Freshman guard Quentin Grimes raised his right hand, asking for the basketball as he stood past the three-point line with just under three minutes to play in Saturday’s KU-Oklahoma State nailbiter at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Kanasas teammate Dedric Lawson, who faced a triple team down low after accepting a pass from Devon Dotson, fired instead to Ochai Agbaji. Standing past the free-throw line, Agbaji didn’t hesitate in delivering the ball to Grimes, who drilled a three-pointer from the side to forge a 67-67 tie with 2:42 left.
Grimes also converted one of two free-throw attempts with 1:38 left to break the deadlock for good, locked down on defense with 14 seconds remaining and ultimately paced the Jayhawks to a 72-67 victory over the Cowboys.
“It’s probably my biggest one (of the season) for sure, knowing what was on the line,” Grimes said of his late three. He finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting with four rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes.
“Ochai threw me the ball. I had hit a couple threes before, had tremendous confidence (and) let it fly,” Grimes said after helping the Jayhawks improve to 22-7 overall and 11-5 in the Big 12 — a huge victory, considering Kansas State and Texas Tech both entered the day at 11-4 in conference play.
Grimes — he was 4 of 7 from three-point range — entered Saturday’s game on an uptick after scoring 12 points in Monday’s victory over Kansas State. Before that, however, the 6-5 guard from The Woodlands, Texas, had scored in single digits in 12 straight Big 12 games.
“It’s the biggest shot he’s made this year, obviously,” KU coach Bill Self said of Grimes. “I thought he played well the entire game. It was one of his best games.”
After scoring four straight points for KU, Grimes closely guarded OSU sharpshooter Thomas Dziagwa (15 points, 3 of 10 from three-point range), who threw up an off-balance three from the side as the shot clock was about to expire with 14 seconds to play and OSU down by one.
The shot was an airball.
But thanks in part to Grimes, KU maintained that one-point lead.
“Quentin at the end got the stop when we needed it,” Lawson said of Grimes, adding, “he played great tonight — great defense, was good on offense. He was confident today. It carried over from the last game. We need that from him every game.”
Lawson was fouled after the Dziagwa three-point miss and swished two free throws to give KU a 70-67 lead with 14.2 seconds left. A mixup between Grimes and Agbaji (11 points, five rebounds) left OSU’s Lindy Waters (six points, 2 of 6 from three-point range) open, but he misfired on a possible game-tying three with seven seconds to play.
Agbaji grabbed the rebound, was fouled and converted two free throws with 4.4 seconds remaining to account for the final score.
“We had a little mishap. I was praying he didn’t make it. I guess God answered me,” Grimes said with a smile, referring to the defense on Waters’ miss.
KU outplayed OSU (10-19, 3-13) down the stretch in overcoming a five-point deficit in the final seven minutes. The Jayhawks had led by as many as seven points (48-41) with 13:22 remaining.
“I feel we grew up today,” Grimes said. “Knowing we were down … we were down five with seven minutes left and kept grinding. We’re coming together as a team and jelling now.”
Self maintains that the Jayhawks “have grown up the last couple games (KU has won five of six). I think the guys are having fun. Quentin has different body language. Dedric has been consistent. Ochai showed some guts. He had a rough last week (two points combined in last two games). He stepped up and made a couple big plays. Really, Ochai to me (was the best), because he’s labored the last two games. He was aggressive. He got up 10 shots, eight threes, and he made a couple of huge ones (3 of 8 threes for his 11 points).”
KU had entered with four losses in the last five trips to Self’s alma mater.
“For whatever reason my teams always struggle here. Today was no exception, not because we played poorly but because Oklahoma State played well,” Self said.
If KU was going to lose this one, it appeared it’d be because of junior guard Curtis Jones, who came off the bench to score 19 points on 7-of-9 three-point shooting in 29 minutes. Jones had 10 points the first half in helping OSU to a 37-32 lead after 20 minutes.
“Jones hit a couple shots I thought the hand was over the ball,” Self said, noting he thought KU played good defense overall in allowing 11 OSU threes in 29 tries. KU was 8 of 23 from three.
“I do think they took some marginal shots and made them which is a tribute to their shotmaking ability. Dziagwa … all he needs is any space at all. Jones was really good,” Self said.
The victory kept KU’s Big 12 title hopes alive with two games to play. Self and the Jayhawks were planning on watching the Texas Tech-TCU game and K-State game versus Baylor after their charter flight returned to Lawrence.
“We’ll watch it,” Self said. “I’ll hope for us to get a little help. I’m really not expecting it.”
KU will travel to Oklahoma on Tuesday for an 8 p.m. tip.
KU’s team visited the memorial inside Gallagher-Iba Area on Friday night to celebrate the life of Jayhawks freshman Garrett Luinstra’s father, Brian Luinstra. Brian was one of the 10 who died in the OSU plane crash on Jan. 27, 2001. … The win gave Kansas 22 victories for the 30th consecutive season, beginning in 1989-90. … KU is 116-59 against OSU, including 37-35 in meetings in Stillwater (35-35 in Gallagher-Iba Arena). … Trailing 39-32 with 18:18 left, Kansas went on a 16-2 run to take a 48-41 lead. OSU responded with a 16-7 run as the Cowboys regained the lead at 57-55 with 8:45 remaining. … OSU went scoreless for the final 4:02 of the game. Kansas went on an 8-0 to close the game and held the Cowboys to 2-of-9 from the field in that final four-minute span.