Kansas City, Mo. Forced to play without freshman All-American Josh Jackson for the first time in 32 tries this season, the Kansas men’s basketball team looked even thinner than normal, was out of sorts at times and struggled mightily at others in an 85-82 loss to eighth-seeded TCU in the Big 12 championship quarterfinals at Sprint Center.
“It was real tough,” said junior Devonte’ Graham of playing without Jackson, who served a one-game suspension for mismanaging a traffic situation back in February, an offense that came on the heels of Jackson being charged with misdemeanor property damage in a separate case. “He can do so many things for us, and not having him was one of the reasons why we lost.”
Added senior Frank Mason III: “It was tough. It showed out there. We missed his offensive presence and defensive presence.... He does a lot of good things for us and we missed him tonight.”
View a gallery of images from Thursday's game between the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs at Sprint Center.
Simple math dictates that Jackson’s 16-point average and long and athletic, 6-foot-8 presence on the floor would have made a big difference for top-ranked Kansas (28-4) on Thursday. According to Self, no one felt worse about that than Jackson.
“He feels bad,” said Self of Jackson, who was not available for comment after the loss. “He feels bad.... But (the suspension) was a culmination of things. We had an incident, one other incident before, so he feels bad and he could’ve handled it better. It’s a teaching moment, not only for me but also for our guys, to learn and hopefully get better from it. So I’m disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to play. He’s disappointed. But I think he will respond favorably to it.”
Svi comes alive
He hit his first five shots, scored 13 first-half points and finished with 18 for the game. To say Kansas junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk snapped out of his recent slump would be putting it mildly and the Jayhawks said the junior’s resurgence came at just the right time, even if it did end with a turnover and costly foul in the final minutes.
“Well, I hope it’s big,” Self said. “He needs to leave out of here with a positive, not (thinking about) the last two plays. He was good offensively, early.”
Added Graham: “That’s good, just letting him see the ball go through the hoop. Hopefully he’ll take it with him in the tournament.”
Asked if his offensive explosion came because he felt like he needed to step up with Jackson out of the lineup, Svi shrugged and said, “I think I would’ve done the same if Josh would’ve been here. I just took open shots that I haven’t been making the last five or six games and today I just made ’em.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, along with senior Landen Lucas and junior Devonte' Graham, discussed their 85-82 loss to TCU in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals and playing without suspended freshman Josh Jackson.
Although his left foot figures to be sore for a couple of days, Graham dodged a bullet midway through the first half, when an injury that sent him hopping into the KU locker room for an examination turned out to be minor.
Graham left the floor at the 10:55 mark of the first half, returned to the bench with just over seven minutes to play in the half and checked back into the game at the 6:01 mark.
“I’m good. I’m good,” Graham said. “It was my foot. Somebody rolled on it.”
Although Graham favored the foot during parts of the second half, the injury scare did not appear to limit him athletically. In fact, he nearly saved Kansas with a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the shot was just off target.
“I could feel as soon as it left my hand that it wasn’t going in,” Graham said.
Self technical explained
A little more than three minutes into the second half, with his team struggling to regain control of the game, Self was slapped with a technical foul for questioning a blocked shot by Mykhailiuk.
According to Self, who said after the loss that he was fine with receiving the 'T' even though he “wasn’t cussing him or anything,” the confusion came from a recent rule change.
After TCU’s Brandon Parrish put the ball off the glass in transition, Mykhailiuk swatted it away. Self explained the confusion outside the locker room after the game.
“In the NBA, if the ball’s off the backboard it’s an automatic goaltend,” he said. “In college and high school, it’s always been, if the ball’s going up, it’s not goaltending. I was told after I got a 'T' that that rule’s been changed.”
KU still a 1 seed?
Although Thursday’s loss sent the Jayhawks home in a sour mood, many bracketologists still believe Kansas will be a No. 1 seed when the NCAA Tournament field is unveiled Sunday evening.
Asked if he had a feel for KU’s positioning, Self said, “I have no idea. I would’ve thought if we had won today we’d be in pretty good shape. But I have no idea. Who knows what’ll happen?”
Added Graham: “I don’t know about any of that.... We just gotta regroup because we know our next loss is the end of our season.”
While the Jayhawks may remain a No. 1 seed, one question that came into play after the loss was whether they would be a one-seed in the Midwest Region, which will play the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds at Sprint Center.
This and that...
Thursday’s loss snapped an eight-game Kansas winning streak.... KU now leads the all-time series with TCU, 14-2.... KU fell to 3-1 at Sprint Center this season and 14-2 in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are now 34-7 all-time at the Kansas City arena.... KU is now 71-27 all-time in conference tournament action, including a 41-11 mark in Big 12 Championship play.
— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage.