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Better intensity, big block lead No. 6 Kansas to brink of Big 12 title with 72-68 win over TCU

Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. (3) gets up to get a hand on a final shot from TCU guard Mike Miles (1) with seconds remaining in the second half on Tuesday, March 3, 2022 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The idea for sixth-ranked Kansas entering Thursday’s home rematch with TCU — two nights after losing to the Horned Frogs on the road — was to compete harder and play with better effort.

The Jayhawks did that in a big way and, yet, still needed, of all things, a Dajuan Harris Jr. block in the final few seconds to survive, 72-68 at Allen Filedhouse.

The funny part about Harris’ big block, which he said he preferred to his game-winning bucket against Iowa State, was that Harris’ offense was just as crucial to helping the Jayhawks fend off the Horned Frogs.

After back-to-back games with goose eggs in the scoring column, Harris scored 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a clutch 3-pointer late during the stretch that gave Kansas control.

“(Wednesday) we watched film from the last TCU game and coach called me something I didn’t like, so I had to show him that I wasn't that word he called me,” Harris said after Thursday’s victory.

Asked to elaborate on Self’s criticism, Harris said he could not say the word.

“I can’t repeat it either,” senior guard Ochai Agbaji said. “It was kind of just challenging Juan to step up to the plate and that’s exactly what he did.”

Self agreed, saying that Harris set the tone defensively from the jump, but that the Jayhawks need his offense as much as anyone’s to play to their ceiling.

“We’re a better team when people have to guard him,” Self said of Harris.

The win moved Kansas to 13-4 in Big 12 play and into a tie with Baylor atop the conference standings.

Both teams will close out the regular season on Saturday and the outcomes of those games will determine this year’s regular season champion.

If both win or both lose, they’ll share it. If one wins and the other loses, the winner takes the trophy outright.

Kansas plays No. 21 Texas at 3 p.m. Baylor plays host to Iowa State at 5 p.m.

Related document

Box score: Kansas 72, TCU 68 ( .PDF )

The stakes could not be higher, and they would have been non-existent for Kansas (24-6) had it not been for a gritty win on Thursday night.

“It was a good win for us,” Self said. “A really good win.”

The Harris block of a hard drive by TCU guard Mike Miles Jr. sealed the victory and came with Kansas leading by three with less than 10 seconds to play.

Self said the Jayhawks discussed whether to foul and put TCU at the free throw line during the official review of a shot clock violation, but Self said all of his players said, “Nah, let’s guard them.” Jalen Wilson’s was the first voice Self heard.

With KU prepared to play it out, Miles (5 points on 2-of-12 shooting) sprinted the length of the floor looking for the quick two. Harris sprinted with him and rose to the rim in the paint, getting the fingers of his right hand on the ball.

Self said Harris “guarded it perfectly.”

In the moments that followed, the fans and players alike finally let go of the tension that was bouncing off the walls of Allen Fieldhouse throughout the night.

Asked after the game if Thursday night felt like the Big 12 title was on the line, Self said it did to him.

“I tried not to say that to the players,” he added. “But they probably felt it, too.”

Throughout the first half, the Jayhawks showed much better fire, passion and intensity than they displayed at any point during Tuesday’s loss in Fort Worth, Texas.

And for a while it worked.

Kansas built leads of 18-6 and 27-16 with an overwhelming surge of effort and defensive desire. Naturally, that brought the home crowd into the action and KU’s sixth man in the stands was just as effective against TCU as any Kansas player on the court.

Time after time, the Horned Frogs took haymakers from the Jayhawks. But they never went down.

Even after a 3-pointer from Agbaji (22 points on 8-of-19 shooting) that raised the decibel level inside Allen Fieldhouse by 20 points itself — and the Kansas lead to 12-4 — TCU coach Jamie Dixon refused to blink.

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Instead of using the quick-trigger timeout that most coaches cling to as their security blanket during their trips to KU’s home gym, Dixon let his players play through it. Their athleticism and effort easily allowed them to crawl back into the game.

KU’s struggles defending the rim didn’t hurt.

TCU was 12-for-21 (57.1%) on 2-point field goals in the first half. Most of them came on uncontested layups from point-blank range.

TCU closed the first half on an 18-9 run to send the teams to the locker room tied at 35.

“We played better than we did down there in the first half (Thursday), but down there we had a one-point lead at halftime,” Self said. “We didn’t even have that at home.”

In fact, TCU (19-10 overall, 8-9 Big 12) played from in front for much of the second half, but a Kansas surge that was sparked by big buckets from Harris, Joe Yesufu and Christian Braun gave the Jayhawks the lead at the 9:03 mark. It wasn’t until Braun’s 3-pointer with 3:26 to play that the Jayhawks led by more than one possession.

That one started with what Self said was David McCormack’s best play of the night. Facing a double-team in the post, McCormack quickly and decisively skipped a pass to Wilson in the corner. Wilson then moved the ball to Braun on the wing and Braun buried it to put the Jayhawks up 67-61.

A smoother reverse layup by Harris on the following possession pushed the Kansas lead to eight, which was just good enough to get by.

Now, a season’s worth of battles with some of the best statistical defenses in the country comes down to a single day. Rather than feeling the weight of that, Self sounded like a coach looking forward to it.

“Baylor’s got to take care of business, but I anticipate they will,” he said. “And we’ve got to (win) to get a piece of (the Big 12 title). Saturday will have a different type of fun pressure to it. I think tonight was more of a nervous pressure.”

Comments

Barry Weiss

wow, what a tough team TCU has turned out to be. Hope we don't have to face them again. They just kill us on the boards. Very good balanced scoring from our starters tonight. One more win to get our share of the championship. Doubtful that Iowa State can knock off Baylor.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dale Rogers

I hope they make it into the tournament. They could do some serious damage there, unexpected by most of the nation.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Agreed. TCU has emerged to be one exciting team to watch out for in B12. Coach Dixon has done a tremendous job there.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

As the world's biggest Iowa State hater, I never thought I would see the day when I would feel the need to root for Iowa State - but I might just have to do that on Saturday...

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Unfortunately, the reality of March is that we will have to face another "TCU". There are no teams that are just so dominant that they can't be beat. The beauty and curse of March where every game matters. Slogans aside, is there another place in sports where that's the case?

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Mallory Briggans

Well the man in the Magic Headband had a pretty good game . I know i have been critical of Harris but i will compliment him when need be........but this is what has to happen EVERY game moving forward. An 11 point game doesnt need to be followed by 3 scoreless games. Now I'm not changing my stance because we still need consistent scoring from him. But Harris' good play tonight was just deodorant because the game was to close for comfort tonight. .....and we play a well rested Texas team on Saturday.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

If you're going to be critical of anyone, it should be Mitch Lightfoot. I don't know what kind of heated exchange he got into with Eddie Lampkin, but when the official separated them, that should have been the end of it. And when he got his dunk, his very next thought should have been to get back on defense. But no, he had to mouth off to Eddie again and get that technical. MITCH, YOU'RE A SIXTH-YEAR SENIOR! YOU OF ALL PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW BETTER! Be the bigger man and let it go. By doing that, you gave the two points right back to the Horned Frogs and gave them more fuel as they were starting to mount their comeback! Mitch's technical was almost as damaging as the technical Christian Braun got against Dayton, but even more inexcusable considering how long he's been with this program.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Lonnie Ross Dillon

What the commentators never seemed to pick up on was that on the previous play when Lampkin stuffed Harris, he started taking smack. Given the size disparity, I was excited that Mitch jumped in and stood up to him. Yea, could have ended there, but then Mitch got the dunk over him...I can't really blame him for talking smack back at him.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dale Rogers

I saw that, too, and was extremely irritated when officials looked right at Lampkin mouthing off and did nothing but very shortly thereafter they teed Lightfoot for far less offense, even though both were legit offenses.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Apparently, the critical part that was missed in between Lampkinjawing and Mitch's T was the referees having to separate them before the inbounds play, and giving them a warning. When the ref says stop it, regardless of how much has gone on before that, you gotta know to stop it.

Great that Prison Mitch was an enforcer for the team, but you gotta be smarter, and stop it when told.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bryce Landon

I don't care what Lampkin was doing or saying. A sixth-year senior should never let a sophomore drag him down to his level.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Lee Short

1) kJ Adams fouls on a 3-point attempt?

2) A silly technical by a 6-year senior.

3) Dbunny (aka Dmac) goes 2-7, 4 rebounds in 27 minutes? He's our big man, right?

3) Several times there were zero KU defenders below the basket.

4) Behind on our court for so long against an average Big 12 team who was in foul trouble.

5) A win at Allen Field house that felt like a loss.

6) We are down to the last game of the season, now we HAVE to win at home against a ranked team we have already lost to. Be still my beating heart.

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I'll take the win it but, wow, who would have thought instead of being up one at half as were at TCU, we were actually tied at the half, then fell behind on our home court., Thank goodness it did not get away from us.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Rodney Crain

Matt I would like to send a bouquet of Sunflowers to the refs tonight, do you know where to send them?

Tough win, we barely beat them. They are playing well and we are struggling. With a few minutes to play they were leading, they had 9 seconds to shoot a 3 to tie. We did just enough to win, but yikes that was close.

It's a win, but Texas has 3 days of rest on us. We are going to need to play better against them. If we win that will likely be the highlight of our season. Just cannot see us going far in either tournament.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Tony Bandle

Random Thoughts:

1] With this year's team at this time of the season under the current standing conditions, I'll take a win any way possible.

2] Lee's List: 1] Unforgivable, 2] No excuse. 3.1] Discussed this year ad nauseum, 3.2] I guess the Hawks thought any TCU player driving the baseline had CoVid, 4] Don't forget the ton of TCU turnovers, 5] see my #1, 6] Don't worry, Lee....the PHOG will prevail as it almost always has in the past. [PHOG = crowd intimidation of both the opponents and the refs.].

3] My nomination for beauty play of the game....Ochai's left-handed dunk. I think that kid just made himself a ton of NBA money!!!

4] We'll beat Texas but we could be in a ton of trouble against any Texas teams in KC.

5] Headband man looked pretty decent tonight....hope he can keep it up.

6] What the hell was our wonder kid thinking while taking a three pointer from about 40 feet??!!

7] Prediction; beat Texas, win 2 games in KC, make Sweet Sixteen, end up 29 -8.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Scott MacWilliams

Seems to me that KU is doing okay, considering the recent crazy packed schedule wearing them down. You can say TCU had the same schedule, but TCU doesn't have every team they play jacked up to play their best game of the year to try and beat you. That is a HUGE difference as far as I can see.

Frankly, I'm not that concerned if they win the Big12 or not. I'd much rather see them rest a bit, regroup & have a long run, lots of fun in the NCAA's. Rock Chalk, ALL DAY LONG!!!

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

“It was a good win for us,” Self said. “A really good win.”

=================
Amen, coach.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Carolyn Hunzicker

I just wish BRAUN would shoot the ball and get back into the grove INSTEAD of always looking for someone to hurry up and pass to.!

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Chad Smith

Anyone else feel like this has been the longest week in KU Basketball History?

Oh how the tides change. Going from a 4 game win streak and having a nice firm grip on the conference lead and # 1 seed to dismantling it all and thinking our team is hopeless.

TCU can do that to you.

Beat Texas on Saturday and then get a much needed break to reset. RCJH

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Rodney Crain

Selfishly, pun intended, it is kind of nice to have so many games bunched together.
:)

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Blake Brown

Great win for us and another great showing for TCU. Kudos to Jamie Dixon for an almost complete reload and with youth.
My upside down Texas logo is ready to be hoisted up the flag pole.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Andy Godwin

I would not criticize the players’ effort one bit. After watching the early 12-point lead dissipate, I had big concerns if the Jayhawks could win. Jamie Dixon has done a wonderful job through the transfer portal of finding big, tough, athletic players who are willing to play very physical and defend. After the first 9 minutes, he figured out how to make this game into a mano a mano conflict. I will give credit to both Mr. McCormick and Mr. Lightfoot for taking a beating. And a note to the officials, shoving a player into a table on the sideline whether the ball cannot be tracked down is still a foul. Coach Self made it clear that his team is not built to compete with these bigger and more physical teams. I would wager if KU was matched with TCU in KC, that TCU might win the season series.

My criticism continues to be towards the coaching staff. Why should fans even be able to criticize a hall of fame coach? Nevertheless, Self wants to win every game whether early in the season or late and therefore does not let his new players learn during a game and play through mistakes. The result is a very worn-down team as they enter the tournament season. Outside of 12 minutes by Yesufu (who played well) and 10 bruising minutes by Lightfoot, Martin (3), Clemence (2), Adams (officially 0), and Coleman-Lands (4) barely broke a sweat. Martin throws up and wide open 3 which he missed, and he is not seen again. Clemence who is the most athletic of the bigs and brings a different dimension misses two open 3’s at the end of the 1st half and is done. Adams who was put in for defense purposes at the end of the game and yes had a potentially game changing mistake saw less than 1 minute. Coleman-Lands who should be playing more and giving Agbaji a few more breathers, only saw 4 minutes. It was clear Agbaji who played 39 minutes, yet again, was totally gassed as evidenced by all his shots in the second half falling short. Yes, it is way too late in the season to develop a bench, but this continues to be a pattern with Self who one might have expected to win more national championships at KU. I give the players a ton of credit for the effort they gave after getting beat up two days before by the same team. Rock Chalk.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Chad Smith

I agree with what are you saying. But at this point, I don't know if anything is going to change in regards to minutes distribution. Agbaji, Braun and Wilson know they are going to play 30+ minutes every night. Our entire frontcourt needs to make the most of every second they are out there to help the team win. The PG situation is tricky, but Yesufu and Harris appear to be the guys going forward with Martin playing a very minor role. Not what we expected going into the season, but that mid-season injury proved to be much worse than we thought, just like with pettiford.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

Andy - Not sure many people picked up on Joe's comment a week or so ago about his playing time (increased lately) and what he's learned in this one year under a HOFer. He commented that he's realized that all the little things matter to Coach. It probably went past most of us because most of us don't have a clue what he's talking about. I know that I don't.

Some might remember getting a glimpse of it during the beginning of the pandemic, when nothing else was happening. We got to watch some tape with Coach Self. You know he barely touched on the things he works with the players on. It's why Garrett played as a freshman, and Braun too, though plenty of "experts" criticized him for it.

It's why some lower level recruits go on to become all-Americans, and some just go away.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Dirk Medema

It's a good thing we don't hear what goes on inside of the locker room.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bj Cassady

It will be a gut performance Saturday. UT has three wins in a row against us and are very long and athletic. It is all or nothing. I hope the next class regardless of their rankings are tough, and physical and athletic. RCJH.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Bob Zielinski

This may sound crazy but I think McCormack needs to see a golf psychologist. His frenzied, rushed, spazzed out bunny misses are very similar to a golfer with putting yips. You only have to slightly pull the putter back and make an even, clean stroke at the ball but something mental makes you twist or pull the putter and your mind makes your body tighten up and you miss the putt.

Seems like a completely mental thing that could be dealt with and then a big part of his offense and game would open up.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Len Shaffer

I think that's a great idea, Bob. You should write directly to the athletic department and suggest it.

At this point, anything is worth trying, because unless McCormack improves drastically, I don't think we have much hope of making it to the Final Four.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brad Watson

I am a huge fan and an an alumni.......I grew up as a kid going to all the games in the field house and grew up attending Coach Owens camp every summer and was a counselor for a couple years there...I have grew up with hoop and know it well...I still play and apply all the fundamentals that Jo Jo White taught me when I was still in my soft wiring phase of life....all that said...I have seen a lot of Kansas teams..all of them for the past 60 years...unfortunately this years team has been a disappointment to me...I am watching a hungry undefeated Murray State team right now and they would easily beat us by 30....the problem with this year's team is that they lack hunger..they lack" 94 ft of hell" mentality...unless they can turn that switch on quickly...they won't get past the first weekend...I hope we get bracketed with Murray State....I might never get over how we played against Kentucky....if you can't get up for that game and bring all out effort....losing late is one thing....getting embarrassed with Gameday here...really?...WTF...I have said what I needed to say...hopefully the players read this and wake up and start bringing it the way you have to to win championships....I am your biggest fan....show me something!!!...

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Look Brad, we're all huge fans of KU MBB, but let's step back a second - read this definition of the "biggest fan" here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sister_...

then edit your post, if I were you.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Brad Watson

You are right...I should have said I am one of your biggest fans...too late evidently to edit...I do appreciate you Steve ...Thanks.

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Sorry, didn't mean to be rude, Brad! You know I was just kidding! Missed ya!

6 months, 3 weeks ago

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