If there is such a thing as a Big 12 break, KU gets it vs. TCU
Kansas emerged from a four-game stretch against the Top 25 with a winning record, and the latest victory landed it back among the top 10.
The ninth-ranked Jayhawks now have what’s as close to being considered a Big 12 break Wednesday night at TCU before returning to the meat of an exhausting conference schedule.
Kansas (16-3, 5-1 Big 12) was about as fundamentally sound as it gets in Saturday’s 75-62 win at then-No. 17 Texas in which it committed three turnovers, something it hadn’t done since 1966.
It also managed a 37-36 rebounding edge over a Longhorns team known for its size and owner of one of the country’s top rebounding differentials at plus-11.4. In that regard, coach Bill Self compared Texas to Kentucky, which the Jayhawks fell to by 32 on Nov. 18.
"Against Kentucky, we shied away from it. Today we didn’t," said Self, whose team has outrebounded five straight opponents by a plus-8.2 margin.
Cliff Alexander scored 15 points off the bench, and the freshman has posted two of his three top scoring efforts in the last two games after a 13-point performance in an 85-78 home win over then-No. 19 Oklahoma on Jan. 19. Fellow reserve Brannen Greene scored 14 on Saturday.
"This is a huge road win for us. It was big," said Greene, who made four of Kansas’ six 3-pointers on five attempts and is seven of nine in the last two games.
Three-point shooting has been a strength all season for Kansas at a Big 12-best 39.4 percent, but TCU (14-5, 1-5) could test that. The Horned Frogs have held conference opponents to 25.3 percent, and one of their 19 overall foes has connected on more than six.
After completing its Texas trip, Kansas returns home for games against Kansas State and Iowa State, both of which are near the top of the league with the Jayhawks.
For TCU, there’s no end in sight to the run of tough competition that’s come after completing a 13-0 nonconference slate exclusively against unranked opponents. Saturday’s 86-85 overtime loss at then-No. 18 West Virginia was the second in a seven-game string against currently ranked teams.
TCU, which totaled two Big 12 wins in its first two seasons in the league, went five of six from the field in the extra period but missed three free throws in the final minute. The Horned Frogs are shooting 59.3 percent from the foul line in conference play.
"We had opportunities from the free-throw line and we didn’t get it done," said coach Trent Johnson, whose team was 28 of 44 from the line. "This is one thing about athletics that I really struggle with. These losses are really hard. We need to regroup."
Those struggles come despite TCU having the top foul shooter in the Big 12 in Kyan Anderson (89.2 percent), who was seven for seven on his way to 22 points against the Mountaineers. At 13.7 points per game, the senior guard is the only Frogs player averaging in double figures.
Kansas has won the last three meetings by an average of 26.0 points, including a 91-69 victory in Fort Worth on Jan. 25, 2014. The latest meeting was a 95-65 win in Lawrence on Feb. 15 behind a career-high 32 points from Perry Ellis on 13-of-15 shooting. Anderson had 25 and made eight of nine.
After joining the Big 12, TCU won its first home matchup with then-No. 5 Kansas 62-55 on Feb. 6, 2013. It stands as the school’s only victory against the Top 25 in its last 18 tries.