SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $3 for 3 months
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $3 for 3 months

KU basketball's David McCormack enters OU matchup on heels of 'dominant' outing

Matt Galloway
Topeka Capital-Journal
Kansas junior forward David McCormack dunks during Tuesday's game at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. McCormack scored a team-high 20 points and added eight rebounds and two blocked shots in the No. 6-ranked Jayhawks' 93-64 victory.

Bill Self still believes in David McCormack, and the Kansas basketball head coach contends the Jayhawks’ starting forward has no reason to doubt himself, either.

Tuesday’s outcome could go a long way toward solidifying the latter sentiment.

McCormack was superb in No. 6-ranked KU's 93-64 road victory at TCU, scoring 20 points on 7-for-9 shooting with eight rebounds in just 23 minutes. The 6-foot-10, 250-pounder, who has endured an up-and-down trek across the first 11 games of his junior season, also added an assist and two blocked shots in the blowout win.

Speaking after the result, Self offered a theory for the driving force behind what had to be a cathartic performance for McCormack.

“There’s a time with everybody when things haven’t gone well that you finally kind of just have to say, I don’t know the correct terminology to use, but, ‘Screw it,’ and just go play,” Self said, “and that’s kind of the impression I got from him.”

McCormack’s evening represented the second impressive output for the former McDonald’s All-American over the Jayhawks’ last two contests. His 10-point, 11-rebound double-double against West Virginia helped KU earn a 79-65 victory on Dec. 22 in Lawrence.

Sandwiched between the team’s two most recent victories, however, is an eight-point, five-rebound dud from McCormack in the Jayhawks’ 84-59 home defeat to Texas on Jan. 2. McCormack, who missed all four of his shot attempts in that loss, was benched to start the second half and played only sparingly the rest of the way in a 14-minute appearance.

McCormack said the 25-point defeat motivated him more going into Tuesday’s game than his own abbreviated stint in that setback, viewing the struggles against the Longhorns through a team-first lens.

“When we come back, we always want to come back with a sense of tenacity and a sense of eagerness to play the next game and to really dominate,” McCormack said, “and that’s really the mindset I went into this game with.”

Still, it’s fair to say McCormack had ample motivation to shine against the Horned Frogs.

“He’s a good player,” Self said. “He hasn’t played his best, but we’ve said (there have been) some games where David has done some things that are positive and all that stuff — which he has, there’s no doubt about that. But (Tuesday) was the first night that I thought he’s been dominant.”

Just one of McCormack’s nine shot attempts, Self observed, was what the coach would consider off-balance, a major improvement on an area of emphasis for the forward who has too often been sped up across the season’s first two months. McCormack is now shooting 41.9% from the floor.

“I thought the way he scored, his activity level, (his) blocking and altering, I thought he was dominant,” Self reiterated.

McCormack made all six of his free-throw attempts, with each of those conversions coming in the first five minutes after halftime. His sixth make with 15:32 remaining gave McCormack 10 second-half points and the Jayhawks (9-2, 3-1 Big 12) a 22-point lead. Now shooting 86.4% from the stripe, McCormack has made 21 consecutive free throws.

McCormack also proved to be an impact player defensively against the conference’s leading shot blocker and rebounder, with TCU's 6-11, 255-pound junior center Kevin Samuel held to goose eggs in both of those categories.

Self specifically praised McCormack's shot altering, as well as his post positioning on both the offensive and defensive ends, attributes that highlighted an encouraging physicality from the forward.

"I mean he's a 6-foot-10½, 250-pound man, and I thought he just played more to what he is the other day," Self said. "And then when you do that you naturally make shots because you're worried about the right things."

Everything added up for what Self labeled McCormack’s best game, “without question.” 

“I just played with a clear mind, a clear heart, and that’s just kind of how I went about it,” said McCormack, who now averages 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. “Everything worked out.”

Asked for his favorite part of the bounce-back victory, McCormack didn’t once mention himself or his own performance, with the big instead opting for a big-picture view.

"Everybody at some point in the game got into a rhythm and got into a flow. It touched everybody’s hand. When the ball moved, I think that was a real key and emphasis today, as well,” McCormack said. “Being down players (Marcus Garrett and Bryce Thompson), instead of relying on certain players, everybody had the opportunity to show what they can do and emphasized on their capabilities.”

Garrett trending toward playing versus Sooners

Garrett, who suffered a concussion last weekend against Texas and was withheld from the victory over TCU, was a limited participant at the Jayhawks’ practice Thursday. 

While the senior point guard wasn’t yet cleared to play in the team’s next contest, a 3:30 p.m. Saturday home tilt versus Oklahoma, as of Friday afternoon, Self said he is “hopeful” Garrett is trending toward “a full-go" against the Sooners.

“We didn’t play a game on Wednesday. We didn’t play a game on Thursday. We don’t play a game today (Friday). So we’ve been cautious moving forward," Self said. "I do expect him to be good to go, so to speak, but we’re going to wait until he’s evaluated and we’ll go from there.”

OKLAHOMA AT NO. 6 KANSAS

Tipoff: 3:30 p.m Saturday, Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence

Records: Oklahoma 6-3, 2-2 Big 12; Kanas 9-2, 3-1 Big 12

Line: KU by 8

TV/radio: CBS/Topeka: KWIC-FM (99.3); Salina: KZUH-FM (92.7) 

Up next for KU: at Oklahoma State, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Okla.