As badly as Kansas University’s basketball team played down the stretch against TCU, the bottom line is the Jayhawks survived Wednesday and remain in sole possession of first place in the Big 12 Conference.
“I’ll take the win,” coach Bill Self said after Wednesday’s 64-61 road victory upped KU’s league record to 6-1 — a full game ahead of 5-2 Iowa State and West Virginia heading into a two-game homestand.
KU will meet (5-3) Kansas State at 1 p.m., Saturday and Iowa State at 8 p.m., Monday, both in Allen Fieldhouse.
Indeed, if KU is able to secure an 11th straight conference crown in March, nobody will remember the Jayhawks saw an 11-point lead (with 3:35 left) dip to three in the waning seconds in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I am not happy. Nobody on our staff is happy. The players shouldn’t be happy,” Self said. “We’re relieved we won, but how we closed the game ... even as bad as we played, if you close the game right, you win by 10 and leave feeling better. That’s a terrible way to close the game.”
Self said the Jayhawks had no energy Wednesday, just as they had none in a 77-52 loss at Temple in nonconference play.
“This was a game, at least earlier in the season when it happened in Philadelphia, we couldn’t recover,” Self said. “We’re fortunate we got a lead early (13 points in first half). I guess we were just fortunate we were able to hang on.”
Sophomore Brannen Greene said the coach’s postgame message was direct.
“We’ve got to do better. We can’t play like that,” Greene said. “If we want to get better ... like we thought we were building from Texas (Saturday’s 75-62 win in Austin). We still are, but if we want to keep building we can’t have performances like this. We all agree. We’ve got to do better.”
The key against Kansas State?
“Play like we did at Texas, with unbelievable energy, be the aggressor,” Greene said. “That’s what we didn’t do (against TCU, which is 1-6 in league play).”
Nino doubtful: Kansas State’s Nino Williams, who hurt his left knee Tuesday in a loss to West Virginia, has been listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game against KU.
“The good news is there is no structure damage where he would need surgery and be out for the year,” KSU coach Bruce Weber said of the 6-5, 220-pound senior who is KSU’s second-leading scorer (11.7) and leading rebounder (4.9).
“The negative is that it is a strain or sprain with irritation where we have to go on him and his pain tolerance. He is a tough guy. He has lived with pain since I have been here. Ironically, it is not the same knee as the one he has had procedures on, he just landed wrong on a lay-up on a steal where he lost his footing and irritated it. If he cannot play, he must be hurting. He did three treatments today with mostly running in the pool and shooting some free throws. Miracles happen and (athletic trainer) Luke (Sauber) has a magical touch and we will see if he can get him out-and-about. Obviously, we want him Saturday but we also have to look at the 10 games after that,” Weber added.
Morris twins in investigation?: Former KU forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris of the Phoenix Suns are part of a possible assault investigation being handled by Phoenix police, Phoenix CBS 5 News reports. Police confirmed to the station they are investigating an alleged assault that occurred around 7:30 p.m. Saturday outside a gym near 15th Avenue and Colter in central Phoenix.
They would not release the names of those involved. Sources told CBS 5 News the Morris brothers are being looked at as suspects in the crime. The Suns had no comment.
Challenge: The Big 12/SEC Challenge will be moving to January, beginning with the 2015-16 season, the leagues announced Thursday.
All games in next season’s Challenge will be played on Jan. 30, well after the start of conference play.
“We are excited to move this event to January to provide the Big 12 a unique showcase and help ESPN give the Big 12/SEC Challenge the attention it deserves,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
“Our teams have shown a commitment to scheduling tough non-conference opponents and should be commended for setting a new standard by placing a key non-league matchup in the middle of the conference season.”
Foul woes: Perry Ellis, who scored KU’s first five points vs. TCU, sat the final 18:44 of the first half after picking up his second foul.
“Probably not always,” Self said, asked if his policy would be to sit the junior forward for the remainder of the half in all games after the second whistle. “The thing about it is we actually got the lead with him on the bench. I think at the Under Four timeout we were up nine or 10. There was no reason to put him in. We didn’t close the half out right (leading by six). But that was the reason. Up 10 at the Under Four time out, I didn’t see any reason to put him back in.”
Weber on KU: “The big thing is that Kelly (Oubre) and Cliff (Alexander) have figured it out and have gotten some experience. He (Bill Self) made both of them earn it and now it gives them two more weapons that can do a lot of things. Kelly is just so active, we saw him when we recruited him, and he is playing a lot more active and confident.
“Frank Mason might be the key to the team and even though everyone forgets about Perry Ellis, he is a rock-solid guy like Nino (Williams) or Thomas (Gipson) that they depend on. I think Frank’s improvement came by chance since they had no one else he has had to play though mistakes. He plays confident, makes plays, and is shooting the ball better.”