KU’s Ochai Agbaji thinks of KC Chiefs while scoring 37 in double-OT win vs. Texas Tech

·5 min read

Kansas senior guard Ochai Agbaji, who happens to be a huge Kansas City Chiefs fan, thought about Sunday’s exciting, improbable 42-36 come-from-behind overtime playoff victory over the Buffalo Bills during the latter stages of the Jayhawks’ Big Monday basketball thriller against Texas Tech on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

“When we went to overtime, I was like, ‘This is like the Chiefs game. They won at all costs. We have to do the same thing.’ It’s kind of the mentality we had Saturday as well,” Agbaji, a 6-foot-5 Oak Park High graduate said after the No. 5-ranked Jayhawks outlasted the No. 13 Red Raiders, 94-91, in double overtime.

Agbaji — he scored a career-high-tying 29 points in Saturday’s 78-75 come-from-behind win at Kansas State — was the hero again Monday. He hit a personal best seven three-pointers and scored a career-high 37 points, including the three-pointer that swished with 7.3 seconds left in the first overtime and forced overtime No. 2.

Agbaji, who hit 13 of 23 shots (7 of 12 from three), but just 4 of 8 free throws — “he was exhausted,” coach Bill Self said — was so special Monday that Self sought him out for a one-on-one conversation in the locker room after the marathon contest.

“I think we can play better. I don’t know if any individual can play better,” Self said of Agbaji. “That’s as good as … I told him, ‘I don’t remember us ever having a player play better than that.’’’

After surviving a 94-91 double overtime thriller over Texas Tech, KU’s KJ Adams, left, Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Willson head toward the KU bench to celebrate Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
After surviving a 94-91 double overtime thriller over Texas Tech, KU’s KJ Adams, left, Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Willson head toward the KU bench to celebrate Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

“He was unbelievable,” Self added, noting that it’s remarkable how confident Agbaji’s teammates are in the senior leader.

“The shot Ochai hit,” Self said of the one that forced OT No. 2, “nobody else looked to shoot it until he got a touch. That wasn’t anything I told them (Jayhawks). That was just something they did. That shows me something as well.”

Just two players in the 19-year Self era at KU have scored more points than Agbaji in a single game. Andrew Wiggins had 41 points in a 92-86 loss at West Virginia on March 8, 2014. Elijah Johnson had 39 points in a 108-96 overtime win over Iowa State on Feb. 25, 2013, in Ames.

So no Jayhawk has had a higher scoring game in the fieldhouse in the Self era.

“It’s too early for any type of postseason awards (but) he has to be in the conversation for top two or three for national player of the year,” Self said. “There have not been two or three of his equals out there. Now that could change overnight. What he’s done the last three games (wins over Tech, K-State and Oklahoma) speaks volumes not just because of numbers but circumstances and how he did it,” Self added.

One of KU’s heroes, freshman forward KJ Adams, who had six points and four boards in 16 minutes — Self said he was the only Jayhawk who was able to stick with Tech forward Bryson Williams (33 points, five boards) — gushed about the performance of Agbaji.

“I was thinking on the bench, ‘That’s a bad boy,’’’ Adams said with a smile. “He does what he does. I think he’s the best player in America. It’s showing now.”

Adams’ rebound and stickback bucket of a Dajuan Harris miss with 1:47 left in the second OT tied the score at 91. Ultimately Jalen Wilson hit one of two free throws at 1:08 to give KU a 92-91 lead. Then Christian Braun cashed two free throws at 10.1 seconds. KU survived a three-point miss by Terrence Shannon on Tech’s final possession.

“I was telling CB in the locker room, whether we are down five, down six, down three, down two, don’t count us out,” Agbaji said. KU, which led by as many as 12 points in the second half, trailed by five points with 1:21 left in the first OT.

Kansas coach Bill Self gets a standing ovation as he exits the court after the Jayhawks took down Texas Tech, 94-91 in double overtime Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas coach Bill Self gets a standing ovation as he exits the court after the Jayhawks took down Texas Tech, 94-91 in double overtime Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

“We have the offensive ability and defensive mindset to get stops and also get a good shot, to be aggressive and put pressure on the other team,” Agbaji added.

In a game that had a plethora of “big plays” ... Self described the strategy on Tech’s final possession of the second overtime.

The Red Raiders had 10 seconds to work with following Braun’s two big free throws that put KU up by three and forced Self to decide whether to foul and send the Red Raiders to the line or try to guard a final possession.

“I told the officials we were not going to foul, then I told Juan to foul No. 13 (Mylik Wilson, 3-of-4 from line) if he crossed halfcourt with the ball. Juan went to foul No. 13 but couldn’t get to him,” Self said.

“When he passed to Shannon (five points, 1-of-10 shooting) we were in great position. We defended it perfect (last-ditch three). We actually did what we wanted to do. The only one to foul was No. 13 and there was no reason to do that. The biggest reason was I only told Juan. I didn’t tell anybody else to foul. I told everybody else to play it out,” Self added.

Self was asked if his emotions on the Shannon miss were the same as when Nijel Pack missed on K-State’s final possession in KU’s three-point win Saturday, a game in which KU trailed by 17 in the final half.

“I would say no. The K-State game was a bigger win to me,” said Self, who desperately wanted to win to celebrate the memory of his dad, Bill Sr., who died early Friday morning at the age of 82. “That game (Monday night) was more I was proud to be part of, not exactly the same thing to me.”

And though Agbaji stressed his teammates “make all of my points possible; I couldn’t make any without them” — he acknowledged his performance Monday was the best of his life.

“Yes, I have to admit, yeah,” he said with a smile.

KU will next meet Kentucky at 5 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

KU’s Ochai Agbaji puts up a three pointer during the second half of Monday night’s game at Allen Fieldhouse. KU beat Tech, 94-91 in double overtime.
KU’s Ochai Agbaji puts up a three pointer during the second half of Monday night’s game at Allen Fieldhouse. KU beat Tech, 94-91 in double overtime.
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