The Day After: TCU
Kansas came into the game at 5-0 in the Big 12 and the Horned Frogs entered the game at 0-6, so the outcome was far from a surprise. But given the fact that the last time the Jayhawks played at TCU they inspired KU coach Bill Self to mention past futile match-ups with Topeka YMCA, the victory registers as a positive step for a team that really seems to be hitting its stride.
Kansas has now won six straight games, has a stranglehold on the Big 12 Conference race and finds ways, big and small, to get better every time they take the floor.
The bottom line about KU's latest victory demonstrates the maturity and developing killer instinct this team has. Although very few of the guys who contributed to this victory were there last year when KU laid an egg, they still treated the trip to TCU with a business-like mentality. The soaring Jayhawks nearly scored as many in the first half (53) as they did in the entire game last year (55) in Fort Worth. And it's clear that this group was determined to put to bed all of the talk about last year's meltdown. Road conference wins are never easy, but the Jayhawks made this one look like cake.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – How about Landen Lucas. With Tarik Black wearing a boot and unable to play, Lucas filled his spot in the rotation admirably. He finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds in just 13 minutes and hit 3 of 4 shots while displaying the belief that he belonged. Lucas has embraced his limited role on this team about as well as anybody, and his intelligence, maturity and team-first mentality ensure that he's already ready if needed.
2 – Jayhawks attacked the rim. Whether it was Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid or Wayne Selden, the Jayhawks chose the dunk as their weapon of choice to show that this year would be different. KU attacked the rim and finished with authority from the jump and seemed to look to drop the hammer whenever possible. You can see it in a lot of ways, and this is just one of them, but it's very clear that this team's confidence is sky-high right now.
3 – Post-entry passes on point. It's a small detail that plays a big role in the KU offense and the Jayhawks were fantastic feeding the post against the Horned Frogs. Whether it was the high passes to the corner of the backboard that only KU's post players could catch or zipped bounce passes to bigs who had their defenders sealed, KU made sure to take advantage of its opportunities and advantage inside, which showed when three TCU players fouled out
Three reasons to sigh:
(Disclaimer: This was a pretty clean game and these are a little nit-picky)
1 – They more than made up for it with a blistering 62 percent shooting performance and 21-point lead in the first half, but in the game's earliest moments, KU looked a little scattered, particularly on offense. To me, that was a sign of them pressing a little to make sure that what happened last year did not happen again this year. It didn't last long, and once they just settled down and played, they turned in one of their better offensive games of the season, so, again, hardly a big deal.
2 – Coaches get paid a lot of money to make good decisions and 99.9% of the time they do just that. But I've never understood why some coaches have key players on the floor late in blowouts. I'm sure they have their reasons and I'm sure those reasons are sound, but I was more than a little surprised to see Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins still on the floor in the final five minutes with KU leading by nearly 20 points. Selden and Wiggins checked out for good at the 1:56 mark and no harm was done. But, to me, it just hardly seems worth the risk of having a couple of key starters out there that late when the game is well in hand.
3 – Free throw shooting. The Jayhawks won by 22 and looked great doing it. But that easily could have been a 30-point spread if KU had hit its free throws. The Jayhawks missed 13 overall, with Joel Embiid missing nearly half of his trips (5 of 11). These weren't clutch free throws we're talking about, so all's well that ends well, but something like 30-of-38 would've looked a lot better than 25-of-38. Like I said, we're nit-picking a little here.
One for the road:
The Jayhawks' dominating road win over TCU:
• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in conference play, making KU 6-0 for the third-straight time and the sixth time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Increased the Jayhawks’ series lead to 6-1 all-time against the Horned Frogs, including a 2-1 advantage in Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 10-4 all-time against TCU, 315 63 while at Kansas and 522-168 overall.
• Pushed KU's all-time record to 2,116-816.
The Jayhawks return home Wednesday, Jan. 29, for a rematch with Iowa State at 8 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. KU knocked off Iowa State 77-70 Jan. 13 in Ames, Iowa.