They were the Jayhawks’ first two points of the game. Prior to the basket, Kansas had missed two free throws and four shots from the floor. The only reason they didn’t miss more was because they’d turned the ball over on six possessions.
At one point, Kansas was 1 of 17 from the floor. They went into the locker room with 13 points on the board, the lowest halftime score for Kansas since 1999. They hung in there and played good enough defense to only be down nine points. In the second half, they finally scored some points.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough to come back. Despite a 42-40 advantage in the second half, the TCU Horned Frogs held on for their biggest win in school history and their first in Big 12 conference play ever. Fans stormed the court. They chanted “OH-VER-RAY-TED”. It was joyous bedlam in Fort Worth.
Or, it was simply bedlam in the case of Kansas.
After the game, Bill Self, after calling the team “soft” last Saturday after losing to Oklahoma State, said that this was the “worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor.” After a loss like this, against a team that could have gone winless in conference play, it’s hard to argue with that assessment. Prior to the game, TCU had a 237 RPI ranking. Kansas was ranked 7th. That’s a historically bad gap.
So let’s look at the bad. McLemore missed all six of his three point shots. He led the team with 15 points, however. For a change, he was trying to get to the basket on occasion and was able to convert. Jeff Withey scored 12 points and hit 4 of 6 from the floor, but he made some bad fouls and never had good position inside and often reacted too late to double teams. Perry Ellis started, but played only ten minutes, often coming out quickly for Kevin Young. Naadir Tharpe shot 2 for 15, but did get to the line and managed 11 points. When the score was 44-40, he took an ill-advised three point attempt on a one on four break and missed. Prior to that point, Kansas was creeping back in and gaining momentum. After the miss, TCU went on a 9-1 run.
Travis Releford scored one point and fouled out. Elijah Johnson scored eight points, but didn’t get on the board until under two minutes left in the game. He hit two three-pointers, but also committed a bad turnover with KU down 50-57.
The good news? This is probably rock bottom for this team. Nobody got hurt. Every loss is a learning experience. There doesn’t seem to be a true leader on this squad, though. Releford could be, as he’s experienced and tough, but I wonder if he’s been in the complementary role for so long, he’s just not going to step up. Johnson’s confidence has to be shot, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tharpe get a look as a starter for at least a game to give Johnson a new perspective. McLemore is a great talent but he’s a lot like Paul Pierce when he was a freshman and doesn’t always step up to take control.
In the past (and I’ve mentioned this before this season), Kansas would have someone who could get mad and make a play. Sherron Collins had a knack for isolating himself and getting to the basket. Tyshawn Taylor could do the same thing. He’d just take over and get a steal, or a three-pointer, or steal and then hit a three, or make a couple of drives to the lane and score. Thomas Robinson might have gotten five rebounds in a row or could take over with the ball. There just doesn’t seem to be anyone who wants to jump into that role and just make the play when it’s required.
Maybe that goes back to Bill Self’s comments about being soft. He’s showing a lot of tough love right now to try to wake the team up. We’ll see how they respond.