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A look back at some of the more overshadowed moments of Kansas' title-game win over UNC

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) defends against a drive from North Carolina guard Caleb Love (2) during the first half of the NCAA National Championship game on Monday, April 4, 2022 at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) defends against a drive from North Carolina guard Caleb Love (2) during the first half of the NCAA National Championship game on Monday, April 4, 2022 at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. by Nick Krug

By now, whether you watched it just once live, have watched a couple of replays since or simply can’t stop watching it at all, you’re well aware of all of the key plays in Monday’s 72-69 win over North Carolina that delivered Kansas the 2022 national title.

There were the two big buckets by David McCormack late. There was the defensive stand by Christian Braun on UNC’s final shot to tie the game. And there were the four 3-point makes by Remy Martin, including two absolute ice-in-your-veins swishes late in the second half.

But what about the plays that aren’t as well remembered or didn’t grab quite as much attention in the aftermath of the win and those aforementioned big moments that led to it?

Just about every game has plays like those. And this year’s national championship game was no different. While the plays listed above might have been the most critical, in a game where a team comes back from 15 down at the break, every single positive play winds up being huge.

Kansas had plenty of those in the second half and in this space we’ll look back at a few of the most overlooked on KU’s road to the cutting down the nets.

1 – Remy Martin’s late block

Arguably the biggest defensive play of the entire season, Martin was beat on the drive to his right by UNC sophomore Caleb Love and had to do some hand fighting to recover.

The officials let that go and Love still had a fairly clear path to the basket with less than a minute to play and UNC trailing by a point. A bucket here would’ve put all the pressure on the Jayhawks.

But, perhaps sensing that he would not get over in time to cut off the drive, Martin slipped behind love and blocked the shot from behind. Replays show that Love went up with the clear belief that he had a layup. But Martin swatted it out of bounds from behind to save the possession and allow KU to reset its defense.

On the very next play, with KU still leading by one, UNC big man Armando Bacot fell down on his drive to the rim, turning the ball over to Kansas, which got a bucket from McCormack to go up by three with 22 seconds to play.

For a guy known for his offense, who struggled mightily to play Kansas-level, Bill-Self-approved defense, this was a terrific play at a massive moment.

2 – Dajuan Harris Jr. forces the inbounds turnover

The second half started about as perfectly as it could for Kansas, with a stop and a score on the first two possessions.

But there was a play in there that didn’t actually end up leading to points for Kansas that looked, to me, like it played a huge role in the KU comeback and the UNC collapse.

Right after David McCormack scored on a lob to cut the lead to 40-27 — assistant coach Jeremy Case, who had the scout for the game, told me that play was his favorite, by the way — Harris forced a UNC turnover when Leaky Black stepped over the baseline before inbounding it while trying to get the ball to Caleb Love.

Love was hounded by Harris, who gave him nowhere to go. And Black’s momentum carried him onto the court without anyone to pass to, which led to the turnover.

As I mentioned, KU did not score off of this, but it happened right in front of me and the looks in the eyes of Love and Black led me to believe they knew the game was not in the bag. In fact, it looked as if the play took their soul and panic started to set in.

3 – Remy Martin’s hard drive to the rim to put KU up 65-61

In looking back at my running score sheet from this one, I noticed that all three of Martin’s 3-pointers in the second half broke ties. Incredible.

The first gave KU a 53-50 lead midway through the second half, marking the Jayhawks’ first lead of the game since 18-16 early in the first half. The second gave KU a 60-57 lead after UNC’s Puff Johnson had tied the game at 57 with a 3-pointer of his own. And the third, which has been the most shown and probably was the most incredible, pushed KU to a 68-65 lead after Martin drained a step-back 3 from the wing in front of the KU bench, over the outstretched arm of UNC big man Armando Bacot.

As clutch and incredible as all three of those shots were, Martin’s hard drive to the rim and finish through contact with his left hand might have been even wilder. UNC had just cut a four-point KU lead back down to two and the Jayhawks were trying to hang on. Martin, who had a somewhat rough first half, instantly flipped the switch to attack mode and scored the tough basket to push KU’s lead back to two possessions.

Although the Tar Heels wound up tying the game again — and even took a late lead — after that, Martin’s bucket made sure it didn’t happen any earlier and may have kept Carolina from wrestling back any of the momentum that KU had stolen.

Just for fun, since they didn’t end up hurting anything in the long run, let’s look back at three moments that didn’t go KU’s way that surely seemed agonizing at the time.

1 – Ochai Agbaji’s 1-for-3 trip to the FT line

In the two possessions after UNC’s RJ Davis scored on a third-chance bucket to put the Tar Heels back up by a dozen after a KU run early in the second half, KU got five quick points to cut the lead back down to seven.

That set the stage for Ochai Agbaji to draw a foul on Leaky Black on a 3-point attempt with Kansas trailing 45-38 with 14:50 to play. With KU stealing some of the momentum back, this moment seemed huge. Agbaji, the All-American senior leader, surely was headed to the line to cut the UNC lead to four. Until he wasn’t.

Agbaji missed the first and third of the three free throw attempts, even going as far as to say to himself, ‘Oh my God,’ after the first miss.

Agbaji finished 3-of-8 at the free throw line on the night, a stat line that may have haunted him and Kansas fans forever had the Jayhawks not made enough plays the rest of the way.

2 – Agbaji’s 3-pointer that went around, down and out with 11:25 to play and Kansas trailing 48-47

Despite the two free throw misses mentioned above, KU kept coming, trimming the lead to one on two occasions in the next 3:30 of game time.

Christian Braun was responsible for cutting it to one both times, and, after the second, following a UNC 3-point miss on the other end, Agbaji rose and fired from the wing to give Kansas the lead.

The ball rolled around the entire rim and even went down halfway before squirting out.

Even though the Jayhawks still had all of the momentum and more than 11 minutes remaining to get the job done, that miss seemed cruel in the moment, like one of those that shows you that no matter how hard you fight and how close you get, you just might not be able to get over the hump. KU did, of course. But no one knew it at that moment.

3 – David McCormack’s third foul

Part of the reason it seemed so obvious that McCormack should win Most Outstanding Player honors was because of how clear it was that Kansas was fine when he was on the floor and in trouble when he wasn’t.

UNC big man Armando Bacot was too much for the rest of the Jayhawks to handle consistently, and he had a terrific finish to the first half when McCormack sat with two fouls.

Then, 1:24 into the second half, McCormack was whistled for his third foul with a whole bunch of time still remaining and KU down by 13 points.

From my seat, it didn’t look like much of a foul. But I’ve talked to enough people who said he hit Davis pretty hard. That foul was the play that preceded the forced turnover by Harris mentioned above.

And the fact that Self chose to roll with McCormack despite the three fouls told you how dire the situation was for Kansas.

It turned out to be a genius move, McCormack played a massive role in the comeback and the win and McCormack fouled just once more in the 17:31 of court time he saw the rest of the game.

Comments

Blake Brown

I've reviewed the game many times and rewatched numerous plays and portions of the game and agree with all of your highlighted moments as being special and critical to the best outcome. Another one has to include Bacot re-spraining his ankle as it took him out of the game and left Manek to be the one who had to guard David and he was no match. David not only got off his 2 hooks easily, but gathered the rebound miss on the first one over a much shorter Manek.
Of course, there are some others too including missed opportunities such as Ochai bricking free throws and Jalen missing at least 4 layups in the first half as well as some wide open shots
Thanks Matt for contributing so much for this marvelous season and keeping the Jayhawk nation engaged and informed.

1 month, 1 week ago

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David Kelley-Wood

The one play that I'm glad we won't have to talk about, possibly for decades to come, is that botched inbounds play at the end. If UNC had managed to hit that 3-pointer, we'd have been looking at a reverse Mario. I can still hardly believe we blew it that badly. Was thinking at the time that we should've just lobbed it in to McCormack, maybe the easiest guy to get it in to. And, he'd been one of our best at the line, too, Of course, there are probably several good reasons I'm not getting the big bucks.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Tim Orel

Blake - the first McCormack rebound came over Manek and Bacot. Bacot was still out there and (relatively) healthy, but McCormack was fortunate with the bounce coming more his way and he just manhandled it into his hands to then go up over the two of them to get the bucket that put KU ahead. The second one happened after Bacot went down with his rolled ankle and Manek couldn't stop McCormack.

One thing not mentioned in those various points above was the flexing of the floor that may have caused Bacot to roll his ankle. It's painfully obvious the floorboards moved and I'm just glad no Jayhawks were caught by that. Since Bacot was the only one who was, maybe it took someone whose ankle was already weak and perhaps someone of Bacot's size to be hurt by that, but it definitely happened and was caught on video.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Brett McCabe

Matt, great column idea. Fun to read. What would be fun is to have a huge REWATCH party!

David: We might have actually gotten lucky that DaJuan stepped out. His pass was going to be a turnover to a lethal 3-point shooter.

This is one thing about sports….crazy stuff happens. Sherron out of control, turning into the greatest assist ever? Bacot going down at literally the worst possible time ever? I don’t call it luck because that is disrespectful to the people who play the game. The intensity of these moments brings out exceptional events.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Bryce Landon

David, this is in reply to your comment, since the REPLY buttons haven't been working since comments were "fixed" on this site. (Hey Journal-World, can we get the job done right, please?)

I agree that it's great we don't have to talk about the botched inbounds. Otherwise, DaJuan Harris might have become the Pervis Pasco of Jayhawk basketball.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Matt Tait

Hey, Bryce. We've asked our developers to do the job right, twice now, and I've been staying on 'em to make sure they do. It'll get done.

Pervis Pasco's a tough comparison, but what a tough play/moment that guy created. Yeesh. If Love had hit the 3 and KU went onto lose, my guess is KU fans would be more concerned about emphasizing how he was pushed out of bounds on the play than they would be looking to blame Dajuan.

Guess we'll never know.

1 month, 1 week ago

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James Donnell

Matt, what was the thinking on the last play when DaJuan stepped out of bounds? Just curious. Was it to run the ball away from the UNC basket and run out the clock or was it to ensure we could get the ball in bounds without a steal? Otherwise, why not just throw it in, get fouled and hopefully hit at least one FT?

1 month, 1 week ago

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Dennis Morrell

For some of us older Jayhawkers, Dijuan Harris' inopportune stepping out of bounds, but my mind in panic mode because the radio call that Jo Jo White stepped out of bounds against Texas Western in 1964 tournament. {The great irony that the result was Texas Western winning it all and, of course, that win is an important event in the long arc of racial justice.}

1 month, 1 week ago

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David Kelley-Wood

Matt, DaJuan wasn't pushed out. Still, I wouldn't have made him the goat even if Love had hit the 3. The way that play was drawn up put him right next to the sideline. What we were expecting to gain from the forward momentum, vs just getting the ball in and securing it, simply wasn't worth it, in my opinion. We're inbounding with 4.6 seconds left, and the other team gains possession with 4.3 seconds remaining, and they don't even have to steal the ball to do it. Really? Had that backfired, it would have gone down as one of the most monumental self-inflicted wounds, practically by design, of all time.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Dale Stringer

Watched the Bacot/floor video a few times. The didn’t really move. Rather it compressed down a bit. One angle showed it happened to Dave in a different spot on the same play. The more replays I watched, the more I saw it. So it was happening all game.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Roger Tobias

Tim and Dale-
If anybody has too much time on their hands, I would be interested in the thought that the floor didn't move in that spot. Rather, it had too much traction (the opposite of being slippery), and caught their shoe abruptly. The reason I suggest is that it was at that same end if not the same spot of the floor where Bacot rolled his ankle against Duke (although reportedly stepping on another's foot), where Love rolled his ankle a few minutes earlier, and where Manek tripped going to the far corner in the last 4 seconds. The company swears the floor was secure, and the boards are made to compress a little for safety's sake.

1 month, 1 week ago

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James Miller

Roger, does that make it Nike's fault. If so, I like it.

1 month, 1 week ago

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Rodney Crain

My favorite onershadowed moment was the Harris steal, pass up to JW, takes it right to the rim, finishes it while being fouled by Becot, sinks the free throw. Wonderful example of our transitition offense at its very best.

Great Win!!!

1 month, 1 week ago

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Layne Pierce

Another really big play was Jalen's drive into Manek for the 2 and 1, when Manek tried to take the charge. If that goes the other way it could have made all the difference.

By the way, Jalen had 15 and is sort of my unsung hero. All 7 of the so-called starters had to be tremendous for us to win.

RCJH

1 month, 1 week ago

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