NEW ORLEANS (AP) — David McCormack and his Kansas teammates trailed by 15 points at halftime in the national championship game, but he was smiling just the same.
“They thought he was crazy,” McCormack said in a television interview.
He told his teammates: “Just come here, have fun and do what we were born to do.”
Christian Braun wasn’t necessarily buying it.
“He was looking at me and I was like, ‘Why are you smiling, dude?’” he said after the game. “’We’re down 15.’ He was telling me, keep your head up, keep going, we’ll be fine. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’ve been here before.
McCormack came out and scored 9 points in the second half, including the Jayhawks’ final 4 of the game, as Kansas overcame a 16-point deficit to beat North Carolina, 72-69, to win the NCAA title Monday night. night at the Superdome. McCormack, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward, finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds after having 6 points and 3 rebounds at the half.
Kansas completed the biggest comeback in championship game history to capture the program’s fourth NCAA championship, the first since 2008 and the second under coach Bill Self.
“We beat our odds, we beat adversity, we were created for this,” McCormack said in a television interview.
Kansas likely wouldn’t have won the title without McCormack taking over the paint down the stretch.
With North Carolina leading 69-68, McCormack scored on a floating second down the lane to put the Jayhawks up 70-69.
After a North Carolina fumble, McCormack caught a post-up shot from Jalen Wilson and made a jump shot over two Tar Heel defenders in the lane to put Kansas ahead for the winning margin with 22 seconds remaining.
“The game is on the line,” McCormack said. “You have the adrenaline pumping, you have the desire to get it. He catches a rebound with both hands. The coach talks about keeping the ball high and going back up. That’s what was going through my mind. I’m here, we work on touch shots every day.”
When North Carolina guard Caleb Love missed a 3-point attempt in the closing seconds, the Jayhawks and their fans began to celebrate. The noise level in the dome exploded as confetti began to rain down.
“We had some really good possessions late, we CBed a couple times and everybody chipped in, everybody played well, but when we had to have a basket, we went to the big Dave and he delivered,” Self said in a television interview.
It was the third straight NCAA tournament game in which McCormack scored in double figures. He had 15 points and 4 rebounds in the round of 16 against Miami in Chicago, and then dominated Villanova’s lead with 25 points and 9 rebounds in Saturday’s national semifinal in New Orleans.
McCormack was named to the all-tournament team along with Love, Duke’s Paolo Banchero, North Carolina’s Armando Bacot and his Kansas teammate Ochai Agbaji, who was also named the Final Four’s most outstanding player after finish with 12 points and 3 rebounds on Monday. .
Going into the game, the battle between the 6-foot-9 McCormack and Bacot was seen as a critical piece to the game.
Bacot injured his right ankle in the national semifinal against Duke on Saturday and seemed to be walking cautiously Monday morning, but he played a magnificent game en route to a double-double, with 15 points and 15 rebounds, tying a record for a season. with his 31st of the season. It was a big factor as the Tar Heels took a 40-25 halftime lead.
But Bacot managed only 3 points and 5 rebounds in the second half and left late after aggravating his injured ankle.
“I mean, the last 24 hours, probably 15 of them, I was just trying to get my ankle better,” Bacot said, adding that Doug Halverson, the head athletic trainer, and his staff “did a great job preparing me for this moment. “
He continued: “Right before the match I really couldn’t even jump. And so that’s why I came back. We keep trying to give it a chance. They did not give up. Luckily, I was able to play 38 minutes”.
In the end, McCormack bested Bacot and celebrated with a championship.