Jayhawks win 5 in a row; No. 3 Kansas escapes with a Big 12 win over No. 24 TCU
Fans and Students filled in the Schollmaier Arena early in Ft. Worth for a highly anticipated “Big Monday” matchup for two of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference. Almost a month earlier, the Horned Frogs of TCU traveled to Lawrence, KS and dominated in a 83-60 victory in a difficult venue to win at historically. One can argue that Kansas has not had the type of season that many experts predicted, however the Jayhawks arrived on Monday with a 22-5 record and ranked number 3 overall.
Head Coach Bill Self set an expectation for Kansas that keeps his players focused on what is ahead instead of what is in the past. His comments, “We haven’t accomplished jack, but we’ve put ourselves in a favorable position to maybe do something. Everybody talked about our sky’s falling when we lost three in a row. In this league, that can happen easily, but we’ve recovered pretty well since then. “ Kansas made clutch free throws and played a stout defense with boxing out, and key steals to beat TCU 63 to 58 in Ft. Worth.
TCU has had a whirlwind challenge of injuries this month. In February the Horned Frogs are 1-4 in the Big 12. Their only victory came on Saturday against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, where they scored a season high 100 points. TCU point guard, Mike Miles Jr., has returned to the lineup for TCU after being out several games due to injury. Head Coach, Jamie Dixon, expects his team to bounce back in due time since injuries have plagued his lineup. TCU has lost five of its last six games. Miles Jr. ended the evening with 13 points. Four of those six losses came with Miles Jr. missing due to a hyper extended right knee. Against the Jayhawks, TCU shot 30% from the field and 27.8% from three (continuing to be a bad shooting team) but more importantly were outrebounded 48 to 42, and could not keep Kansas off of the free throw line down the stretch with Kansas converting on 66.7% of their free throws.
Kansas had a balanced attack from Senior, Kevin McCullar Jr. (15 points and 7 rebounds) and shooting from freshman, Gradey Dick (19 points and 6 rebound). Although Jalen Wilson, Naismith player of the year candidate, struggled shooting tonight, he added 13 rebounds with his 7 points. Defensively, DaJuan Harris Jr. was the floor general, organizing defensive sets, making key deflections and setting the tone. His offensive vision led to 8 assists that were crucial. He continues to be the quarterback of the floor when Bill Self needs the offense to run successful sets. When the Jayhawks can defend, they will be the toughest team to beat in the NCAA tournament. If their shooting is consistent with their defensive play, expect a back-to-back championship in Lawrence in a field that is wide open to cut the nets down in the Final Four (Houston) this year. Kansas hosts West Virginia on Saturday against a surging Mountaineers team.
TCU will not panic. This loss is more of a teachable moment for the coaching staff. The pace of the game was of a NCAA sweet 16 game. Horned Frogs travel to Lubbock on Saturday to face Texas Tech. TCU has 3 Big 12 games, which are must wins to grab a higher seed in the Big 12 Tournament, where anything can and will happen.