cyclone Jalen Coleman-Lands had an opportunity to impact the game early and often.

After missing a reverse layup try on a back cut on KU’s fourth possession, Coleman-Lands made up for the poor decision with back-to-back 3-pointers — from basically the same spot — to put Kansas up 13-6.

Iowa State called timeout and the Jayhawks responded with a steal out of the timeout.

“That’s kind of what pushed us forward,” Braun said of Coleman-Lands’ early buckets. “Once J-Cole hit those two, you kind of felt it pick up a little bit and everybody was confident.”

KU followed up its hot start with a 5-minute scoreless drought that allowed the Cyclones to cut the KU lead to 13-10. But, despite the drought, KU never gave up the lead and actually extended it thanks to some big plays by McCormack and Harris, who combined to shoot 13-for-15 on the night, with McCormack going 7-for-7 from the floor.

Harris scored back-to-back buckets in transition — the second after a big block by McCormack — and also pilfered three first-half steals.

That duo combined for back-to-back buckets a little later in the half to push KU’s lead to 23-14, and it grew to 10 (24-14) on a free throw by KJ Adams following an offensive rebound.

That was merely a sign of things to come.

Kansas played with a double-digit lead for much of the second half, including holding a 14-point lead with as late as :51 to play. Kansas never trailed in this one, forcing a stop on the opening possession and taking a 2-0 lead on a bucket inside by McCormack that gave Kansas the lead for the remaining 39 minutes and 22 seconds.

Self said electing to start with Coleman-Lands in Agbaji’s spot was an easy decision.

“But it was also a no-brainer to go with Joe to finish,” Self added.

The closest Kansas came to losing control came midway through the second half, when the Cyclones cut what was a 12-point KU lead down to five (44-39) with 13:04 to play. The building was rocking, the Jayhawks were on their heels and the outcome was hanging in the balance.

But on the very next possession Yesufu drilled a 3-pointer from the corner — one of his two makes on the night — to push the Kansas lead back to eight. Three minutes later, after a bucket inside by Mitch Lightfoot, the visitors’ lead was back to a dozen.

“There was no option,” said Braun when asked if he sensed that KU’s entire roster would step up. “The team didn’t bat an eye.”

Added McCormack: “We just had the next-man up mentality. We kind of (rallied) behind (Agbaji’s absence). He (wanted) this one as bad as we do. He just wasn't able to participate in it. So it meant more to get it for him since he can’t participate.”

Self said the tough road win without two of their most experienced players spoke “volumes” about the Jayhawks’ character.

He also said, before the game, that, without those two seniors, it would be up to another one — McCormack — to find a way to lead the team to victory.

Whether it was through his production on the stat sheet, his unrelenting hustle on the court or his two emphatic blocks and a season-high 31 minutes, McCormack showed he was up for the challenge in any and every way imaginable.

“Like coach said, it was on me,” McCormack said after the victory. “Since we didn’t have one of our best players, we needed to find a way to get the second-chance shots, get open looks, and coach preaches that when you get second-chance opportunities, look out to the perimeter and I think that's what I tried to do.”

That mindset allowed everyone to be a part of this one and the Jayhawks left Ames with smiles and a complete sense of accomplishment.

“We knew we had to do it as a unit,” Braun said. “(Self’s) most important message was, if you want to replace a guy that’s the national player of the year, you have to do it collectively. There’s not one person that can step up and score 20 more points than they normally do. We just knew that if we did it as a team, collectively, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

Added Self: “Iowa State didn’t play great tonight. Hopefully we had a little bit to do with that. But that’s a team ranked 20th in the country and we (went) on the road and (won) without our best player. … It was a good team win.”

Next up, Kansas will return home to host No. 8 Baylor on Saturday in a clash between the two teams at the top of the Big 12 standings. The Jayhawks currently have a half-game lead over Baylor and they’re hoping to have Agbaji back for that one.

“It will meet protocol for him to come back, as long as he can pass everything else,” Self said.

Tipoff is slated for 3 p.m. on ESPN.

Comments

Barry Weiss

DMac is back! What a monster game! Keep it up big guy! Great road win Jayhawks!

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Gauntt

Where is Bryce to tell us Self needs to be fired - LOLOLOL

Great job - we always have a tough time at Hilton, so this was a great win.

Despite what Bryce will say.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

Just because KU won tonight doesn't make Bill Self any less of an underachiever, especially when the calendar flips to March. His 3-5 record in Elite Eight games (3-7 if you count his time at Tulsa and Illinois) speaks for itself, and in six of KU's last seven tournament losses, the Jayhawks lost by double digits. He was not worthy of the lifetime contract, and definitely should not have gotten such a deal after such a piss-poor season like last year and that god-awful showing against Southern California.

Don't get me wrong, it was sweet to beat Iowa State, but Bill Self isn't getting paid millions of dollars to beat Iowa State; he's getting paid that money to take KU to Final Fours - and he's only done that three times in nearly nineteen seasons. He hasn't even made the Sweet 16 since 2018. That's not worthy of a lifetime contract.

If you want to verbally make love to Bill Self's butthole, knock yourself out; but as for myself, I am going to continue acknowledging reality, and the reality is that Self is an underachiever who should not have been given a lifetime contract.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Len Shaffer

Bryce, it's not nearly 19 seasons, it's nearly 18. Obviously 2020 doesn't count, since there was no tournament that year. And that team was one of the most dominant that Self has had, so there's a good chance that he could have gotten that one to at least the Final Four.

The Final Four is the supposed metric, but getting to the Elite 8 is not exactly a minor accomplishment, and he's gotten KU there 8 times in 17 years. That's pretty damn good.

You also can't disregard the regular season record. Obviously postseason is more important, but his winning percentage is phenomenal and that has to count for something as well.

The fact is that he's easily one of the five best coaches in the country, and if you don't see that, I feel sorry for you.

I believe this has been broached before, but if KU were to fire Self (and thank God they're not idiotic enough to actually do that), who would you suggest they hire in his place? Also keep in mind that even if you can name someone who could replace him, it's doubtful that person would want to come to KU after they were foolish enough to fire Self.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

Billy Donovan. Dude has more Final Fours and more national titles from his time at Florida - a football school, mind you - than Self does at Kansas, a basketball school. Also, he did well for himself with the Oklahoma City Thunder, he's the rare coach who can coach successfully in the college and pro ranks.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Matt Gauntt

LOL - that there would be called a unicorn. Easy to put that up because there is no way Donovan is going to leave the NBA. So, now we can clearly see that you are either goofing on everyone or you have no idea what you are talking about......or most likely both.

Just stop already....you're clowning yourself.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

And don't tell me Self would have gotten the 2020 team to the Final Four if the tournament had been held. It's just as likely he would have screwed that up too like he did with other teams that dominated the regular season like the 2010 team.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Keith Gellar

1000% agree w/ Bryce! Unfortunately, there's 2 classes of Jayhawk fans - those that are ok with mediocrity and living on past accomplishment like Len and those (like myself and Bryce) who would like to see us win actual titles.

Bill has underachieved. Seems like we were uber competitive around the 2008-2012 time frame but after that, bill self has hit cruise control and is in the HOV lane.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Shannon Gustafson

You must be one of those people that think the best team wins the title every year. That only happens probably 10% of the time. All the other times, the best team "underachieves" by your definition. KU has been one of the most successful programs over the last 1, 3, 5, 10, 15, or 20 years. Doesn't matter what metric you look at, KU is near the top (or at the top). If that's what you call mediocrity then I feel sorry for you as your day to day life must be downright depressing. You should probably talk to some fans from Maryland or Oklahoma State or K-State about what mediocrity really is.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Keith Gellar

@Matt - we beat ISU. Calm down. No need to go thumping your chest in the faces of the rest of the Big 12. Come back and post this when we actually win a title.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

Welp, I guess it's time for me to hold my mouth wide open so everybody else can jam some crow and humble pie down my esophagus. When I heard that Ochai was going to miss the game because of COVID, I got on here and commented that there was no way we win this game without him. How wrong I was. Not only did we win, but we led from start to finish! Seems like everyone stepped their game up a notch, and none more so than DaJuan and D-Mac; those guys were beasts!

As the world's biggest Iowa State hater, beating them is always satisfying, but beating them in Shames, and especially given our leading scorer was sidelined, makes this win extra sweet.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk, and to hell with Iowa State!

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

22 TOs, but nevertheless, our guys played with focus and, agreed with Bryce, all players busted their butts. We won because of determination, we won because of good defense, and most importantly, we won without Ochai or Remy. That's a heck of accomplishment - against a good team. The best performance out of our team this far. Let's continue sharing the ball, as a team, we can beat any team (except those with more athletic playas.. :)

ROCK CHALK!!!!

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Chad Smith

I really feel like yesufu needed more playing time. dude was lighting it up with drake last year. granted, he's what a sophomore. but last year I remember marveling at his quickness and while I get he needed to improve defensively, he also needs some legitimate playing time. he had 7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals. pretty good stat line if you ask me for a guy who hasn't played much. he did a little bit of everything. him and Juan defending the perimeter was excellent tonight.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Rather than a mouth wide open for humble pie, I’d guess most people would prefer a mouth closed.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Len Shaffer

Good one!

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Chad - It was good to see Joe step up and take advantage of the opportunity. The opps have been there in the past but he hasn’t stepped up. Super excited for him and the potential he brings to the team.

Most of us will never know what goes on in practice and behind closed doors, but there’s lots of indications that Coach is a master at pushing the right buttons with players. Just part of why he’s got a lifetime contract.

With everything in life, there always two ways of commenting on anything; a positive and a negative. Some people seem predisposed to the negative. There was an article - prepandemic, about how Coach was also among the most elite coaches in most every metric, even if some will find a negative spin.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

DMac is back? Another question is whether he’ll be around for more than one game? He has been back before.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Rodney Crain

Agree Dirk. Until he strings a few games together he is question mark on if he is going to show up or not.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Barry Weiss

sadly, I agree. Just hoping this time it sticks.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dan Leftwich

I agree, consistency from David is critical. But, this game felt different. A couple of games ago, David bricked an 18 footer from the corner and it was obvious he needs to exorcize that shot from his brain. The 16-18 foot jumpers from the key are in his skill set and can be a huge benefit in certain situations. David's problems seem to come when he is playing back to the basket in traffic. He gets sped up, his hands aren't great and he gets stripped a lot or loses control of the ball at the rim. Stepping out, facing the basket, and hitting a couple of shots that are like free throws will do wonders for his game and the team.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Rodney Crain

Good win on the road without OA.

Which team shows up against Baylor?

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Micky Baker

Harris wit the 8 assists! 19 assists for the team. 12 steals as a team! And 30 defensive rebounds off of 37 misses for Iowa State. Yesufu with 7 points, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals off the bench on 23 minutes. DMac with a big rebound game and 100% FG percentage! Harris 75% FG percentage. Some key contributions in a hostile environment. The next game is big.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Andy Godwin

“Next man up”. Important win on the road and without Agbaji (5 to 7 days?) and Martin (out for an unknown period). The Jayhawks’ defense appeared better at stopping the dribble penetration last night.

Interesting observation, of the 18 players who logged minutes, only K.J. Adams (KU) and A. Kunc (ISU) did not have a turnover, so aggressive defensive by both teams. In the first half KU treated the basketball like a hot potatoe (17 turnovers). Overall, KU had 12 steals (as noted above), so only 1 of ISU’s 13 turnovers was “unforced”. In comparison ISU had 9 steals, so 13 of KU’s 22 TOs were considered unforced errors. Good win and now onto who will be leading the Big 12 after the game on Saturday against Baylor who lost to Alabama (87 to 78) on the road on Saturday and won a close one against WVU (81-77) on Monday. Hopefully, Agbaji will be healthy and available, if not more minutes for Coleman-Lands, Yesufu, and Pettiford. Rock Chalk.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Brian Leiker

Get him the Ivermectin.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Rae Bricil

round these parts i can't tell if this is a joke or serious.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Blake Brown

Great TEAM win. The depth we thought we had at the start of the season just showed up. Obviously, the big question is can we get that moving forward? The main goal as I see it for this team is to be CONSISTENT and so far, we`ve been consistently inconsistent.
As bad as we were against UK, a win against Baylor puts us up 2 games on the rest in the best conference in the country and we regain some credibility and respect.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jeff Kallmeyer

Best conference in the country? We lost 4-6 to the SEC! Unfortunately, I think the Big 12 is overrated.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Rodney Crain

- B10 has 6 more players on the wooden list than Baylor and KU, 1 a piece

- B10 and the SEC are playing better ball then the B12 - top to bottom

- B12 will likely only have 3 teams ranked next week. ISU and TX will drop out.

We are a tough conference, but not the best, nor the second best.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Keith Gellar

Good win! couple of observations;
1. How bad is ISU though? They couldn't even keep it competitive. This doesn't bode well for the "Big12 is tough" conference argument. If ISU cannot get their players ready to play teams of our caliber then there is no hope.
2. Is this what Bill Self wanted? Been reading a lot of posts about Bill Self playing 4D chess and the calculated move to lose to Kentucky (probably not by as much as we did), but beat ISU? I get it - his priority is the Big 12 championship, but to me - you beat Kentucky, Duke, MSU any chance you get. Recruits pay attention to that.
3. I predict we will beat Baylor this weekend and at Waco as well. I just don't see Baylor being at the level to compete against us. At the end of the day, Bill Self owns Scott Drew. And Lord only knows what Scott Drew did to get them a championship.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Bob Zielinski

I was hoping Pettiford would play better in the game. He definitely deserves some minutes and get a feel for the game. Yesufu was on last night and stepped up when Pettiford struggled. I like them both and I think we will rely on them more as the season goes.

Also, that Lyce Brandon guy is a doofus.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dan Leftwich

Pettiford seems like he is stuck in his own version of the movie Groundhog Day. Every game day he wakes up, Coach tells him he's going to get some minutes so calm down and show us what you can do. Then, within 1 minute something bad happens, he gets run over by the bus and out he goes. The guy has +++ speed and a decent handle, so eventually he will find a spot in the rotation and will make an impact. He's running out of time and patience for that to happen this year. I get the impression Coach Self is not a big fan of Groundhog Day.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Art Jefferson

With Dajuan Harris most likely our starting PG next year, and Kyle Cuffe Jr. coming off his redshirt, I hope neither Pettiford nor Yesufu jump in the portal.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Shannon Gustafson

Kyle is a few years away from being a great basketball player so he's not a threat to steal a spot from those guys. Kyle is an elite athlete but not much more right now.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Art - Kyle being available next year isn’t as worrisome to me about Joe as just him clicking at all. Coach likes to play 2 ballhandlers, so the 4 you mentioned are a 2 deep.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Are we the only school in the country where 70+% Ws, regular conference titles, and uninterrupted string of tournament appearances is considered mediocre?

Those are all good things that aren’t matched by anyone else. 300+ possibilities and no equal.

Negative people will be negative.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Keith Gellar

Dirk - who really cares? You hear tom brady or michael jordan talk about how many wins they have? how many tourney appearances they have? NO! and you won't because it doesn't matter. All that matters are titles! You want to be great - go win titles! Stop trying live off of past accomplishments. This mindset you have is the cancer we need to remove from KU fans. This mindset is exactly why bill self for his life time contract and is exactly why he will not change.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Shannon Gustafson

Titles are past accomplishments. Jordan and Brady are also from the past now so why do they matter? Why do you care how many KU has (or doesn't have) if they all happened in the past? Stop getting depressed off of past "underachievement" and "mediocrity". Your "we have to win all the games all the time or we're mediocre" is the exact type of fan we need to remove from the KU fanbase.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Art Jefferson

Thanks Dirk! You're right. Our guard core should be pretty good next year.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Allin Herring

I will give D Mack a thumbs up for a good game last night but to say he is back is going a bit too far. He has these good games when he is playing sub par bigs. You can say he is back when he has a good game against Baylor.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jeff Coffman

Dont forget 20 years only 1 week not ranked in the top 25.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Hmmmm? Is everyone that doesn’t have multiple titles mediocre?

As much as everyone wants to win titles, there are plenty of elite players that are smirking at the wannabes. I wonder what the distribution of titles amongst HOFers is?

If multiple titles, or at least one per decade is the minimum standard, are there more than a couple coaches/players that aren’t mediocre or worse?

Hmmmm, BillyD was lifted up as a non-mediocre alternative, but weren’t his two titles back to back because the players collectively decided to return? And that was how many years ago? “And what have you done for me lately?”

Seems like something between a strawman and an jr hi theater facade.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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Daniel Kennamore

Dirk, you may be happy when comparing the program to every other program in existence...but some of us think and expect a top 3 program to at least keep par with other blue-bloods.

3 months, 2 weeks ago

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