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Kansas defeats TCU, 59-51

  • 7 p.m., Jan. 28, 2021
  • Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS

Thursday, January 28, 2021

No. 15 Kansas overcomes stagnant first half to push past TCU for 59-51 home win

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) celebrates a three-pointer during the second half on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) celebrates a three-pointer during the second half on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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It took the 15th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks 35 minutes to flex their muscles on Thursday night, but a late surge sparked by KU’s defense and offensive rebounding helped the home team push past a pesky TCU team, 59-51 at Allen Fieldhouse.

“We’ll take it,” Kansas coach Bill Self said after the victory, which snapped a three-game KU losing skid. “Guys feel pressure (after) losing three in a row. (And they’re) great kids who want to do well really bad. Guys were a little bit too amped up and everything, but we'll take it. I’m not going to apologize for winning by eight at home.”

No one in crimson and blue will much want to remember the first 30-35 minutes of Thursday’s victory.

It featured KU’s lowest scoring first half since 2013 and was littered with turnovers, sloppy plays in transition and missed shots.

“It was just a lid on the rim for both teams,” junior forward David McCormack said of the first-half struggles that led to TCU taking a 19-18 lead into the locker room. “Once the ball started falling, things became easier, playing became easier.”

But when the Jayhawks needed it most — and make no mistake about it, this team absolutely needed Thursday’s win — a couple of KU veterans and a seldom-used newcomer delivered a flurry of knockout blows.

Never was that more evident than in the final five minutes, when Kansas used a 9-1 run, sparked by McCormack to turn a 45-43 lead into a 54-44 margin and smooth jog across the finish line.

One of the biggest plays of the game came with five minutes remaining from junior wing Tyon Grant-Foster, who played 17 second-half minutes after not playing at all in the first half.

After missing the front end of a one-and-one trip to the free throw line, Grant-Foster crashed the glass on the missed jumper by Christian Braun that followed and put the ball softly off the glass to give KU a 47-43 lead with just under five minutes to play.

Not content to leave his impact there, Grant-Foster ripped down a defensive rebound on the TCU miss that followed and that set the stage for McCormack’s shot-clock-beating 3-pointer with just under four minutes to play that put Kansas up 50-43.

The 3-point make was the first of McCormack’s KU career and it momentarily sent the Allen Fieldhouse crowd into a wild celebration.

“I thought that was the biggest basket of the game,” Self said. “And, yes, I was hoping he’d shoot it because there were two seconds on the shot clock.”

McCormack, who has been known to have good range for a player his size, said after the game that the shot felt good when it left his hand and that he and the Kansas coaching staff had talked some about him shooting more from the outside this offseason.

What was the verdict from those conversations?

“Yellow light right now until I get some more shots to fall,” McCormack said with a grin.

The KU big man delivered another big night inside, scoring 15 points on 7-of-13 shooting and grabbing six rebounds – four offensive – in 26 minutes.

Grant-Foster, who joined redshirt freshman point guard Dajuan Harris in the second-half starting lineup in place of regular starters Christian Braun and Jalen Wilson, also played a key role in KU’s 41-point second-half surge.

He was not without his mistakes, three turnovers most notable among them. But he played hard, he attacked the rim and he brought the kind of athleticism to the floor that Self and company wanted to see.

“That’s him being him,” Self said after the victory. “I told him, ‘Play to your athletic ability.’ He’s kind of labored shooting the ball in the game. So the best way to kind of get some confidence is to get an easy basket and not start off by just casting threes. And he did that and he got a little confidence. I thought he was good.”

Adding to the contributions of Grant-Foster (nine points and five rebounds on 3-of-6 shooting) and McCormack during that late knockout run were back-to-back dunks by starting guards Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett.

The first came when Garrett hit Agbaji on a back cut for a two-handed flush that put KU up 52-44. Garrett immediately followed that up by picking the pocket of TCU guard Taryn Todd near mid-court and racing in for a two-handed, breakaway dunk of his own.

“Coach was saying that players make plays,” Agbaji recalled. “And those two plays were game changers that gave us the energy to close it out.”

After starting in a 10-2 hole that prompted Self to call a timeout, the Jayhawks responded by holding TCU scoreless for the next 7:20 of the game.

That allowed Kansas (11-5 overall, 5-4 Big 12) to climb back into the game, and the Jayhawks took their first lead on an Agbaji 3-pointer from the corner with 11:13 to play in the half.

The catch-and-shoot jumper came off of a nice drive to the paint by Wilson, who found Agbaji in the corner after the KU junior relocated on the drive to give Wilson and easier passing lane.

Despite the quick spurt, Kansas answered with a hefty scoring drought of its own (8:24), which allowed TCU (9-6, 2-5) to reclaim the lead and brought further frustration to the Kansas offense.

The KU drought ended at the 2:49 mark when Agbaji connected on another 3-pointer from the wing to pull Kansas within a point at 15-14.

“What it did show you tonight was, if you defend, you can play like crap and still be in the game,” Self said. “That’s what happened tonight.”

“When coach told me at half that I’d start, at that moment I knew we needed a spark, not on the offensive end but defensive end," Grant-Foster said in a postgame interview. "We weren’t scoring. I knew if we started to get stops the lid would come off the basket.”

As rough as this one might have been around the edges, the Jayhawks left Allen Fieldhouse encouraged by the opportunity to celebrate a win for the first time since Jan. 9.

“It feels good just to be back on track and be in the win column,” Agbaji said with his signature smile splashed across his face.

Added McCormack: “It feels great. Like Marcus said earlier (this week), we get a new season. So we're starting off 1-0 and we want to continue to capitalize on everything that we've learned, apply it forward and continue to grow as a team.”

The Jayhawks will need all of that and then some this weekend as they head on the road after little rest and short prep to take on No. 18 Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Tipoff for that one is slated for 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.

Comments

Tony Bandle 8 months, 4 weeks ago

This game challenged the validity of that old axiom, better to win ugly than lose gracefully. Still, a win is a win is a win.

Adam Bengtson 8 months, 4 weeks ago

What sport does this team practice during the week??

Joe Baker 8 months, 4 weeks ago

A win is a win. You have to find a way to win and build.

Micky Baker 8 months, 4 weeks ago

The younger guys brought some energy in the second half and it was contagious. This is what I was talking about with Wilson and some of the other guys. Get after the loose balls and get back on defense. The guys have a lot of work to do. A lot of room for improvement. I just want to see the kind of effort a couple of the young guys gave in the second half the whole game from everyone.

Barry Weiss 8 months, 4 weeks ago

that one was rough, but the losing streak is over. I'd like to see Grant-Foster get more minutes.

Adam Bengtson 8 months, 4 weeks ago

What worse? Season feels different with no fans? KU not in contention for Big 12? That KU games are on dreaded ESP+?

Bryce Landon 8 months, 4 weeks ago

As I listened to that first half, I honestly began to wonder if Kansas was going to win another game the rest of the season. Thankfully, Kansas finally came alive and won, but despite the second half lineup shakeup, a win like this doesn't make me feel confident going forward about the kind of record KU will post for the season.

Benjamin Shear 8 months, 4 weeks ago

It's hard to believe that this is the same team that scored 90 points against Gonzaga (but still lost). KU scored 11 points in the first 18 minutes of the game....even with TCU turning it over 13 times in the first half.

Robert Brock 8 months, 4 weeks ago

KU football is not the only sport seeking an offensive coordinator. ;)

Scott Proch 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Unwatchable in the first half. At halftime we were wondering how Bill was going to top his YMCA quote! I'm going to have to look at the box score to see how we scored 40 in the second.

Blake Brown 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Matt, we sort of misfired on our score predictions with both of us having KU in the 80s. We even missed the projected starting lineup for the first half, but got it pretty close for the 2nd. Meanwhile, a lot of adjectives have been used to describe that first half and they all apply starting with abysmal and ending with embarrassing. And to think this is the "start of a new season" is even more ridiculous. We are not only missing wide open shots and even layups and free throws, but having a difficult time just running some semblance of offense without turning it over or resulting in a shot that is out of rhythm and intent.
I do not recall seeing a Jayhawk squad that has struggled as much to just run offense. We're predictable, dribble too much and make rote passes that put our guys in a poor position to execute anything that resembles a comfort zone. I`m in favor of Harris at the point. He brings so much more energy and is a pest on defense to add to what Marcus does. They are a force when playing together.
Hopefully, we can find some inner strength to get it together and play to our potential. It's no fun going into games with so much trepidation. Go Hawks!

Benjamin Shear 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Obiter Dictum:

*The team looked out of shape. I can't believe they actually are, but they looked slow and unresponsive at almost every position. That game was hard to watch.

*We scored 11 points in the first 17 minutes of the game.

*TSU had 13 turnovers in the first half alone and we did nothing with that.

*DMack came on strong and showed that he really is a good shooter (first 3 pointer ever!). He has always had a nice shot from 15 feet, but it was cool to seek him sink a long range jumper.

*The white haired referee was pure garbage all night on both ends of the floor.

*Who is Jalen Wilson? No one who watched the game would know. He wasn't there.

*Grant-Foster has almost no offense at this point (although somehow he did manage 9 points, not sure how). But KU was +10 when he was on the floor.

*Overall this team plays to the level of whoever they are playing. They passively wait to see how the other team plays and then they match or just slight go above or below that level. We will see games like tonight's the rest of the season unless this changes. Sometimes we will win, sometimes we will lose and it doesn't matter the opponent. This team CAN play at the highest level, but they choose to just phone it in and see how it goes.

Blake Brown 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Yikes! I just saw the scoring by half for the Michigan States game last night and they got 20 in the first half and 17 in the 2nd. If misery likes company, we've got one.

An acquaintance familiar with Tennessee says they are also struggling with offense, but their defense is highly ranked. Tomorrow's game may set a new standard for offensive inefficiency.

Layne Pierce 8 months, 4 weeks ago

The unfortunate thing is that this team is incredibly inconsistent. Against Tennessee Grant-Foster might do absolutely nothing, or they may take 3 charfes off of his drives, and he's done.

He does bring a certain physicality, and if he will lay off the 3pt shot, because it just does not work, and play under congtrol, take what they give you, he can be a big part of team.

Like Wilson, he tries to always force the action, and teams have them both well scouted. Also both of them are not that good in one on one defense. Wilson gets burned about every game. The part of his game that has really degenerated is his offensive rebounding. That was his best ability early on. Unfortunately, both wilson and Braun are in slumps, and that is a killer for this team.

Love Harris but he needs more offensive capability, teams just leave him alone half the time and that makes it hard to move the ball. By now you would think this was the beginning of the year. The fierce defense is what is going to have to do it for this bunch, they are simply weak on offensive consistency. One thing that would help would be for Abaji to be isolated more on side to go one on one, same thing with Wilson.

RCJH

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