Monday, February 11, 2019

Game day breakdown: Kansas basketball at TCU

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) gives a celebratory shove to Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) after Dotson's rejection of a TCU shot with seconds remaining in the game, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is TCU head coach Jamie Dixon.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (24) gives a celebratory shove to Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) after Dotson's rejection of a TCU shot with seconds remaining in the game, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is TCU head coach Jamie Dixon.


Kansas Jayhawks (18-6 overall, 7-4 Big 12) vs. TCU Horned Frogs (17-6 overall, 5-5 Big 12)

Time: 8 p.m. | Location: Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, Texas

TV: ESPN | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

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Keys for Kansas

1. Use the pace to create energy

Tonight’s game is a battle of two of the fastest teams in the Big 12 Conference, with Kansas leading the Big 12 with a tempo rating of 69.3 and TCU sitting in 3rd at 66.8.

That could bode well for Kansas in a couple of areas.

First, the Jayhawks have found a little bit of flow during recent weeks by turning up the defensive intensity and letting that turn into easy offense. Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji have been particularly effective in this area, but even Charlie Moore, Quentin Grimes and others have aided the cause, as well.

“I feel like that’s how we’re going to start improving, on the defensive end,” KU junior Mitch Lightfoot said over the weekend. “That’ll translate to offense.”

In addition, the faster tempo and more frantic pace almost guarantees that the Jayhawks will have to bring good energy, something that has been an issue during their 1-6 stretch in true road games this season.

“To have a chance to win, we have to be tougher and more together and have positive energy, which we did today,” Self said after the Oklahoma State victory on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. “Much, much better. We had positive energy against Iowa State. We did not have any in Manhattan (against K-State). We have to go down there (to TCU) with a purpose and a focus. People talk about running plays and all that. It doesn’t matter what you run as long as you have energy and passion. It’s contagious. I think we have some guys out there we can feed off of.”

The Jayhawks are coming off of their best points-per-possession effort of the season (1.33 vs. Oklahoma State), and that success being so fresh in their minds, plus the matchup, could play into the hands of the Kansas offense in this one.

2. Physicality from all 5 positions

In the first meeting between these two teams — a 77-68 victory by KU in Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 9 — TCU coach Jamie Dixon lamented his team’s inability to match the Jayhawks’ physical play, which came without Udoka Azubuike in the lineup.

That game was the first in the career of surging freshman Agbaji, whose energy, effort and athleticism breathed new life into the KU lineup and gave the home fans hope that life would, in fact, go on without Azubuike.

The Jayhawks are just 5-4 since that victory and currently sit a game and a half out of first place in the Big 12 race. But if there’s anything their recent wins — and losses — have shown the Jayhawks, it’s that all-out effort and physical play go a long way.

Despite not being known as the most physical force, Dedric Lawson had his way with the Horned Frogs in the first meeting, dropping in 31 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in that one.

That physical presence and KU’s desire to continue to pound the ball inside led to 27 free throws for the home team. Lawson made 9 of 13 and the Jayhawks, as a whole, hit 20 of 27.

Beyond that, KU forced TCU into 20 turnovers and won despite shooting just 43 percent from the floor.

“They were more physical than we were,” Dixon said after the 9-point loss. “That’s probably where they got it. Give them credit for just wearing us down and going inside and just being the more physical team completely.”

Said Self of TCU on Saturday after KU’s win over Oklahoma State: “It’ll be a hard matchup for us. The biggest thing is, we need to go play with some toughness, and that’s something we haven’t consistently done.

3. Keep moving Lawson around

There’s little doubt that TCU has learned something from the way the other Big 12 teams have defended Kansas and Lawson during the past four weeks, so don’t be surprised if the Frogs look to send double teams Lawson’s way whenever possible.

While that has proven to work in slowing down KU’s leading scorer, Self has figured out a couple of wrinkles of his own that have helped combat that defensive strategy.

One has been moving Lawson around, letting him play in the high post, on the perimeter and down low. The other has been pairing him with another big man — Mitch Lightfoot or David McCormack — to take some of the inside burden off of Lawson.

On Saturday, KU’s other two forwards combined for 14 rebounds in 32 minutes from the 5 position and Lawson delivered 25 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, with them helping the KU cause on the inside.

Moving Lawson around opens up passing lanes, where he can utilize those skills that Self has been so complimentary of, and also allows him to find more of a rhythm when stepping into his 3-point attempts.

Lawson has hit 12 3-pointers (of 18 on the season) in KU’s past 6 games, including a 3-of-6 shooting clip on Saturday against OSU.

“I think the fact that we played him away from the basket,” said Self when asked why Lawson had so much success setting up others last weekend. “It’s hard to play him away from the basket all the time when you play four guards. And, also, Oklahoma State played some zone, and the guy who should lead your team in assists is the high post guy against the zone, and that’s where we played him.”

Marquee Matchup

KU freshman Dotson vs. TCU senior Alex Robinson

The veteran-rookie showdown is set for Round 2 and the KU freshman is the reigning champ.

In the first meeting, Dotson got the better of Robinson, who had had his way with KU during the past couple of years, on both ends of the floor, forcing the TCU leader into 4-of-12 shooting — many of the misses weren’t close — and, more importantly, into 4 turnovers in 35 minutes.

Frustrating Robinson made things hard for TCU’s entire offense, which so often looks to him to both generate the team's sets and get to the bucket when plays break down.

Robinson also finished with 4 fouls, with a couple of those fouls being the product of his frustration.

Dotson’s numbers weren’t stellar by any means. In fact, he missed all 6 shots he attempted — including 3 from 3-point range — but he did get to the free-throw line 6 times, where he hit 5 freebies and also had a memorable block on Robinson during a drive to the rim late in the game.

It might not be Mayweather-Pacquiao or even Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran, but this point guard clash is definitely worth keeping an eye on tonight.

Jayhawk Pulse

After another get-well session in friendly Allen Fieldhouse over the weekend, it’s back to the road for the Jayhawks, who will look to pick up their second road win of the season by reversing their misfortunes and improving their 1-6 record in true road games.

There aren’t many more tougher places to try to get it done than Fort Worth, Texas, where TCU is 11-1 this season and has won 11 in a row since dropping a shocking 9-point loss to Lipscomb back on Nov. 20.

The Jayhawks have won away from home this season, but mostly in neutral court settings.

With Big Monday being in Fort Worth — it’s not a four-times-a-year thing everywhere — that figures to turn up the noise and the atmosphere, and the Jayhawks have not always fared well in those settings this season.

Kansas leads the all-time series with TCU, 17-2, including a 13-2 mark with both being members of the Big 12 Conference. Kansas leads the meetings in Fort Worth, 6-1, including a 4-1 record in Schollmaier Arena.

Bill Self is 21-5 all-time against TCU, including 14-2 while at Kansas. TCU coach Dixon is 1-5 all-time against Kansas.

KU’s lone losses in the series came in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Big 12 tournament, without Josh Jackson, and in the infamous Topeka YMCA game in Fort Worth, Texas, where KU was outplayed from start to finish in a 62-55 loss in 2013.

After the game, Self criticized his team’s play with one of the most memorable quotes of his career.

“It’s the worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor since Dr. Naismith was here,” Self said that night. “I think he had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA in his first couple years.”

The Jayhawks have won 13 of 14 games against TCU since that 2013 loss, but are considered 2-point underdogs in Las Vegas.

Probable Starters


G – Devon Dotson, 6-2, 185, Fr.

G – Quentin Grimes, 6-5, 210, Fr.

G – Ochai Agbaji, 6-5, 210, Fr.

F – Mitch Lightfoot, 6-8, 225, Jr.

F – Dedric Lawson, 6-9, 235, Jr.


G – Alex Robinson, 6-1, 180, Sr.

G – R.J. Nembhard, 6-4, 195, Fr.

F – Desmond Bane, 6-5, 215, Jr.

F – JD Miller, 6-8, 235, Sr.

F – Kevin Samuel, 6-11, 250, Fr.


Andy Godwin 3 years, 4 months ago

Self never talks publicly about must wins, but if KU wants to entertain a chance to move up the Big 12 leaderboard and have a decent seed in the NCAA, this game is a must win. KU is a 2.5 point underdog on the road and down two games to KSU in the loss column with 7 games (8 for KSU) to go. Need maximum effort from all and some serious improvement in Grimes' game from start to finish. Dedric needs to go wild with 30 plus tonight. Rock Chalk. Go, fight, win.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 4 months ago

Andy, at this point of this season, I afraid that every game now is a "must game". But I agree. The Hawks have to show everyone, especially themselves, that they can win true road games.

Bee Bee 3 years, 4 months ago

I never thought that K U would ever be an underdog to lowly TCU.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 4 months ago

Definitely a change for KU, but also reflects that Dixon has changed TCU from the lowly version that played in the YMCA game to a very competitive version in recent years.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 4 months ago

And that might not be enough. We are getting no help. ISU and Baylor both lost home games against KSU who could run the table. Their toughest remaining game is against us later this month. If I'm Bill Self I'm not worrying about the conference title or tournament seeding. Just trying to get all the pieces of the puzzle together. Don't rush Garret's return and don't expect Vick to come back.

Jim Keen 3 years, 4 months ago

"If I'm Bill Self I'm not worrying about the conference title or tournament seeding. Just trying to get all the pieces of the puzzle together. Don't rush Garret's return and don't expect Vick to come back." Agree with Dane. A 15th conference championship would be great,., but it's most important to have the team firing on all cylinders by the time the NCAA tournament starts. And, three wins in the Big 12 tournament would be good momentum for that.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 4 months ago

We might be KSU's toughest road game left on the schedule (that's always the case), but it is also true that the back half of their schedule is more challenging than the first half.

The good news with having half the conference as contenders (See Matt's recent column on the tie) is that the others usually end up beating each other more than KU. I believe we've had greater separation with multiple contenders than with only 1.

Mike Bennett 3 years, 4 months ago

It all comes down to turnovers. KU has not been able to control turnovers on the road. Limit turnovers, don't let Kuat Noi (sp?) go off and make Alex Robinson go right and they have a chance.

[''] 3 years, 4 months ago

If it comes down to turnovers we will be fine now that Vick is gone.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 4 months ago

If past road games are any indicator of future success, not going to be a good night for KU. I'm hoping the recent play of Agbaji will give us a much needed road victory.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 4 months ago

I predict that they have found their Road Mojo and will take TCU, Oklahoma and Okie State on the road. What the heck...let's throw in TT as well!!!

[ 9 - 0 ] + [ 5 - 4 ] = 15th. :}

Bryce Landon 3 years, 4 months ago

Usually in a close game, after the last media timeout, I say that it's manhood time for the Jayhawks. Tonight, this entire game is manhood time for the Jayhawks. The whole team must step up from opening tip to finish if they have any designs about extending the streak for another year. It's time for some guys to do some growing up. Actually, it's past time. Let's go down there and take down the Horny Toads!

Barry Weiss 3 years, 4 months ago

This one will be super tough. Sure would be nice to get a road win. We need to be super hot from beyond the arch to win this one.

Brian Hosfelt 3 years, 4 months ago

Grimes is the key to everything...he cant score 5 points with 3 boards...he has to produce on both ends

Mike Bennett 3 years, 4 months ago

If that's the case, then we're in trouble. He hasn't shown the ability or drive to excel at either end since the first week of the season. I'm not counting on him for much. I'm hoping Self will play McCormack against Stewart. Both are freshman. KU was able to get Stewart in foul trouble at AFH, but that won't happen at TCU. He hurt us when he was in there.

Brian Hosfelt 3 years, 4 months ago

sucks to have to count on Grimes but who else is there? Lightfoot needs 25 min a game from now on.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 3 years, 4 months ago

compare the numbers and if lightfoot plays grimes minutes it's obvious. nobody rebounds aside from dedric.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 4 months ago

Fortunately, Grimes has improved his game a lot in recent weeks. Definitely not on the level of the MSU game, or what everyone thought he was capable of, but definitely improved.

At the international tourney last summer, it took him a while to get going, but by the end of the tourney he was dominating. I think we're going to continue to see him impacting the game more and more as he grows into his role.

Jason Venable 3 years, 4 months ago

I'd imagine he'll be out for a few games. Last thing he doesn't need to do is make it worse. High-ankle sprains take some time to heal.

Matt Tait 3 years, 4 months ago

Garrett's "doubtful" for tonight and almost certainly will not play. As of last weekend, they were targeting Saturday's home game against West Virginia (Feb. 16) for his full return.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 4 months ago

Should go ahead and keep him out against West Virginia. We should be able to win that game without him. That gives him 12 days to heal before the Tech game. No point in rushing his return.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 4 months ago

"We should be able to win that game without him" seems a tad pretentious given that West Virginia is one of our L's.

Coach will play him when he's ready, and not sooner or later - until tourney time. Tourney time players play through many injuries.

Brad Watson 3 years, 4 months ago

This group is going to start playing begins tonight......we have to out hustle everyone we play from now on out...we have to get all the loose balls...crash the smart with our box out high energy smart basketball....minimize unforced errors....2nd chance baskets are key......look .for for Mr. Grimes to start playing incredible basketball...I believe in this kid and I believe in this team...and I believe in our Coach....who knows exactly what he is doing...a Master Chess Player......look out in a month....scary good in a month......I hope McCormack plays at least 15 minutes a game from now on out.....but Coach knows best...looking forward to tonight!

Channel your inner Jerod Haase

Channel your inner Jerod Haase by Brad Watson

Dirk Medema 3 years, 4 months ago

I was thinking more of Kirk and Nick than Jerod.

Brad Watson 3 years, 4 months ago

We are loaded with talent......what we need is relentless non stop energy....Haase is the definition of that....he is one of my all time favorites...along with Jo Jo .

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 3 years, 4 months ago

foe playing in sync were unstoppable. trob just needed true outside gaurds on that.

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