Dwight Coleby placed his hands on his forehead and dropped his jaw. Svi Mykhailiuk pumped his fists like he made a game-winning three. Josh Jackson jumped and screamed.
Everyone on the Kansas basketball team had an over-the-top reaction to Lagerald Vick’s breakaway dunk in the second half of the Jayhawks’ 98-66 Sweet 16 smack down of Purdue on Thursday at Sprint Center.
“I lost my mind,” Jackson, a freshman guard, said. “I forgot I was out there playing for a second.”
It was quite the highlight play. Vick spun 360 degrees on his way up to the basket and threw down an emphatic dunk that energized the crowd and helped Kansas pull away.
The final score might not show it, but the Boilermakers challenged the Jayhawks in this game. They led 33-25 in the first half and remained within striking distance midway through the second half. Then Vick intercepted a pass from Carsen Edwards intended for Caleb Swanigan and saw nothing but open floor between him and the basket.
He raced up court, pulled off his favorite dunk-contest move and put Kansas ahead 63-54 with 12:09 remaining. Moments later, Jackson hit a step back three-pointer and Purdue called timeout. The game felt over, and it was.
Kansas closed on a 37-12 run that was part of a wider reaching 73-33 run.
“It was big it was a big momentum change,” KU forward Landen Lucas said. “I saw when he had the open court and he was looking around that he might try and do something crazy. That is big, because it really gets the crowd going and it gets the team into it. It’s definitely something special we can use.”
Vick planned the dunk long before he made the steal and the moment for a highlight play presented itself. He said he told teammate Carlton Bragg he was going to pull off a 360 flush on his way into the arena.
“I was just happy to be in the right place at the right time,” Vick said.
From there, it was a matter of muscle memory. All he had to do was recreate a dunk he has practiced for years.
“It’s all about the timing,” Vick said. “You have got to time your steps and get a perfect angle. I do it all the time.”
But never on college basketball’s biggest stage, the NCAA Tournament.
“It just brought a lot of energy into the building, got our guys into it. Then everybody started making shots. It definitely changed the game.”
Vick helped extend the lead after Jackson’s three by making his own outside shot from the corner.
The way Vick’s dunk spread positive vibes across the court, an argument could be made for it being the most important play and best highlight of the game.
“It was a key moment, because we went on a big run after that,” Mykhailiuk said. “He sparked us a lot. His dunk gave everybody energy. It forced them to call a timeout and we kept playing.”
Vick is glad it worked out that way. A miss would have relegated him to the end of a bunch. The make helped send Kansas onto the Elite Eight against Oregon.
“It’s my job to bring energy off the bench,” Vick said. “So that’s exactly what I did with that play.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett