David McCormack got the “short end of the stick” on minutes in Kansas coach Bill Self’s words. It doesn’t mean McCormack didn’t know what to do with them against Miami.
The senior forward played nearly 18 minutes against the Hurricanes. In fact, he played less than eight minutes in the second half. In that span McCormack and the Jayhawks went from being down 35-29 to being up 48-42. As McCormack subbed out of the game for the last time, the Jayhawks were set to run away from the Hurricanes for a 76-50 victory and a trip to the Final Four.
“I thought David was fabulous,” Self said on Sunday. “And especially the start of the second half.”
McCormack finished with 15 points and four rebounds. He actually had seven points by halftime. But it was his concentrated work at the start of the second half that fueled the Jayhawks to their comeback, eventual victory and Final Four matchup with Villanova.
It didn’t quite start that way, though. McCormack drew a foul in the first 30 seconds and made one of two free throws. Thirty seconds later, he turned the ball over.
Eight seconds later, there was that dunk.
Jalen Wilson stole a Miami pass and dished it to Christian Braun as he fell out of bounds. Braun threw a long outlet to Dajuan Harris Jr. at midcourt, who turned toward the Kansas basket. After a couple of dribbles, Harris dished a bounce pass to McCormack on the other side of the break.
McCormack caught it and immediately took flight for the dunk. The emotion was immediate. The Jayhawks were now down three.
But, a few minutes later, McCormack had an even bigger play. His layup, followed by a free throw with 14:21 remaining put Kansas up 48-40.
Now it wasn’t just emotion. It was about momentum. And McCormack was the fuel.
“I definitely think so,” McCormack said. “I think it was a big momentum changer just getting an and-one basket and trying to get them in foul trouble as well, that changes the momentum and how they would need to guard us.”
Less than two minutes later, McCormack was out of the game. No fault of his own. That was the rotation. Self has quickly flipped Mitch Lightfoot into the rotation in the first and the second half of each NCAA Tournament game.
Self blamed himself a bit for not riding that McCormack train a little longer.
“I thought Dave kind of got the short end of the stick today in the second half on minutes,” Self said. “I didn’t quite realize it like that, that it was because David got us off to a great start.”
Everyone else did, though. McCormack’s big game continued a big trend throughout his career. Kansas is 44-9 when McCormack scores in double figures.
Maybe in New Orleans, Self should ride the McCormack train just a little bit longer.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.