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'That's a bad boy': Ochai Agbaji's 37-point outburst helps 5th-ranked Kansas survive No. 13 Texas Tech in double-overtime thriller

Kansas forward K.J. Adams (24), Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) and Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) celebrate  the Jayhawks' 94-91, triple-overtime win against Texas Tech on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Energy, effort and physicality were non-issues for the fifth-ranked Kansas men’s basketball team in Monday’s rematch with No. 13 Texas Tech.

Finishing, however, was.

Despite watching Texas Tech erase a 12-point second half lead in the final minute of regulation, KU survived 94-91 in double-overtime at Allen Fieldhouse behind a hard-charging effort in all aspects of the game. The win helped the Jayhawks avenge one of their two losses on the season.

Kansas senior Ochai Agbaji likened Monday's victory to what the Kansas City Chiefs had just delivered one night earlier.

“When it went to overtime I was like, ‘It’s like the Chiefs game. They won at all costs and we have to do the same thing,'" Agbaji said after the victory.

As he has done so often this season, Agbaji led the Jayhawks (17-2 overall, 6-1 Big 12), but his teammates also did their part to provide the kind of defensive support and street-fight scrappiness that led to victory.

“It was a great game," said KU junior Christian Braun after the victory. "Ochai was huge, as he has been in every game we’ve played in, but that was probably his best performance of the year.”

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KU 94, Texas Tech 91, 2OT ( .PDF )

Of course, Agbaji’s career-high 37 points and seven 3-pointers, along with him delivering the biggest highlights of the night, did not hurt the way the raucous home crowd took in Monday’s victory.

With KU leading by 10 with just under 7 minutes to play, Agbaji caught a lob from Christian Braun and simply rose above the Texas Tech defender, who was in good position by the rim, to flush an alley-oop and give Kansas a 12-point lead.

As he came back down to the Fieldhouse floor, Agbaji displayed a smile as big as his hops.

“So much fun," he said of Monday's thriller. "Those are the best games to win.”

No play was bigger than Agbaji’s 3-pointer to tie the game with 7.3 seconds remaining in overtime that set the stage for double-OT.

Asked if anyone else on the Kansas roster would've taken that shot in that moment, Braun was honest.

“Well, if they were open," he said. "But there’s nobody we wanted more than Ochai to take that shot.”

And he drilled it.

It wasn't just the shot that impressed Kansas coach Bill Self, though that was a big part of it.

Agbaji played 46:25, made 13 of 23 shots — including 7 of 12 from 3-point range and added seven rebounds to his 37 points.

“It was a great win," Self said. "We played a terrific team that played terrific. We didn’t play great, but we played good, and we had one guy go off. I think that we can play better. But I don’t know if an individual can play better (than Agbaji). I don’t know if I remember us ever having an individual play better than that.”

Freshman forward KJ Adams who logged some massive minutes in the second overtime while grabbing three rebounds and a huge tip-in, summed up Agbaji's night in a slightly different way than his head coach.

“All that was going through my mind was, ‘That’s a bad boy,'" Adams said of Agbaji. "He really does what he does, and I really think he’s the best player in America. He’s just working hard and it’s showing now, all his hard work.”

KU trailed in the first overtime period by five points on two separate occasions but just kept coming until Ochai got enough room to bury the game-tying/saving shot in front of the Kansas bench.

“I was kind of blocked, but it went in. I saw it go in just a little bit," Agbaji said of his clutch shot. "I wasn’t really reacting after that because I was so tired and (it didn’t) matter because we were going to (double) overtime. I was just like let’s get a stop here and get to overtime.”

The surge of both confidence and adrenaline that came as a result of getting it to the second OT helped KU control the majority of the second extra frame.

The Jayhawks opened Monday’s game with a surge of emotion, adrenaline and offense racing out to a 5-0 lead behind a 3-pointer by Agbaji and a two-handed hammer dunk from David McCormack.

Texas Tech’s Bryson Williams (33 points) traveled on the possession that followed the dunk and, in that moment, Allen Fieldhouse was essentially bursting at the seams with noise and emotion. It was a stark contrast to the lethargic approach that got the Jayhawks in trouble in their 75-67 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, on Jan. 8.

It also was short-lived. Ninety seconds after KU claimed a 5-0 lead, Williams brought things back to a murmur with a 3-pointer that tied the game.

Kansas maintained the upper hand throughout the next several minutes, with Harris, Mitch Lightfoot, Martin and Agbaji all scoring buckets to give KU a 13-9 lead.

The stretch lacked efficiency, though. KU fell victim to a handful of empty possessions, a few turnovers and a little Texas Tech success. What was crystal clear throughout the first half and much of the game was that KU wanted to play as fast as possible, disinterested in letting the vaunted Texas Tech defense get set.

Never was that more evident than late in the first half when Agbaji scooped up a loose ball after a Texas Tech miss and, while standing sideways, launched it ahead to a sprinting Braun, who did the rest with a finger roll at the rim to put Kansas up 36-30 at the break.

While the halftime break offered both teams a breather from the slugfest on the floor, all of that air was gone by the first media timeout of the second half.

Williams scored seven quick points in the second half for the Red Raiders and the two teams combined for 25 points in the first 4:10 of the second frame.

While that made it seem like the defense slipped, most of those points came as the result of second-chance points and tenacious effort by both teams, a la KU’s showing in the second half at Kansas State last weekend.

KU now has won five in a row since losing at Tech earlier this month. The Jayhawks will return to Allen Fieldhouse at 5 p.m. Saturday to play host to No. 14 Kentucky in this year’s Big 12/SEC Challenge. ESPN’s College Gameday will be in Lawrence for the battle of the blue bloods.

Asked to sum up what this one, and so many other grinders like it, has done for the psyche of this Kansas basketball team, Agbaji pointed to gains in poise and confidence.

“I was telling CB after the game in the locker room, whether we’re down five, down six, down three, down two, don’t count us out," Agbaji said. "We have the offensive ability and that defensive mindset to get stops.”

Added Braun: “Both teams made great plays down the stretch. We just made one more. ... There’s no choice but to win these games at home and we did that.”

Comments

Rodney Crain

Great game. These close games are going to pay off down the stretch and in March.

Remy really struggles on defense, it did not hurt us too much tonight, but he looks lost out there.

Looks like we got an All American playing for us, who has ice water for blood. He was outstanding tonight!

Matt just pencil him in as top player every game and see if anyone else can beat him out.

RCJH

8 months ago

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Gary McCullough

I think you're being too harsh with Remy. He made some great defensive moves tonight getting several offensive fouls on TTU guards. And he had several great passes that were money. I think Remy had the best game of the season, and hopefully as his knee gets stronger, his game will step up too.

8 months ago

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Stuart Swaziek

Remy was a spark on offense last night. I feel pretty confident when he has the ball in his hands and it looks like his defense is improving.

8 months ago

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Blake Brown

Agreed on all points

8 months ago

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Rodney Crain

Gary he is a train wreck on defense. He left his man on 5 straight possessions at one point. The announcers said maybe it was due to his sore knee, a KU reporter on twitter said he was having an off night on defense. It did not hurt us, we either rebounded, or they made the shot. He sinks way to deep and tries to help out around the rim. He can't help himself. If their bigs looked for an open shooter we could have lost in a close game like this. He helped on offense but he can not play defense.

8 months ago

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Keith Gellar

close games are good if we actually learn something from them. We've had 3 close games which could have gone either way and just so happened the ball bounced our way. Looking at law of averages, i don't know how long this will last.

We've been very lucky and sometimes you need that, but i hope we aren't using up all of our lives here and have some "luck" saved in the tank for the tourney.

8 months ago

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Michael Maris

OA is a solid player and worthy of AA consideration. However, that ICE needs to show up @ the FT line as well..... Probably wouldn't have had to go into OT if he's 6-8 or 7-8 on made FT shots

OA's FT shooting even frustrated Self.....

8 months ago

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Barry Weiss

What a great game and win. You simply can't lose at home in this league. Once again we hammered the opponent on the boards. Great double double by JW again. Ochai the Great was...great!

My only beef is, I would start Remy over Harris. At least flip their minutes. Remy played 22 and Harris 31. Our offense went dead in that second half stretch when Remy was on the bench. He can simply break down a defense much better than Harris. I love Harris, but we need Remy to open things up for the others. His ability to penetrate is far greater than Harris. In his fewer minutes he still had more assists and rebounds than Harris. Harris also gets backed into the basket by the opponent who then scores right over him. Anyway, I'm not the coach, but I think we are a better team with Remy out there. I noticed the crowd went wild when he first came in. They love him.

8 months ago

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Dale Rogers

Close on JW but nobody in this game had a double-double. JW had 9 and 11. Still, a nice game.

8 months ago

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Benjamin Shear

Obiter Dictum:

*Wow! What a game. That's the most points KU has scored in the first half this season in league play. I am most impressed by the toughness displayed by the entire team.

*Ochai was just amazing. He truly is elite and at a different level than everyone else. Him making the go ahead 3 pt shot with 7 seconds left in OT was epic.

*Agbaji was 7-12 from 3 pt. The rest of the team was 1-11. Ouch.

*Braun managed to score 15 points on terrible shooting. Kudos to him for getting aggressive on the dribble drive to go 6-7 from the charity line.

*KU led for 39:46 of the game. TTech only led for 6:26.

*One thing is clear; there are no easy wins in the Big 12 this year. Not at home, not on the road. Truly amazing how deep this league is.

*KU is the best offensive team in the Big 12 and the worst defensively. It's an odd thing for a Self team. Seems like recently we've struggled more on the offensive end.

*We got 23 points, 11 boards from DMac, Lightfoot, and KJ. Not bad. I can't remember exactly, but somewhere I read that we are undefeated in games where DMac gets like more than 12 points or something.

*Can we stop for a minute and marvel at how good Wilson is at getting rebounds? If he scored one more point he'd have a double double. 11 boards for that guy. Awesome.

*KU only made 17% of attempted FGs in the 2nd OT. We won based on defense and FTs.

*The goal tending call was sus, but so was the call where it was obviously off Braun, but they gave it to KU. Being a ref must be hard. It's easy to criticize them from my living room, but I don't envy them.

8 months ago

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Steve Zimmerman

the worst defensively? naaah..

8 months ago

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Benjamin Shear

Actually, yes. Using the Pomeroy adjusted D rating, KU has the #50th best defense in the country. Every single Big 12 school is rated higher.

8 months ago

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Micky Baker

I am going to air some frustration. Free throws! It was frustrating to see 4 or 5 free throws missed near the end of the regulation and then in OT. Braun needs to get better at setting his feet and catching the ball in the triple threat position. He threw up some bricks. He'll get better I'm sure. Adams had a big impact on this game. I am confused why Remy sat so much during the second half and OT. He broke down TT's defense in the first half a few times resulting in scores for us. Maybe it is his knee that is still bothering him.

One other major thing regarding free throws is with Ochai. He needs to work on his free throws. He is a good enough shooter to be 80% plus from the line and he missed some in clutch situations. If he can improve on that, it will probably move to the top spot of National POY candidates going down the stretch.

Saturday is a big, big game for us. Not just because we are playing Kentucky, but the guys have 5 days to get their legs back underneath them and we need to sharpen up a couple of areas. One is free throws, which I have mentioned already. The other is defending the drive into the lane. Communication is needed, and all guys need to have their eyes on the ball and rotate quicker.

8 months ago

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Gary McCullough

Ochai reminds me of Robert Redford's Sundance Kid when he couldn't hit a target standing still, but if he moved he could drill the shot. The thing about free throws is you're running flat out for several minutes, then stop and shoot a 15 footer with the outcome of the game on the line. Your heart is probably pounding, the PHOG is rockin', coaches and players are yelling instructions back and forth. And the player has to settle down, focus, and shoot. If it were easy, we'd all be playin'

8 months ago

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Micky Baker

I don't think it's easy, but Ochai can improve on it with practice. He scored 37 points, and he would have scored fewer if he had hit one more in regulation or in the first OT. He doesn't have to be perfect, but I think 80% is a reasonable goal to reach for him with his abilities.

8 months ago

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Dirk Medema

Ochai had two of those 1 of 2 FT trips when they were cutting the lead in the second half, but hard to criticize when he’s otherwise so epic and brings home the W. 46 is a lot of minutes, especially against TTU.

8 months ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Our team relies on Ochai day in day out. Period. He's no doubt the best player in the team. The only one that has guts and makes it. The rest, it's tough to say. Remy could've been my next offense key, but coach BS benched him and let CB in the game - I guess that worked. Amazing game it was. KJ played like big man, bigger than McCormack. Seriously. We need to groom KJ - play him more minutes. It'll benefit the team in the long run. He's ready. He's smart and at least doesn't have smooth silky palms like McCormack. I couldn't remember, but I thought having Remy & Harris in the game was the reason we're up by 12. But then, our offense was just so bad. Back to back TOs from CB. But at least he made up by making FTs & assists. That was a sick lobster!!! TT is not easy to win against. It's a great win. ROCK CHALK!!!

8 months ago

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Bryce Landon

What an unbelievable basketball game! That was the most exciting home game KU has played so far this season, the most exciting home game since KU's win over Creighton last year, and the most exciting Big 12 home game KU has played since the triple-OT win over Oklahoma in 2016. Seriously, was anyone else having flashbacks to the 2016 OU game? I alternated between the edge of my seat and being on my knees from after the under-4:00 timeout of the second half through both overtimes, and I was so giddy with excitement and exhilaration afterwards that I didn't get to sleep until well after 1:00 in the morning Eastern time.

There's no question about it: Ochai Agbaji has been in BEAST MODE the past two games. Like Danny Manning of old, he has put this KU team on his back and single-handedly willed them to victory when all the odds were against the Jayhawks. First he brought them back from down 17 against KSU on Saturday and won that game in the final minute, and now he came through in the clutch when KU needed a big basket to send the game into double overtime. He is the toughest player on our team, bar none. I can easily see Ochai's jersey being added to the Allen Fieldhouse rafters one day.

And all the credit in the world to Mark Adams and Texas Tech. Adams' team was well-prepared, smart, disciplined, tough as nails, and poised throughout the game. Adams might have a case for best new coach in the conference. I can see them making a deep run into the NCAA Tournament - not as deep, perhaps, as in 2019 when they took Virginia to overtime in the title game before losing, but perhaps to the Elite Eight.

For much of the season, I have complained about the Jayhawks' lack of toughness, but I think after an amazing come-from-behind win at KSU and a gritty 2-OT thriller over TTU, I think it's finally safe to say that this crop of Jayhawks has figured out what it means to be tough. And if they can maintain that level of toughness, I think we have a chance to be playing meaningful basketball the first weekend of April.

ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!

8 months ago

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Tony Bandle

Random Thoughts:

1] If the Chiefs and Hawks keep this up, I won't survive to my 74 birthday.

2] Did anyone else know that this was "National Overtime Week"?

3] I think Mitch better find a good spot on the bench after watching Mr. Adams last night.

4] The news that Dick Vitale has to stop talking was {Fill in your own comments].

5] Ochai needs to take jump shots at the foul line like Hal Greer from the old PHIL 76'rs.

6] Gosh, I really like the Tech coach......no lack of toughness on that team!!

7] Next up, the Wildcats.......we'll destroy them!!

8 months ago

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Jonathan Allison

"1] If the Chiefs and Hawks keep this up, I won't survive to my 74 birthday."

If Meat Loaf can make 74, you shouldn't start to get concerned till 85.

8 months ago

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Andy Godwin

“Survive and advance”. The Big 12 is a gauntlet. KU is clearly not head and shoulder above the rest of the Big 12, but they have a coach who has a great feel for the game and a player who can carry the team when needed. To reawaken a saying from the past, this team feels like “Ochai Agbaji and the miracles”. This KU team has many defensive warts, but they still find a way to win. Yes, they blew a 12-point lead, and I was certain at that time that TTU had the momentum and were going to win, but instead the Jayhawks decided to give KU fans their money’s worth and play an extra 10 minutes. How the Jayhawks fare during the next couple of weeks (e.g., UK home, ISU away, Baylor home, Texas away, OU home, and OSU home) will speak volumes: will they separate themselves from the pack or will these close games go the other direction? Warning for the faint of the heart - be prepared for many more nail bitters. Rock Chalk.

8 months ago

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Robert Brock


I’m very impressed by Mark Adams. If he had a true point guard, the Red Raiders might cut down the nets in New Orleans.

8 months ago

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Blake Brown

What a game! And on the heels of the K-State game and then the Chiefs. A great 3 pack. There`s more to come. How wonderful it is to be a Jayhawk fan.
Rock Chalk!

8 months ago

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David Robinett

The Assassin has arrived.

8 months ago

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mccormack is a train wreck. that last rebound he let go thru his hands?' are you kidding me?! he almost single handedly let them get back in it. jfc. nice dub

8 months ago

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Kyle Neuer

There were a few guys that needed stuckum on their hands, but him not being out there at the end is not a good sign.

8 months ago

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Blake Brown

The fact that the guy who was out there on thew floor in his place did a great job was a good sign, but I agree, our best destiny is having him on the floor and performing at least decently on both ends of the court. Happy to see him make the free throws, but.....

8 months ago

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Bj Cassady

About FT when I played I was lousy at free throws. My teammate (POY) helped me a lot. He said you make 35 foot shots and you misfire on 15 foot free throws let's figure that out. He watched me shoot 100 FTs and pointed out a small technical problem. I fixed it and went from a 50% FT shooter to an 88% FT shooter and 85% career average. Ochai probably has the same minor issue. If he can shoot 57% from 3pt range and only 50% from the line, something is amiss either mentally or physically.
What I liked about Remy playing was the energy he brought to the offense. The team played better when he was in. I do not know if he can substain it or not but he did a good job.
Wilson played fantastic as did CB. We would not have won without DMac and his excellent FT shooting and presence.

8 months ago

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Micky Baker

I like what Remy did on offense too, plus the two charges that he drew on TT. Free throws are important for the stretch run. DMac was the most clutch on free throws last night for sure. And I think maybe we need to get some plays in there because I think other teams are going to stop switching off Ochai. If other teams will not switch off him, exploit that but it would probably have to be when he is at the top of the key so his defender can be trapped between two screeners and create some mismatches that Ochai can exploit for drives or jumpers. Just a thought.

8 months ago

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