No. 10 Kansas holds off No. 16 TCU, 88-84
FORT WORTH, Texas – The No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks saw a 10-point second-half lead disappear, but were able to fend off the No. 16 TCU Horned Frogs with the help of some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch Saturday night inside Schollmaier Arena. Senior guard Devonte’ Graham led all scorers with 28 points, including eight-straight free throws in the final two minutes, to help KU secure an 88-84 victory.
With center Udoka Azubuike saddled for much of the game with foul trouble, Mitch Lightfoot made a huge contribution to the effort. He made up for Azubuike’s abbreviated stint with nine points and a season-high seven rebounds in 26 minutes. The sophomore from Gilbert, Arizona also tallied a career-high six blocks.
The win moved the Jayhawks to 12-3, 2-1 in Big 12 play, while the Horned Frogs suffered just their second loss of the season, moving to 13-2, 1-2.
With the score tied at 77 with more than three minutes remaining in regulation, KU iced the game away at both the charity stripe and the defensive end of the floor to upend a TCU team that was ranked among the top-10 in the nation just a week ago.
Freshman Marcus Garrett broke the tie when he hit a pair of free throws at the 3:01 mark. Graham then put the team on his back for the final sprint to the finish. After stealing the ball away from TCU’s Desmond Bain with two minutes left, the senior was fouled at the other end and kicked off a stretch of eight-consecutive free throws to help KU extend the lead to five points with 11 seconds left.
After Kouat Noi cut the Horned Frog deficit to three points on a tip-in with 4 seconds remaining, Malik Newman hit one of two free throws to secure the win.
The Jayhawks jumped all over on the Frogs in the early minutes. Udoka Azubuike made his presence felt down low with six quick points, but then the long-range prowess of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Graham took over. The two seniors connected on their first four 3-point tries to get the early KU lead out to double digits, 18-8, just over five minutes into the game.
TCU sophomore Jaylen Fisher responded with a trio of threes of his own to keep his team within reach, but Azubuike continued to dominate the paint, scoring four-straight points. Soon after, Lagerald Vick sank the Jayhawks’ fifth trey of the half at the 11:08 mark to stretch the Kansas lead to 10, 29-19. The Vick trey ended a stretch that saw KU hit 10 of its first 12 shots from the field.
Graham then took over the scoring load with six of his 13 first-half points on three-consecutive possessions. He joined his teammates in holding the Horned Frogs to just one field goal over a six-minute stretch. Graham’s exploits and the stingy KU defense saw the Jayhawks extend the lead to 14, 38-24, with just over five minutes remaining before the half.
The Horned Frogs used a pair of 3-pointers and four free throws in the closing minutes of the opening half to chisel away at the KU lead. Vladimir Brodziansky hit a pair of charities with seven seconds remaining to send the squads to the locker rooms with KU ahead, 42-34.
Kansas used an Azubuike dunk, a Graham free throw and a Vick transition 3-pointer to get its lead back to double figures less than two minutes after the restart. But the Horned Frogs were quick to strike back after the 7-foot Azubuike was forced to back to the bench after picking up his third foul at the 16:35 mark. An 11-2 TCU run ensued, and the home team was able to claw within a point of the Jayhawks with more than 14 minutes remaining in regulation.
But the KU seniors had an answer. Mykhailiuk hit a short jumper from the baseline and Graham nailed his second 3-pointer of the night to stretch KU’s lead to 55-49 before the under-12 minute media timeout.
The Jayhawk offense continued to hum over the next five minutes, with Mykhailiuk and Graham both nailing 3-pointers. But more clutch free-throw shooting from the Horned Frogs kept them within range. Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams combined for 10-straight charities, and Williams added a three and a jumper to get TCU within a point once again, 70-69, at the 6:17 mark.
Just over 90 seconds later Brodzianasky’s 12-footer gave TCU the lead — its first lead since the third minute of the game, sending the 6,894 inside Schollmaier Arena into a frenzy.
But the lead was short-lived. Mykhailiuk hit his fifth 3-pointer (the Jayhawks’ final field goal of the game) with 4:38 left to play to give the Jayhawks a 77-75 lead. KU went on to convert on 13 of its last 15 free throws to secure its second road win inside the state of Texas in eight days.
Graham finished with 28 points, 11 of which came in the final nine minutes of the game. Mykhailiuk added 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Azubuike also hit double figures, with 14 points on a perfect 6-of-6 night from the field in just 13 minutes of floor time.
Kansas returns to Allen Fieldhouse to host Iowa State on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 8 p.m. (Central) on ESPN2. Last season, Iowa State ended a Kansas 54-game home court winning streak, 51 in Allen Fieldhouse, with a 92-89 overtime win becoming the first program to win twice inside Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self era (2003-04 to present). Kansas leads the overall series with Iowa State, 179-64, but the meetings are 3-3 in its last six battles.