David McCormack of Kansas delivers in Battle of Bigs

NEW ORLEANS – David McCormack and his Kansas teammates were 15 points behind at half-time in the national championship game, but he was smiling all the same.

“They thought I was crazy,” McCormack said in a television interview.

He told his teammates: “Come here, have fun and do what we were born for.”

Christian Braun wasn’t necessarily buying it.

“He was looking at me and I was like, ‘Why are you smiling, man?’” He said after the game. “‘We are down by 15.’ He was telling me, like, keep your head up, keep going, it’s gonna be okay. I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t know if I’ve ever been here before.’ “

McCormack walked out and scored 9 points in the second half, including the last 4 of the Jayhawks game, when Kansas overcame a 16-point trailing by beating North Carolina, 72-69, to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship on Monday night. to the Superdome. McCormack, a 6-foot 10, 250-pound striker, finished with a double double of 15 points and 10 rebounds after scoring 6 points and 3 rebounds in the middle.

Kansas completed the biggest comeback in league game history by winning the program’s fourth NCAA championship, the first since 2008 and the second under the leadership of manager Bill Self.

“We overcome our odds, we overcome adversity, we were built for it,” McCormack said in a televised interview.

Kansas most likely wouldn’t have won the title without McCormack taking control of the paint along the stretch. With North Carolina leading 69-68, he scored on a second chance in the lane to lead the Jayhawks, 70-69. After a turnover in North Carolina, he caught a post feed from Jalen Wilson and made a turning jump on two Tar Heels defenders in the lane to put Kansas ahead with the margin of victory with 22 seconds left.

“The game is at stake,” McCormack said. “You have the adrenaline pumping. You have a wish that you will get it. Take a bounce with two hands. The coach talks about keeping the ball high and getting back up right away. This is what was going through my head. I’m right 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 started celebrating. The noise level in the rose dome as the confetti started raining.

“We had some good possessions late, we released CB a couple of times and everybody contributed, everybody played well, but when we had to hit the basket, we went to the big Dave and he delivered,” Self said in a TV interview. .

It was the third consecutive game of an NCAA tournament in which McCormack scored in double figures. He scored 15 points and 4 rebounds in the round of 16 against Miami in Chicago, then dominated Villanova’s frontcourt 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 Most Outstanding Final Four player since finishing with 12 points and 3 rebounds on Monday.

Entering the game, the battle between McCormack and the 6-foot-9 tall Bacot was seen as a critical encounter.

Bacot injured his right ankle on Saturday in the national semi-final against Duke and on Monday seemed to be walking cautiously at the start, but played a magnificent match on the road to a double double, with 15 points and 15 rebounds, drawing a single record season with his 31st of the season. It was an important factor as Tar Heels took a 40-25 lead at half time.

But Bacot only got 3 points and 5 rebounds in the second half and came out late after aggravating his injured ankle.

“I mean, in the last 24 hours, probably 15 of them have been trying to improve my ankle,” Bacot said, adding that Doug Halverson, the chief athletic trainer, and his staff “did a great job preparing me. for this moment. “

He continued: “Right before the game I couldn’t even jump. And then that’s why I went back. We just kept trying. They did not give up. Luckily I was able to play 38 minutes. “

Eventually, McCormack beat Bacot and celebrated with a championship.