KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No. 1-ranked Kansas didn’t have Josh Jackson but it had a 12-point lead on TCU.
Nothing to see here, right?
Then the Frogs stormed back, reversing a trend of late-game stumbles to knock off the Jayhawks 85-82.
TCU (19-14) closed the game on a 9-2 run and survived a 29-point performance from Kansas guard Frank Mason, who received his league player of the year trophy in a pregame presentation.
After Mason’s free throws tied the game with 22 seconds left, TCU’s final shot went to Desmond Bane in the corner, where he was sideswiped by Svi Mykhailiuk. Bane hit all three free throws with 2.5 seconds left and Kansas couldn’t answer despite a courtlong pass leading to a decent 3-point look from Devonte Graham.
TCU’s benchmark victory — still not enough to guarantee an NCAA berth — was aided by the absence of Jackson.
Bill Self suspended his star freshman for leaving the scene of an accident, and ultimately it forced the Jayhawks (28-4) to leave the scene of an opening-game upset for only the second time in a Big 12 tournament.
“He feels bad and he could’ve handled it better,” said Self, who had five starters play 35 minutes with Jackson unavailable. “Today was a day where our bench needed to be good and obviously we didn’t get much out of ’em.”
Almost zilch. The Jayhawks bench was outscored 34-3.
Streaky, streaky game. TCU wiped out a 33-21 with 7 minutes left in the half to lead 43-42 at intermission. The underdogs then went up 60-49 midway through the second half.
Once KU led 80-76 on a Mason jumper with 2:18 to go, the cluster of TCU believers in the arena had evaporated. (After all, Kansas had gone 14-2 in games decided by 10 points this season.)
Instead TCU got to the foul line on three possessions and made seven straight free throws. The last three by Bane were monumental for a program needing a breakthrough.
“We ran a high-ball screen for one of our better penetrators, Alex Robinson, and I know he likes to throw that drift pass to the corner and I was spotting up, hands-free, ready,” Bane said. “He found me and I shot and 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.”
There was a telling quote from TCU coach Jamie Dixon about Kenrich Williams fouling out and Alex Robinson finishing with four fouls:
“I knew we were going to be in foul trouble. You’re always in foul trouble against Kansas.”
‘Hilton South’ happy for openers
The Iowa State basketball masses made their annual swallows-to-Capistrano pilgrimage for the Big 12 tournament, and bars near the Sprint Center were ready and welcoming.
Not even an 11:30 a.m. tip time in Thursday’s quarterfinal could put a dent in the “pregaming” as several restaurants opened around sunrise to accommodate Cyclone Nation. A bartender at McFadden’s told me they opened at 7:30 a.m. with a wwaiting list of fans calling to reserve tables.
“Hilton South” lived up to its billing when the fourth-seeded Cyclones outgunned fifth-seeded Oklahoma State 92-83.
And that happened because …
Iowa State lives and dies at the arc, and was living good Thursday. Try 12-of-24 good, and those long-distance swishes brought serious thunder inside the arena.
But with OSU defenders chasing, the Cyclones also capitalized for 12 layups/dunks, resulting in 56 percent shooting overall.
Monte Morris led five players in double-figures and his 21 points were nicely complemented by 10 rebounds and nine assists. Despite a graduate assistant telling Morris about his triple-double proximity, the Iowa State point guard dribbled out the shot clock on the final possession.
“You don’t play for stats,” Morris said. “That’s extracurricular.”
Added coach Steve Prohm: “I don’t think he would have wanted it that way.”
OSU point guard Jawun Evans scoots, scoops and squirts between taller defenders to make in-close baskets, and he made a breathtaking step-back 3 on his way to 29 points Thursday.
But the Cowboys (20-12) missed 19 shots in the paint and shot 39 percent overall.
“That was more of a fluke,” said Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood. “Mitchell Solomon has eight rebounds and four points. We’ve got to have a better ratio than that. That’s frustrating.
“Jeffrey Carroll had a driving layup. Jeff doesn’t miss that. Jeff misses a layup and iot;s an and-one on the other end.”
The Cowboys’ feel-good turnaround has taken a hit with three straight losses, though they came on Senior Night in Ames, vs. No. 1 Kansas and then Thursday’s ouster from KC.
“I’m ecstatic looking forward to postseason play,” Underwood said, “and I’m ecstatic to get away from Big 12 teams.”
West Virginia side note
I bumped into the Mountaineers deboarding a bus at our hotel where Bob Huggins saw me and wise-cracked: “Are you one of those guys Coach Carey was talking about?”
Yes, the media is here in full force this week.