The Day After: Toppling TCU
Saturday's 70-63 victory over TCU at Allen Fieldhouse was just what this Kansas basketball team needed in so many different ways.
The first and, in some ways most important, was that it served as a solid bounce-back from Tuesday's sluggish and sloppy loss at West Virginia.
More than that, though, it provided the Jayhawks a chance to feel good about themselves in the cozy confines of Allen Fieldhouse and their adoring home fans, gave KU a temporary break from life on the road and gave Bill Self a perfect opportunity to give Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg some meaningful minutes. More on that in a minute.
As Bill Self predicted, this was by no means an easy win at home, as TCU, much like KU football against TCU during the past few years, gave KU a strong challenge from start to finish and, even when falling behind by double digits, never quit battling.
That forced KU to finish and that, too, was another good thing that the Jayhawks gained from this one.
One of the most impressive aspects of Saturday's victory was the fact that you could see Kansas improve in several of the areas that plagued them in the loss to West Virginia. The energy was up, the effort was better, KU took care of the ball and battled on the boards and, instead of letting TCU dictate the way the game was played, the Jayhawks did their best to assert themselves in all areas of the game.
Three reasons to smile
1 – It's been written a lot on this site in the past 18 hours or so, but I don't think you can say it enough. The way Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg played on Saturday — in a conference game, against a solid team that happened to play pretty darn well — was about as good of an outcome as Bill Self and company could've hoped for. Both guys were aggressive yet relaxed and intense yet intelligent and they put their stamps all over this game. If that kind of performance is the confidence springboard that those two guys needed to really come on during the second half of the season, a darn good KU team is about to get a whole lot better.
2 – Diallo and Bragg obviously were a big part of it, but the entire KU bench actually played pretty well. Svi (7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal) was solid and also looked more comfortable than he has in recent weeks and Jamari Traylor, though still shaky at times, grabbed four boards, including two on the offensive end. KU's bench outscored the Frogs 29-16 and in a game decided by seven points, that's a pretty big advantage.
3 – KU's transition defense was pretty good for the third game in a row. After getting torched for 17 fastbreak points by Oklahoma a few games ago, KU gave up just four to TCU on Saturday and has surrendered just eight fastbreak points combined in the last three games.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Saturday was far from KU's best day shooting the ball from the outside, but it wasn't just the fact that KU's percentage (5-of-20 for 25 percent) came back down to Earth, it was also the way the Jayhawks looked while shooting from the outside. Very few of KU's three-point looks actually looked to be smooth shots in rhythm, and it was clear throughout the afternoon that KU was going to have to win this game another way, which they did.
2 – It's not like he's been terrible, but Frank Mason definitely has not been quite right the past few games. I can't help but wonder if Mason is dealing with some kind of nagging injury that we don't know about, which would make sense given how hard he plays and how many falls he takes. Mason still looks great in transition and can blow by anybody on his way to the rim there. But in the half-court, he struggles a little more to finish on drives to the paint these days and often puts the ball too hard off the backboard. Beyond that, his three-point shot doesn't look quite as smooth and seems a little bit rushed at times.
3 – It was a rough game for three parts of KU's big man rotation. Landen Lucas, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor all had games they'd rather forget and even though each of them figures to continue to hold some kind of role on this roster, their collective struggles provided further evidence for opponents that KU is vulnerable at that spot. It might work out that on the same day that this trio struggled, KU's two freshmen stepped up. And if Bragg and Diallo continue to show what they showed Saturday, KU might wind up better off. If not, these guys need to get back to at least fulfilling their roles or things are going to get even scarier for KU's big man rotation.
One for the road
KU's hard-fought victory over TCU on Saturday...
• Made 55-9 following a loss in the Self era, including a 31-6 record following a conference loss.
• Gave KU its seventh-straight win against TCU and made the series 11-1 in favor of the Jayhawks.
• Made KU 9-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season and extend its home court winning streak to 33 games, which tied for the fourth longest in school history.
• Made KU 737-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 199-9 under Self.
• Made Self 367-80 while at Kansas, 574-185 for his career and 15-4 all-time versus TCU.
• Made KU 2,168-833 all-time.
After a quick stop at home, the Jayhawks head back out on the road on Tuesday, when they'll play at Oklahoma State at 6 p.m. in Stillwater.
— See what people were saying about KU vs. TCU during KUsports.com’s live coverage
More news and notes from Kansas vs. TCU
- Willing learner: Cheick Diallo’s game, knowledge expanding
- Keegan: Bragg’s big day hint of bigger things ahead?
- Notebook: Jamari Traylor injures right eye in win
- Trent Johnson not surprised by play of KU freshman bigs
- Bill Self: Jayhawks’ win over TCU ‘a dud game’
- Michael Porter watches Jayhawks’ victory
- Jayhawks get back on track, beat TCU
- Keegan Ratings: Perry Ellis’ efficiency leads balanced offense