No. 3 Kansas beats pesky TCU in Big 12 opener

Josh Jackson, the most talented member of the No. 3 Jayhawks’ roster, has surged into contention for the team’s best player over the last few weeks. On Friday night in Kansas’ Big 12 opener at TCU, he played just 13 minutes because of foul trouble. The Jayhawk backcourt was tested without the services of its consistent and versatile freshman, but it didn’t matter.

In the end, Kansas’ 86-80 road win over the Horned Frogs was impressive for one reason: it showed that the team can out-grit a quality opponent without the services of arguably its best player.

The Jayhawks, who won their league opener for an unprecedented 26th straight season, beat the Horned Frogs for the ninth straight time. But despite that streak, the last six wins in the series have been decided by an average of just seven points. TCU is no longer the pushover it used to be in the Big 12, and this squad that is expected to finish at the bottom of the league showed how difficult road wins are to come by.

Kansas got off to a brutal start, falling behind 7-0 in the blink of an eye in a start reminisent of the 2013 upset in the same building. Eight minutes into the game, TCU led 19-9. But in the blink of an eye, a switch flipped, and KU’s offense returned to the elite status fans have grown so used to seeing it perform at. Kansas outscored TCU 39-25 the rest of the first half to take a 48-44 lead into the locker room.

The second half was played evenly, as KU’s lead never stretched wider than nine points, but it never gave up the lead, either. Frank Mason paced the Jayhawks with 22 points and seven assists, including 9-for-10 at the free throw line. As a team, Kansas was very good at the line, going 20-25. The 80% clip is a season-best for a team that entered conference play with just one glaring weakness.

The biggest story of the night was Landen Lucas’ dominance in the post. The senior center scored a season-high 15 points and hauled down a career-best 17 rebounds. When Udoka Azubuike went down last week, it was clear that KU needed Lucas to emerge as the rebounding force he proved to be last year. He’s responded to the calling, posting 29 boards in the last two games.

Lagerald Vick was the beneficiary of Jackson’s would-be playing time, as he scored 17 points in 34 minutes. Svi Mykhailiuk played a career-high 37 minutes, and Devonte’ Graham played 36. It’s a good thing that Bill Self’s backcourt is as deep as it is, as there aren’t many teams that could overcome its most talented player fouling out in just 13 minutes.

Speaking of Jackson, it was the second time this year that picking up a technical foul completely changed the complexion of the night for him. Early in the second half, he was called for an over-the-back call, and he acted like he was going to spike the ball on the floor. He caught himself just before the ball bounced, but he was given a technical from the official on the far side of the floor. An angry Bill Self barked at the officiating crew until he too was given a technical. Jackson then sat for about 10 minutes before reentering and picking up his fifth foul very quickly after checking back in. He finished with a season-low four points on 2-for-8 shooting.

I’m sure Bill Self was happy to see his team get its first legitimate test since the second game of the season. TCU was clearly inferior to Kansas from a talent perspective, but a great effort was put forth by the Horned Frogs in their conference opener. Vlad Brodziansky went for a career-high 28 points, but in the end, TCU was just overmatched.

The Jayhawks have won 12 straight games, and with home tilts against Kansas State and Texas Tech coming up before a road contest at a woeful Oklahoma team, the winning streak should continue for a bit longer.

Overall, it was a nice win for a Kansas team that appears destined to control the Big 12 once again.

Notes:

  • Frank Mason: 22 points (6/13 FG, 9/10 FT), seven assists, and four rebounds in 34 minutes. He is the Big 12 Player of the Year until further notice.
  • Lagerald Vick: 17 points (5/11 FG) in 34 minutes. With Josh Jackson out, his number was called, and he stepped up in a big way.
  • Landen Lucas: 15 points (7/9 FG) and 17 rebounds, seven of which coming on the offensive end. Simply put, he was dominant. Fans in the “Landen Lucas sucks” camp from like, three weeks ago have to feel pretty dumb right now.
  • Devonte’ Graham: 11 points (3/14 FG) and six assists in 36 minutes. Graham is clutch, which has helped him overcome poor shooting overall in recent weeks. He will inevitably get hot, but right now, he’s shooting just 36% on three-pointers after posting a 44% clip last year.
  • Svi Mykhailiuk: 12 points (4/7 FG, 3/5 from three) in 37 minutes. Overall, he played a very solid game, save for one pass in the closing minutes. His emergence from three-point shooter to all-around, starting guard has been very nice to see.
  • Carlton Bragg: five points and nine rebounds in 16 minutes. He didn’t play much in the second half because Lucas completely shut down the Horned Frogs. But his per-40 rebounding numbers continue to be fantastic.
  • Josh Jackson: four points (2/8 FG) in 13 minutes. He fouled out.
  • KU only turned the ball over eight times, three of which were by Mykhailiuk. They turned TCU over 15 times.
  • Kansas: 43% from the floor, 37% from three, and 80% from the line.
  • TCU: 44%, 39%, and 76%. The shooting numbers were very even.
  • Rebounding: both teams had 39 boards.
  • Up next for Kansas: the Jayhawks welcome in Kansas State, which is also 12-1, to Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night at 8:00.

Ryan Landreth

I'm a junior at MidAmerica Nazarene University. I own and write for Rock Chalk Blog, and I host the Inside the Paint podcast. I also write for Royals Review. I'm sports-obsessed. It happens.