The most frequent discussion among Kansas basketball followers this season could be David McCormack’s inconsistency.
All along, however, Bill Self has insisted the No. 6 Jayhawks (10-2, 4-1 Big 12) field a more diverse, and better lineup when playing with their biggest post man.
Entering a Tuesday matchup at Oklahoma State (8-3, 2-3 Big 12) in Stillwater, Okla., McCormack will be coming off back-to-back outings in which he led Kansas in scoring with 37 collective points.
“I’m playing with a free heart, a free mind,” McCormack said. “Just doing what I can to help the team win. Playing with energy. That’s all I can say.”
No need to say much as long as McCormack maintains consistently strong production. In a 63-59 win Saturday against Oklahoma, he provided the final difference with a shot in the lane after watching the offensive set progress and finding an open look after the Sooners denied a first option.
“If you play right and play the way we want to play,” Self said, “I really believe that there’s a great chance that whoever is in there playing in the big spot is always an option, even if it may not be the first option, because you should always be able to throw it to your big.”
Hence the reasoning behind Self’s preference to use at least one big in his lineup, though the Jayhawks occasionally resort to a five-guard look that features Jalen Wilson, their top rebounder at 8.1 per game, pounding the glass.
Controlling the boards requires considerable improvement from McCormack and even backup Mitch Lightfoot. The two combined for one rebound against Oklahoma, though Kansas leads the Big 12 in average rebounds (41.6) and rebounding margin (plus-8.2).
Given those marks, involving McCormack more in the offense became a greater priority.
“Just getting it into him more and just playing around him more I think will help with our offense,” said Ochai Agbaji, who leads Kansas with a 14.8-point average and is followed closely by Wilson (14.7).
Prized freshman Cade Cunningham continues to draw attention for Oklahoma State in what is considered his one-and-done season before declaring for the NBA draft. Cunningham averages 17.8 points and shares the Big 12 scoring lead with TCU’s RJ Nembhard.
Cunningham shot three times and made one attempt Saturday, scoring just five points, though Oklahoma State easily outpaced Kansas State 70-54.
“He did a good job of finding his teammates with open shots, he tried to continue to compete on the defensive end, and he didn’t get frustrated when he wasn’t scoring,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “He would rather have had 18 or 20, but I know that he would much rather have a win.”
Like Kansas, the Cowboys have encountered some offensive inconsistency inside, though Kalib Boone responded with 14 points on 7-for-11 shooting at Kansas State.
“We had an honest conversation,”Boynton said, “and (Boone) had a conversation with the man in the mirror, and he did something about it. I’m proud of his response.”
–Field Level Media