Down 57-49 with less than two-minutes to go, the Jayhawks appeared to be on their way to losing their final home game of the season, while missing out on a chance to clinch the Big 12 title outright at home.
Brannen Greene stepped up to the line and knocked down a couple of free throws, and then Jamari Traylor followed with a layup to cut the West Virginia lead to four. However, the Jayhawks still needed to make up the rest of the margin, and time was running out.
Enter Frank Mason III.
The sophomore from Petersburg, Virginia rattled off back-to-back baskets on consecutive possessions, and when the second half had finally come to a close, the Jayhawks had managed to tie the game at 59. At that point, Mason had scored 11 points, but wasn’t even close to being finished.
“I felt like nobody [could] stay in front of me,” Mason said. “Every time I had the ball, I could make something positive happen.”
Mason would rattle off eight more points, accounting for just under 50-percent of the team’s scoring in the extra period, despite having played a game-high 42 minutes. The Jayhawks would go on to win 76-69, despite trailing at one point by 18 points.
After the game, Kansas coach Bill Self couldn’t help but chuckle when asked about his point guard’s performance down the stretch, despite playing so many minutes.
“He’s in great shape,” Self said with a smile.
Mason finished the game with 19 points and seven rebounds, but to him, it wasn’t at all about the stats. Only one thing was on his mind: Winning.
“We couldn’t get anything to fall; guys were missing threes,” Mason said. “Not once did I think [we would lose]. We kept believing in each other.”
Mason also said that he drew inspiration from the 2008 National Championship team that won the title despite being down nine points with less than two minutes left. He said the “little things like that” were what let the team know that they could make a run, and he certainly played like it down the stretch.
With the win, the Jayhawks secured the Big 12 title outright, but the game held a little extra meaning in Mason's mind, for a couple of reasons. With it being the final home game of the year, the Jayhawks had one last chance to get a win for senior Christian Garrett, but Mason added that the win was for even more than just the senior.
“We wanted to do it for [Christian], but also for the program [and] for the fans,” Mason said. “We made it happen.”
— Edited by Vicky Diaz-Camacho