NEW ORLEANS (AP) — David McCormack’s two late baskets in the paint to help Kansas beat North Carolina in the NCAA championship game followed a Final Four trend.
The way the teams played in the post had a huge influence on the outcome of the games.
McCormack scored the final four points of Monday night’s national title game to finish with 15 points and 10 rebounds in Kansas’ 72-69 win.
“It shows how much confidence the coach (Bill Self) and the teammates have in me,” McCormack said. “Coach called the play and said we’re going to throw it inside and we have confidence in you and faith in you to deliver and get us a basket. I just prevailed, made the basket happen. I thank you for allowing me to have that opportunity.”
Late game heroics capped a memorable Final Four for the Jayhawks big man.
McCormack’s final basket came after Tar Heels center Armando Bacot, whose strong start helped North Carolina take a 15-point halftime lead, needed help getting to the bench after returning to aggravate an ankle injury that occurred during the second half of their influential semi-final performance. on saturday night.
In Saturday’s semifinal game against Villanova, the Wildcats lacked the size to handle the 6-foot-10 McCormack, who was two inches above anyone who guarded him. He threw several thunderous dunks and repeatedly instructed Kansas fans to “raise the roof” of the Superdome on his way to a game-high 25 points.
The Jayhawks cruised to an 81-65 win in which they led most of the second half by double figures.
Meanwhile, Bacot outclassed the Duke post players in the other semi-final.
With Duke center Mark Williams 7-1 in foul trouble and playing just 16 minutes, Bacot was able to take command of the paint, grabbing 21 rebounds to complete his 11 points. Williams finished with eight points and four rebounds, as the Tar Heels cruised to an 81-77 victory.
With McCormack and the Jayhawks’ Mitch Lightfoot (6-8) limited by foul trouble in the first half of the Finals, Bacot had 12 points and 10 rebounds through the first 20 minutes, despite sore ankle. The Tar Heels led as much as 16 points late in the first half.
But McCormack prevailed in the second half, when he had nine points and seven rebounds. Bacot was limited to just three points and five rebounds in the final 20 minutes as Kansas outscored the Tar Heels by 18 for the biggest comeback in an NCAA Tournament title game.
Bacot said that playing McCormack while he was limping “was definitely difficult just because he’s a bigger guy.”
“I couldn’t really, the whole game, push anything into my posts, defensively, anything,” Bacot added. “It was hard for me to stand my ground.”
McCormack just wouldn’t be denied down the stretch. The first of the late baskets came after rebounding his own miss and putting the ball back over two defenders.
“The game is on the line. You have adrenaline pumping. You have the desire to get it,” McCormack said. “Catch a rebound with two 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 bunt shots every day. I can use both hands. … Get a quick basket and get back on defense.“
While Kansas shooting guard Ochai Agbaji was named the Final Four MVP, the highest-scoring shooting guard indicated that he would not have voted for himself, but for his dominant teammate.
“If I really had one standout player throughout the entire Final Four, it would be David,” Agbaji said.
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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