FORT WORTH, Texas — Staring down the barrel of another two-game losing streak and a second early loss in Big 12 play, the Jayhawks responded in hostile territory.
Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk combined for 48 points and Mitch Lightfoot provided a spark off the bench as the No. 10 Jayhawks (12-3, 2-1 Big 12) defeated No. 16 TCU, 88-84, to pick up their second road win in Big 12 play.
Challenged by his coach to do so earlier in the week, Graham continued to make an effort driving the ball, finishing the first half with 13 points and ending with a game-high 26.
Mykhailiuk added 12 in the first half, meaning the trio of he, Graham and Udoka Azubuike (10 first-half points, 4-for-4 shooting) had actually outscored the Horned Frogs to that point, 35-34, all while KU held an 18-10 advantage in points in the paint.
However, the early lead wouldn't last.
The KU offense, which went scoreless over the final 2:35 of the first half, had a similar such streak to start the second, much of which came with Azubuike on the bench in foul trouble.
Once down by as many as 14 points, the Horned Frogs kept the game within reach, cutting the deficit down to one and even taking the lead with less than five minutes to play.
Trailing by one, Mykhailiuk hit a 3-pointer to give KU a 75-73 lead. The Horned Frogs tied the game at 75 and again at 77, but Lightfoot, Garrett, Graham and Malik Newman all came up with key free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
View a gallery of images from Saturday's game between the Jayhawks and Horned Frogs in Fort Worth.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: KU came out with the urgency it lacked against Texas Tech.
While the Jayhawks never led in their last matchup against Texas Tech, it was nearly the opposite Saturday night at Schollmaier Arena. The Jayhawks needed all of 19 seconds to snag their first lead. They landed the first real punch shortly after, embarking on a 13-0 run to stretch a 9-8 lead out to 22-8.
TCU would eventually get back into the game, but the early spurt gave the Jayhawks a cushion and kept them from having to exert all their energy on a comeback.
• Offensive highlight: Azubuike was responsible for a pair of highlights early on.
With the Jayhawks aiming to get the ball inside early, Azubuike caught a pass on the left block and shrugged off one defender in the post. Azubuike then went up and powered in a two-handed slam over TCU’s J.D. Miller. He wasn't done.
Having already scored three buckets in the first four minutes, Azubuike created another opportunity with his defense. The 7-foot, 280-pound sophomore swatted away a shot from Miller at the rim, leading to a fast break that was finished off by a Mykhailiuk 3-pointer.
• Defensive highlight: Azubuike’s early swat made for a solid video, but it paled in comparison to the one by Mykhailiuk moments later.
After Graham’s out-of-control layup attempt missed off the rim, TCU had the chance at a fast break the other way. Redshirt freshman Kouat Noi dribbled toward the rim with a full head of steam and went up for a tomahawk slam, but Mykhailiuk soared in and swatted the ball away, regaining possession for KU in the process.
• Key stat: Leading 29-19 after a Vick 3-pointer, the Jayhawks dealt with a bit of foul trouble. Azubuike was called for his second foul going for a rebound off an attempted lob with just under 10 minutes to play.
In the final 9:47 of the half, in which Azubuike played no minutes, the Jayhawks were able to hold off the Horned Frogs and remain in control. The Jayhawks kept the Horned Frogs without a field goal in the final three minutes and went to the break outshooting TCU by nearly 25 percentage points (57.7 percent to 34.4 percent).
That continued to be a theme of the game, after Azubuike fouled out with 4:57 to play. Lightfoot, who finished the game with nine points, seven rebounds and six blocks, played a career-high 26 minutes. No play he made was bigger than his block of TCU's Jaylen Fisher on a potential game-tying 3-point attempt with less than 40 seconds left.
• Up next: The Jayhawks will return home for a pair of games against some scuffling Big 12 opponents. KU will first square off against Iowa State (0-3 in Big 12 play) on Tuesday at 8:15 p.m. before facing K-State (1-2).