For a while, it looked like Georgia Tech would run Kansas -- playing for the second time without their leading scorer, injured senior Wayne Simien -- as they stormed out to an 18-4 lead with 11:29 remaining in the first half.
Showing a lot of grit, Kansas fought off the rough start and won a 70-68 overtime thriller when senior guard Keith Langford scored the final two of his team high 18 points on a jumper in the lane with just 3.1 seconds remaining.
“It felt like there were 10 of them out there at the beginning of the game,” said the Ft. Worth, TX native of the Jayhawks’ sluggish start. “They were playing real good defensively and the offense that we were running, we hadn’t run it against anybody else other than the guys in practice.”
Kansas didn’t exactly make things easy on themselves during the early moments of the game. Rattled by the Yellow Jackets swarming defense and an inability to get very many open looks, the Jayhawks eventually fell behind by as many as 16 points when Tech senior Isma’il Muhammed took a feed from junior guard Jarrett Jack in the open court and threw down one of his signature jams to push Tech’s advantage to 31-15 with only 3:44 remaining in the first half.
However, Kansas would respond with a 12-3 run of their own sparked by three-pointers from senior Aaron Miles and sophomore J.R. Giddens to pull to within seven points, 34-27, as the first half drew to a close.
“Basically the only reason that we were down seven at halftime is because we grinded it out,” said head coach Bill Self.
Although he wasn’t happy with how the started the second half, Self was extremely proud of his team for fighting to stay in the game.
“We come out of halftime and we don’t get back twice in transition and they get a tip-in and all of the sudden seven becomes 11 and we’re fighting up the hill again,” said Self. “I just told them to hang in there. I’m a big believer that you’re not going to play great all the time and you win games when you don’t play great and you do that by being tough, these guys showed a lot of toughness.”
After falling behind by 11 early in the second half, Miles helped Kansas claw back within reach as his second three of the half cut the Tech lead back down to six at 43-37 with 16:04 to go prompting Tech coach Paul Hewitt to take a 30 second time out.
However within seconds of the timeout, Giddens swished home another three as Kansas cut the lead to 43-40 with 15:23 to go.
Just as he would do for virtually the rest of the game, Jack responded for Tech with two of his game high 26 points. For the rest of the game a Jayhawk would hit a big shot to draw closer, but Jack would respond each time -- without the help of his backcourt partner and leading scorer B.J. Elder who suffered a first half hamstring injury -- and refused to let Kansas get over the hump until Langford hit a three with just 1:34 remaining in the game to tie the score at 61 and force overtime.
In the extra session, the Yellow Jackets pulled ahead 65-61 with just 2:46 remaining when Muhammed hit a jumper in the paint. That’s when freshman Alex Galindo stepped up nailing a three from the corner with just seconds remaining on the shot clock to close within one.
Immediately after that, the Jayhawks took their first lead of the game at 66-65 when Langford stole the ball from Jack and found Giddens who scored the last two of his 16 points on a transition layup with 1:44 to go.
Langford finally iced the game, after Tech had forced another tie at 68-68, when he hit his hanging jumper with just 3.1 seconds to go.
“I just wanted to win the game, so much goes through your mind,” said Langford who was proud of his team’s victory. “I’m proud that we won man. I’m proud of Alex (Galindo) for defying his critics and being tough and getting rebounds. I’m proud of C.J. (Giles) for remembering where to go on plays and getting rebounds and being a presence in there to block shots. I’m just proud of all those guys, all of that accumulates to what happens at the end of the game.”
Langford’s longtime teammate Miles who finished with 14 points and eight assists -- while breaking Kansas all-time assist record -- knew that the six-foot-four wing would make the big shot.
“He might say he wanted the ball, but I think I told him I was going to get him the ball and he wanted the ball,” said Miles of Langford’s game winner. “Maybe he was saying it in his mind, but I knew I was giving him the ball and I told him I was giving him the ball.”
With the victory Kansas moves to 9-0 on the season. Next up on the agenda is undefeated Texas A&M as Kansas opens Big 12 play on Wednesday evening at Allen Fieldhouse.