Fort Worth, Texas — Very little has come easy for the 14th-ranked Kansas basketball team since Big 12 Conference play began back in early January.
And that theme continued Monday night at Schollmaier Arena, where the Jayhawks and TCU Horned Frogs needed overtime to settle KU’s latest road challenge, an 82-77 win by Kansas on a wild night for both teams.
The victory improved the Jayhawks to 2-6 in true road games this season and finally were able to hear the sounds of the Rock Chalk Chant ringing from the rafters from the KU fans who made the trip to TCU.
Turnovers again nearly led to road devastation for the 14th-ranked Jayhawks, who somehow overcame an epic meltdown in the final 5 minutes of regulation to send the game to OT.
But unlike at Iowa State and K-State, where it was the volume of turnovers that cost Kansas, this time it was disastrous final 5 minutes that led to KU needing OT to solve their road woes.
Despite leading by 12 points at one point during the second half and by as many as 9 points — 65-56 on a Mitch Lightfoot follow dunk — in the final 5 minutes, the Jayhawks (19-6 overall, 8-4 Big 12) surrendered a 13-0 run to TCU in a 3:40 stretch and saw the big lead turn into a two-possession deficit, erasing all of the good things that came during the game’s first 35 minutes.
The Jayhawks cracked the scoreboard first in the 5-minute overtime in the most unusual fashion. After the teams traded misses for the first 90 seconds, Quentin Grimes found himself open for a rhythm 3-pointer on the other end but passed it to Devon Dotson, who was even more wide open. Dotson, also passed it, this time to an even-more-wide-open Ochai Agbaji, who had started on his way to the rim for the rebound but stopped when the pass came zipping his way. After bobbling it and regaining his feet, Agbaji, still wide open, calmly drained the 3-pointer to give Kansas a 72-69 lead.
One possession later, Dedric Lawson (14 points, 10 rebounds) delivered a soft hook in the paint to put KU up 74-69 with just under 3 minutes to play in the extra frame.
From there, the Frogs (17-7, 5-6) chipped away at the KU lead until a free throw from TCU’s JD Miller tied things at 74. But KU sophomore K.J. Lawson, who hit the game-tying floater with 25 seconds to play in regulation, gave KU the lead back with another strong move to the rim with just over a minute to play.
TCU’s Kendric Davis hit 1 of 2 free throws with 55 seconds to play to pull the Frogs within a point again and Kansas responded with Dotson taking the ball hard to the rim and drawing a foul with 40.8 seconds to play.
Dotson, who finished with a career-high 25 points in this one, stayed down after the contact and then calmly hit two free throws to put KU back ahead by 3, 78-75.
On the ensuing possession, Miller again hit 1 of 2 free throws to pull the Frogs within 2, but KU freshman David McCormack, who started his second game in a row, ripped the rebound away from a TCU defender and that led to two more free throws from Dotson that put Kansas up 80-76 with 23.8 seconds to play.
With Dedric Lawson, Lightfoot and Grimes all on the bench with 5 fouls, it was those free throws and a big rebound by Dotson that helped Kansas finish the game.
After another foul, Dotson hit those free throws, as well, and the Jayhawks exploded off the bench when the final horn sounded.
The opening sequence should have been a sign of the wild things to come.
Kansas started in a 7-0 hole and quickly called timeout at the 18:26 mark of the first half to keep it from getting any worse.
Less than 4 minutes later, at the 12:46 mark of the first half, the Jayhawks took their first lead of the game on a top-of-the-key 3-pointer by Dedric Lawson after another hustle play by Mitch Lightfoot kept the offensive possession alive and helped add to KU’s 14-5 run.
After TCU’s fast start, the Frogs began misfiring like mad from 3-point range and were down below 40 percent from the floor by the Under-12 timeout of the first half, including a 2-of-7 clip from 3-point range.
Kansas, meanwhile, calmly connected on 3 of 4 from 3-point range in the game’s first 8 minutes to survive that sloppy start.
One of the biggest reasons KU seemed to settle down in this one was the Jayhawks’ willingness to stay aggressive.
Rather than playing on their heels and letting the Horned Frogs and their home crowd overwhelm them like they saw in last week’s loss at Kansas State, the Jayhawks attacked the rim, pulled the trigger on open shots and never stopped hustling.
As has become customary, Ochai Agbaji scored 10 points in the game’s first 12 minutes and Devon Dotson, on 2-of-3 shooting from distance, had 9 points in that same time frame.
After a nice feed from Charlie Moore set up a layup by K.J. Lawson that put Kansas up 6, TCU’s Kendric Davis scored 7 consecutive points to give the lead back to the Frogs.
Davis’ buckets came in a variety of ways, scoring in transition, on a 3-pointer in front of the Kansas bench and after shaking Quentin Grimes, one-on-one, and earning a pair of free throws.
From there, the teams traded the runs and the lead to the end of the first half in what became a H-O-R-S-E contest and featured five different players making tough shots in the final 2 minutes of the first half, including Grimes, whose step-back jumper at the buzzer tied the game at 37 at the break.
Kansas returns home to play West Virginia on Saturday.