It seemed like Kansas wouldn’t miss a beat without freshman Josh Jackson in their first game of the Big 12 Championship against Texas Christian.
The Jayhawks rode Svi Mykhailiuk’s offensive streak through the first half. The junior guard scored 13 points, shooting 5 of 7 from the field, which included three makes from 3-point range to begin the contest.
But the KU offense would slow down towards the end of the first half, entering a 4-minute-long drought from the field. That allowed TCU to take a 43-42 lead into the locker room.
“That was where they won the game, the last three and a half minutes of the first half” coach Bill Self said.
The Horned Frogs extended their lead with a 15-7 run over the first six minutes of the second half, silencing most of the Sprint Center crowd. Kansas kept pace with TCU, eventually passing the Horned Frogs 76-74 with a Graham three toward the end of the game. But the teams continued to trade leads.
“I definitely thought we were going to make a little run, and come back and take the lead and stuff like that, but I think we kind of waited too late to kind of wake up and get aggressive.” Graham said.
KU and TCU entered the last minute of the contest tied at 80. After Alex Robinson’s layup and Frank Mason’s two free throws on the other end, the teams were again tied again with 22 seconds left.
On TCU’s next possession, Robinson again drove to the basket off a high ball screen and hurled the ball to Desmond Bane in the right corner behind the 3-point line.
Bane rose to attempt a shot, but was deflected by Mykhailiuk who was called for a foul. Earning a trip to the line, the freshman Horned Frog knocked down three free throws to put TCU ahead 85-82.
“I know [Robinson] likes to throw that drift pass to the corner and I was spotting up, hands-free, ready, and he found me,” Bane said. “Luckily I got fouled, stepped to the line — all my teammates came up to me, tried to calm me down, make sure everything was cool — and I stepped up to the line and knocked them down.”
After a Kansas timeout with 2 seconds left on the clock, Lagerald Vick threw an overhead pass from the baseline to Landen Lucas. On the other side of the court, Lucas volleyed the ball to Graham who missed a potential 3-point play as time expired.
“They just played such a better last two minutes,” Self said. “We had a chance to win the game late and didn’t take advantage of it.”
Each of KU’s starters played at least 35 minutes due to Jackson’s absence and the team’s lack of depth.
“Today was a day where our bench needed to be good and obviously we didn’t get much out of them,” Self said. “That was disappointing because it forced guys to play too many minutes [that] you shouldn’t be playing.”
Texas Christian moves on to play Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship semifinals on Friday. Meanwhile, Kansas will have the day off and begin to prepare for the start of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.
“I don’t think it’s the end of the earth by any stretch, but it is very disappointing that you work your ass off all year long and you get to postseason where it’s championship week and everybody is excited to be a part of it and you go home early,” Self said. “Doesn’t mean anything is broken, but certainly we’ve got to tighten some things up.”