If Kansas wins the Big 12 for a 13th straight year — tying UCLA’s all-time record — I’ll remember the 5.2 seconds that will probably have saved it all for the Jayhawks.
This wasn’t about athleticism, about one-and-dones or vertical leaps or wingspans, though KU’s 73-68 victory over Baylor on Wednesday night had plenty of that as well.
This was about will — a player who was once called the slowest man in the Big 12 on a TV broadcast coming through to make one of the biggest plays of his career.
All because he hustled.
Landen Lucas had just committed a turnover, 26.8 seconds left, KU up by two. He was flat on his stomach, legs sprawled out on the restricted arc in the lane.
Baylor went on the attack. Al Freeman pushed ahead to Manu Lecomte, who drove inside before throwing a pass out to a wide open Ish Wainright.
And for a brief moment, Baylor had its chance: to take a lead, to break an 0-13 curse at Allen Fieldhouse, to potentially go ahead in the Big 12 race.
What looked like a clear shot didn’t end up being one, though. In 5.2 seconds, Lucas was able to scramble to his feet, sprint to the other end and leap up just as Wainright elevated.
The guard double-clutched, holding the attempt a half-second longer than he wanted before clanging it off the backboard.
The video is likely to be shown at youth basketball practices across the nation this week as coaches stress one thing: There’s no talent needed to try hard.
“That’s just the hustle you’ve got to have to win games like that,” KU guard Devonté Graham said.
“It was huge,” guard Frank Mason added.
While walking back through the Fieldhouse after the game, Lucas was asked how he was able to do it — how, away from ESPN’s view, he was able to pick himself up off the ground and get back just in the nick of time.
“I don’t know, man,” he said with a smile. “Just wanting to win I guess.”
Lucas committed to KU in 2011 as a three-star recruit. On Wednesday, he played among players with impressive physiques and long NBA futures.
His moment shouldn’t be forgotten, though. Lucas could have stayed down after his turnover. He could have hesitated just for a second. No one likely would have noticed.
He didn’t, though.
Instead, the slowest man in the Big 12 helped put KU ahead in the conference race, all for one simple reason.