After a back-and-forth first half, the Kansas Jayhawks dominated the second half of Wednesday night’s game against TCU, winning 87-68 and clinching at least a share of their 13th straight Big 12 conference title.
After what is becoming a typical slow start, the Jayhawks found themselves down 27-22 with a little over five minutes remaining in the first half. Kansas took the lead after a couple of three-pointers by Frank Mason and Josh Jackson, and took a one point lead into halftime after another Frank Mason three with under 30 seconds left in the half.
Mason led the way again for Kansas, scoring 20 points on 6-12 from the floor. With this game and a 23 point performance at Baylor on Saturday, Mason seems to be fully healthy after suffering through an illness a couple of weeks ago.
Jackson finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists despite exiting the game for a period in the first half after rolling his ankle.
A couple of three-pointers by Devonte’ Graham got Kansas off to a good start in the second half, and they never really looked back, as the Jayhawks had a comfortable enough lead to unleash some highlight reel plays:
Graham bounced back after a 1-12 performance in the Baylor game, finishing with 17 points and 7 assists on 3-7 shooting from downtown. Alex Robinson led the way for TCU with 15 points. Jaylen Fisher added 11.
Player of the game: Carlton Bragg
I’m going to regret saying this, but… the Carlton Bragg we have been waiting for is finally here!
Actually, probably not. He finished with 15 points on 7-10 from the floor, but none of those points were in the variety that we were used to seeing last season (pick and pop jumpers, facing up, etc). All but two of his field goals were assisted, and that’s fine. This team has plenty of offensive options, so they don’t really need Bragg to be what many thought he would be coming into this season, at least on that end.
The seven rebounds and three blocks is what was huge. Landen Lucas was struggling with foul trouble for much of this game, and Bragg stepped up in a huge way. He switched onto some smaller defenders and did pretty well, as evidenced by his three blocks while protecting the rim.
I’m not going to act like Bragg is going to come in and propel Kansas into the Final Four or anything. And I’m not going to act like this game wasn’t without his typical face-palm moments. But this team is so weak off the bench that Bragg playing minutes like he did against TCU can make a huge difference. Especially if they run into a big team like Purdue or North Carolina in the tournament, or if Landen Lucas ever gets into foul trouble.
What he did tonight is all he needs to do the rest of the season: play defense, rebound, and finish at the rim. Now we’ve seen it from him, and we have every reason to expect it going forward.