The first time Kansas faced the TCU Horned Frogs, it took them over seven minutes to get on the scoreboard and they finished with just 13 points in the first half. On Saturday, they returned the favor, holding TCU scoreless for the first five minutes and to only nine points in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kevin Young was active early, grabbing offensive rebounds and dunking the ball on the putback. He also had two steals in the first half. Jeff Withey had eight points in the first half and Kansas hit three three-pointers on an 18-0 run that finished off the half. TCU missed nine shots and turned the ball over six times in the last eight minutes of the first half and Ben McLemore punctuated the end of the half with a gliding dunk on the baseline to make it 38-9 after 20 minutes.
The second half allowed Kansas to go a bit easier and get Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis, and Jamari Traylor more minutes. The more relaxed approach let TCU get some points on the board, and they made up three points in the second half, outscoring KU 39-36, and shot much better from the field. I suppose it’s good that Kansas got so far ahead that they could coast a bit to finish up, but I’d also like to see the pressure stay on through the full game.
Ellis took advantage of the extra playing time and looked better than he has during conference play. He made the close shots and made jumpers on his way to scoring 12 points in 15 minutes. He hadn’t reached double digits since KU’s game against American at the end of December, just before conference play started.
Withey finished with 18 points and is averaging better than 17 points in his last four games. McLemore had 14, a nice rebound after his conference-season low seven points against Oklahoma State. Travis Releford scored 12, Elijah Johnson had just seven points, but had four assists and committed just one turnover in 29 minutes.
There are still quiet moments with the offense, but the team is playing better overall. They’ll get a big test on Monday when they travel to Ames to face Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum. It’s always a tough place to play, and without a fortunate bank shot by McLemore in their meeting in Lawrence, they’d have won in Allen Fieldhouse. If Kansas wins that matchup, they should cruise to their ninth conference championship. If not, they’ll have to finish strong against their three final opponents, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor (in Waco). Kansas State is tied by conference record but lost both games to Kansas. They may have to sweep their next four opponents and still may lose the tiebreaker with KU. Their toughest matchup is in the last conference game of the year when they travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State.
As for that Iowa State game, Kansas tips off with ISU at 8:00 p.m. CST on ESPN.