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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Poker-faced Frank Mason III even better under pressure

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a three over Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (12) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) puts up a three over Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (12) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

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— You wouldn’t be able to judge by his expression that Kansas University junior guard Frank Mason III played one strong half and one so-so one. The face never changes, answering that question requires looking elsewhere.

Here’s a clue: Kansas defeated Texas Tech, 69-59, Saturday night in a game it led by just two points at the break.

On a night backcourt mate Devonté Graham didn’t lend nearly as much help as usual and the team had nine turnovers heading into halftime, Mason was going to have to be better in the second half than the first or he was going to be in serious danger of doing something he very much hates to do: Let his team lose.

Mason had plenty of company in improved second-half play, and when all the numbers were totaled he somehow had compiled a double-double, totaling 17 points and 10 rebounds. He had five assists and two turnovers. The rest of the team had eight assists and 13 turnovers.

On a night Texas Tech made just 9 of 19 free throws, Mason made 8 of 8. He also made 3 of 6 three-pointers, but it was the when more than the how many that carried more meaning.

Tech had used a 9-0 run to tie the score, 44-44, with 10:23 left in the game. A Landen Lucas bucket and three-pointers from Mason and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk quickly gave KU an eight-point cushion. But with the a crowd of 14,231 infusing the Red Raiders hard all night, the home team wasn’t done making the nation’s No. 1 team sweat.

Sophomore center Norense Odiase, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half, pulled Tech within 52-50 with a dunk at the 6:13 mark. A Selden dunk and Mason three later, the lead was back to seven points with 5:03 left. Mason sealed it with a pair of free throws with 28 seconds left, the game’s final points.

“At the end of the game is when it matters most,” Mason said. “You have to be mentally strong to lock in and get the job done.”

Mason played 53 minutes Monday night in the triple-overtime victory against Oklahoma, but said the length and intensity of the game didn’t play a part in KU shooting so poorly in the first half.

“None of the guys were still nicked up from the last game or anything,” he said. “The day or two after we were pretty sore and got in an ice tub. As of now, everyone’s good and ready for Tuesday.”

After Saturday’s victory, Self again praised the job Mason did in the second half and overtime guarding Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and said Mason was “unbelievable from an energy standpoint,” that night. He also shared where he would like to see improvement from him.

“I think he’s been OK by Frank’s standards,” Self said. “I don’t think he’s been anything like what Wayne has been from a consistency standpoint. ... He hasn’t been engaged as much offensively of late, in my opinion.”

Even on nights he’s not breaking down defenses as well as most nights, he’s one of those basketball players you want on your side when things get a little tense. Pressure seems to make him even better.

— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com’s live coverage


More news and notes from Kansas at Texas Tech


By the Numbers: Kansas 69, Texas Tech 59

By the Numbers: Kansas 69, Texas Tech 59

Comments

Pius Waldman 3 years, 10 months ago

Watching all the games on TV my observation that Ellis, Mason and probably Selden are consistently playing well. All the others have good moments and not so good moments.Graham may be doing OK most of the time. One would think by now the cream would be at the top for some but the inside players hard to say who to play. Probably won't change in the near future although by March order should be established. I know many want more time for the freshman but they haven't shown enough to get major minutes. My thinking is Lucas and Mickelson might be the best Greene needs to concentrate on the treys and the other freshman Vick hasn't had a chance to play longer than a few minutes at the end of blowouts. Yes our Jayhawks are rated high but there are other teams that are capable of winning in March and April.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

Other teams have worked hard at taking away Brannen's looks from 3. You can count on the fact that Coach has talked to him about making them pay in other ways. Just his presence on the court keeps players from sagging on Perry, and BG has done a great job of moving the ball to the open man (sometimes even more than might be best), attacking the rim, and even getting R. He's far from perfect, but his game is expanding so much. Sort of prematurely reminiscent of all the talk about Buddy.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 10 months ago

It's interesting to see the Coach Self mind games. He's needled Perry about playing at a higher level as well as above with Frank. He knows that each step of the way will require a higher level of execution.

That definitely starts this week in Morgantown. That barn will be rocking, and WVU will be far more in your face than TTU or that other school we visited. It seemed that they didn't have their legs under them in Lubbock, but they sure better find them by Tuesday.

Humpy Helsel 3 years, 10 months ago

Anyone who has ever played team sports in a highly competitive environment knows there are certain players who make everyone more confident. These types of players tend to be "gamers," can be a little mean, and are junkyard dog types. They aren't intimidated by anyone and when it gets tough, they are steely eyed and ferocious. They are true warriors in every sense of the word. You are secretly thankful they are on your side and not against you. By themselves, they force other teams to respect you, win or lose. When their teammates look over and see them and see how they play when it gets really tough, everyone tends to want to step up. Frank is clearly one of those players.

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