The Day After: Trouble at TCU
Wednesday's 64-61 Kansas University basketball victory over TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, was such a dud from a pure basketball standpoint, that it's not really worth spending too much time recapping it.
That's especially true with Allen Fieldhouse games against Kansas State (Saturday) at Iowa State (Monday) on the immediate horizon.
So let's get to the good and the bad of it and get out of here.
The Jayhawks won. And they won ugly. But a win is a win, as the saying goes, especially on the road in a deep and talented Big 12 Conference.
First off, TCU clearly is a better team than it has been in the past couple of years, but this one had as much to do with KU's inability to get locked in for extended periods of time as anything else. That's probably not that big of a surprise. Personally, I thought KU had turned the corner of having to worry about what kind of energy it brought to the floor from night to night, but it probably would have been easier to predict a letdown after a nearly flawless game against Texas last weekend. If you're looking for good news from this game, it lies in the final score. Most programs lose when they play poorly and are a little sloppy and sluggish while struggling offensively for large chunks of time. KU didn't. Give credit to some of the lesser-used role players, who, by definition constantly bring fire and energy, for helping the Jayhawks survive the Horned Frogs.
Three reasons to smile
1 – For starters, KU won. Again. And improved to 17-3 overall and 6-1 in Big 12 play. We're deep enough into Big 12 play now that, a record like that is reason enough to feel good about where a team stands.
2 – Wednesday's game was a not-so-subtle reminder of how sophomore guard Frank Mason can bail this team out almost whenever he wants to. On a night when KU shot 46 percent, Mason was 8-of-12 from the floor in 35 minutes. Curiously, Mason missed all three free throws he attempted, and even though he's still a .783 free throw shooter for the season, he's down to just .700 in Big 12 play.
3 – Landen Lucas will never be one of those guys who this team counts on, but credit him for preparing like he is. Lucas played big minutes for the Jayhawks on Wednesday night, finishing with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in 24 minutes. The things Lucas lacks still showed up, so you didn't leave the game feeling like Lucas could be a difference maker in the future. But it takes efforts like this from unexpected places for a program to win 10 — or 11 — straight Big 12 titles, and Lucas delivered one Wednesday night.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU's energy was lacking big time. Maybe it was the gym or the opponent or the fact that K-State and Iowa State at home are the next two games on the schedule. But those are just excuses. The Jayhawks should not be able to use youth as an excuse any more. These guys know better by now and have seen what it takes to compete and play at a high level. It's simply a matter of going out and doing it, which, over the course of a grind like Big 12 Conference play, is occasionally easier said than done. It's worth pointing out that the re-aggravation of Devonte' Graham's right foot is also a reason to sigh. Even though Graham re-entered and looked fine, seeing the freshman guard who has proven to be a bit of a difference maker doubled over in pain is definitely not something the Jayhawks want to see.
2 – KU's big men were outworked on the board throughout the game. Forget the final numbers, which showed TCU holding a 50-40 rebounding advantage, including a 26-9 edge on the offensive glass. What was more concerning was the way the Horned Frogs were attacking missed shots and the way the Jayhawks weren't. Early foul trouble on several KU players may have been a factor and caused KU to pull back its aggression, but that's a bad excuse. Guys can still play hard without fouling.
3 – Despite the off night offensively, foul trouble up and down the lineup and next to no energy, the Jayhawks looked to be in total control... until the end. That's when the wheels nearly fell off, which should be cause for real concern. KU's showing vs. TCU's pressure in final couple of minutes was nothing short of atrocious and it makes you wonder how Kansas will match-up with West Virginia, which plays like that almost the entire game, and even K-State, who showed flashes of that style in this week's loss to West Virginia.
One for the road
KU's three-point win over TCU:
• Made Kansas 17-3 overall and 6-1 in Big 12 play for the 10th time under head coach Bill Self.
• Pushed KU’s all-time lead in the series to 8-1, including a 5-1 mark in Big 12 games and a 3-1 record in Fort Worth.
• Marked KU's fourth straight win against TCU.
• Improved Self to 342-72 while at Kansas, 12-4 against TCU (6-1 at Kansas) and 549-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,143-825 all-time.
The Jayhawks return home Saturday for a 1 p.m. match-up with Sunflower State rival Kansas State on ESPN. The meeting will be the first between the two Kansas programs this season, and, two days later, the Jayhawks will welcome Iowa State to town for a Big Monday rematch with the Cyclones.