Kansas defeats TCU, 88-84

  • 8:15 p.m., Jan. 6, 2018
  • Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, TX

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Leapfrogging TCU: Jayhawks hold off Horned Frogs, display toughness in 88-84 win

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) wrestles for a ball with TCU guard Alex Robinson (25) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) wrestles for a ball with TCU guard Alex Robinson (25) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at Schollmaier Arena.


Fort Worth, Texas — Kansas coach Bill Self has been begging his team to be tougher and more competitive all season.

Saturday night at TCU’s Schollmaier Arena, Self got his wish. And right away.

With the memories of a second home loss of the season just four days earlier fresh in their minds and the challenge of yet another Top 20 team on the docket, the Jayhawks jumped out of the gate with the kind of grit and grind that Self wants to see.

Was it perfect? Nope. But did the 88-84, hang-on-for-dear-life victory over No. 16 TCU completely flip the script from Tuesday’s loss to Texas Tech and allow Kansas to play the role of the aggressor and dictate the way the game was played? Absolutely.

“I definitely feel like we were tough tonight,” said senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, who led all scorers with 28 points and got to the free throw line 15 times. “More tough than we were last game for sure, just playing together and wanting to win.”

In Self’s eyes, Graham was the leader of the pack in that department.

“He just didn’t let us lose,” Self said. “He was unreal down the stretch. That was a competitive dude playing down the stretch.”

It wasn’t just the fact that the Jayhawks (12-3 overall, 2-1 Big 12) were the grittier team that mattered. In time, TCU joined them and started flashing some toughness of its own. In doing so, though, the Frogs took some chances and were forced to step out of their comfort zone while Kansas spent most of the first half playing smart, sliding into position on defense, staying away from stupid fouls and moving the ball to the right spots on offense and taking good, high-percentage shots.

The second half, which TCU won 50-46, was a different story. But it, too, featured the kind of typical KU toughness that has been hard to come by for this team.

That trait took on various forms and appeared in different ways and at different times.

There were big time blocks by Svi Mykhailiuk — of a breakaway dunk attempt, no less — and Mitch Lightfoot — on back-to-back possessions in the second half — and Graham, who scored a game-high 28 points, gutting out free throws and defensive possessions down the stretch despite serious pain in his right hip.

Even the pain was the product of KU’s competitive spirit, as Graham picked the pocket of Alex Robinson with 2:07 to play and, instead of shying away from contact, went right at TCU’s Desmond Bane in an attempt to finish the play. Graham was fouled hard on his way to the rim and came down even harder against the padding underneath the basket.

“I just landed on my butt wrong,” Graham said, downplaying the pain.

There also were stretches where the Jayhawks’ mental toughness served them well, none bigger than a second-half spurt, midway through, that turned a one-point, 50-49 KU lead into a 60-51 lead with 11:08 to play.

TCU (13-2, 1-2) managed to close that gap, too, and even took a couple of temporary leads late. But the Jayhawks, led by Graham, refused to step aside and simply made more winning plays than the Horned Frogs in the final few minutes.

“Toughness is a lot of things,” Self said. “It could be physical, which we’re not that. And it can also be mental. And I thought we showed some toughness tonight by getting behind, making some free throws late, making some plays late. We had two or three stops in the last couple minutes that were big stops. We did some things better in that regard but by no means is this a physically tough team.”

Did the Jayhawks need the 3-point shot to win? Absolutely. Time and time again in the second half, with TCU crawling back into it, the Jayhawks responded by drilling a critical 3-pointer that maintained their cushion. Most often it was Mykhailiuk (20 points, 5-of-7 from 3-point range) or Graham (3-of-6 from downtown) who hit the key shot, but 3-point shooting (KU was 11-of-20 from 3-point range for the night) was not what won Kansas this game the way it did at Texas.

Being competitive did. And because of it, the Jayhawks staved off a scary slip into unfamiliar territory and will head home for Tuesday’s game against Iowa State at 2-1 in Big 12 play instead of 1-2.

Self said the difference was significant but reminded the room that the conference race was still just three games old.

“You need to hold serve at home and when you don’t, you have to go steal one,” Self said. “And this was a steal the way I look at it.”

Steal or not, 15 games to go or not, the Jayhawks, at least for now, reminded the rest of the conference on Saturday that the Big 12 is and has been theirs for the past 13 years and they’re not planning on giving up control any time soon.

“Huh,” grumbled Graham when asked if he sensed fans were expecting that this would be the year that KU’s 13-year Big 12 championship streak ended. “No chance. Nah. Our fans? Maybe other teams. But I feel like that’s every year that everybody doubts us and thinks, ‘Oh, Kansas is not going to do it this year.’ But we’re a family, we stick in our huddle and we all believe in each other and ourselves and we just go out, night in and night out, and compete and hopefully at the end of the year it’ll work out for us.”

More news and notes from Kansas vs. TCU

By the Numbers: Kansas 88, TCU 84

By the Numbers: Kansas 88, TCU 84


Blake Phillips 3 years, 3 months ago

What is Malik doing out there? I mean, this guy just runs around like a chicken with his head cut off. He's got some good hustle and passing ability, but his drives to the basket are atrocious, his defense is suspect.... he's almost always late to his man on the perimeter. This guy had all of last season and theres no way Garett is that much better of a player to be starting over him as a freshman. I like garett's rebounding and defense, but he makes 2-4 points a game.... we need more offense. trae young and texas tech & WV are gonna light us up if we keep trusting these 3 point shooting games.

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 3 months ago

Yeap.. this has been fans concern, but what can we do with thin roster? Garrett can D, but he can't make baskets, doesn't even fake his shots. Waaay too softie. Cunliffe looks promising on O, but he panics easily. What's our chance to see both Dok and Mitch on the floor together?

Barry Weiss 3 years, 3 months ago

totally agree with you Blake. Malik is obviously struggling. I heard he had a sore foot, but I think it may be something more. I'm sure its hard on him coming in here with all those expectations and then not being able to meet them. I recall at one point last night looking at him and he was out there drifting around and had not even broken a sweat. I think he somehow needs to turn up the intensity more and then his game may come to me. As it is, it will be a no brainer to plug Billy or Silvio into this part of our rotation given we are just not getting good offense and defense, combined, at that spot.

Blake Phillips 3 years, 3 months ago

yeah Barry, I was talking with someone on this feed last week. people think Malik will go pro or overseas next season...... uh..... I doubt it.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 3 months ago

if he cannot even start for KU, and at the pace he is scoring, there is no way he would have a shot in the NBA. He will need to stay as long as he can at KU to develop.

Mike Riches 3 years, 3 months ago

I think our guys showed more fight in this game, and definitely seemed to drive to the hole more often, two things that Self has obviously been big on. But rebounding...ouch. To only have one more defensive rebound than they had offensive rebounds...That's horrible. I wish I could say it was because Dok was sidelined with fouls, but I don't think he's a much better rebounder than Mitch. We've got to figure out that part of our game.

That said, this was a road win against a good ranked team, so we'll take it. I just can't believe how loaded the Big 12 is. If we do in fact win #14, I think Coach Self will have a decent chance to pick up another COY award.

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 3 months ago

We don't seal or box out, this problem has been there for a while. I'm not surprised. One way to offset that is to foul out their bigs by driving more to the basket ala FM!

Bryce Landon 3 years, 3 months ago

After I cracked Kansas hard for their lack of pulse, effort, and intensity against Texas Tech, it's only fair that I praise them for their pulse, effort, and intensity that they showed against Texas Christian. They had pep in their step, they didn't wither when the Frogs roared back to take the the lead, and Mitch Lightfoot - holy crap, that guy had some brass balls last night. Six blocks and a three-pointer to keep TCU at bay. He was the MVP of the game for sure as far as I'm concerned.

Weird how KU has played better in hostile environments than they have in front of their own fans, don't you think?

Robert Brock 3 years, 3 months ago

Texas Tech is a vastly better team than TCU.

Layne Pierce 3 years, 3 months ago

Totally agree Bryce, and that is why I think these next 2 home games will decide the season. We play well, and win them both, and we're back. We lose either one of them, and the reality we all fear begins to be set.

Maybe the players feel like they have to win big at home, and that alters how the play.
Or maybe they are too comfortable? What do you think?

Rock Chalk

Jeff Foster 3 years, 3 months ago

Let's just hope this is the week the NCAA decides to do a little work and clear at least Billy or Silvio, if not both. One gives us at least a little more relief, we're not going to win too many games with Dok only getting 13 minutes even though his production was solid. Not sure we can count on Mitch to play like that every night although I think he should. Key is getting another big out there that can help down low to rebound and get Dok a little in-game rest. That too will open up the outsides a little more, maybe help get Malik outta his funk too. We need him to step it up too. #RockChalk

Adrian Meneses 3 years, 3 months ago

Who wants to bet that once we hit the 4 loss mark in conference play is when Mr. former AD @ WV says alright now it’s a foot race to the here ya go Kansas your players are good to go, good luck! I am “All In” on that wager

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 3 months ago

Indeed, Malik is a mystery. He was supposed to be one of the top 5 players in the country coming out of high school. Unfortunately, though, you can't measure a player's total commitment to succeed coming out of high school.

At this juncture, I don't expect to see him at KU next year, one way or the other. With the eligibility of the transfers and the freshmen coming in, he would be squeezed out of playing time at KU.

As for the game, a true team performance starting at the top of the chart with Coach Self and his staff. It is no coincidence that the players show mental toughness because it is bred in them by Coach Self.

Coach says that he feels like they stole one on the road. He's just being his usual modest self. He prepared his team for a battle, and he led them with his Hall of Fame leadership.

If you taped the game, just watch the last six minutes and count the number of incidents where the team "willed" itself to victory, especially when TCU briefly took the lead. The players obviously deserve the credit for executing the plan, but the "conductor of the orchestra" is the one that puts the players in a position to succeed.

Craig Carson 3 years, 3 months ago

This was a must win game for KU..the best case scenario for this week is for them to collect 2 more home wins and at least get Preston cleared to play..those things happen,and KU has a great shot at not just the Big 12 title but a deep NCAA run

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