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KU basketball refocusing after 'bad, bad morning' versus Texas

Matt Galloway
Topeka Capital-Journal
Texas players celebrate a 3-pointer by senior guard Matt Coleman III as Kansas freshman guard Dajuan Harris Jr. walks toward the bench in the second half of last Saturday's game in Lawrence. The Jayhawks lost 84-59, equaling their most lopsided defeat ever inside Allen Fieldhouse.

LAWRENCE — While a rarity, Kansas basketball isn’t entirely unfamiliar with being in this position, picking up the pieces following a home blowout to an up-and-coming conference foe.

And the last time it happened? Everything turned out quite all right for the Jayhawks.

KU shot 30.8% from the floor, hit just 3 of 23 tries from 3-point range and surrendered 12 made 3s to Texas last Saturday in an eventual 84-59 defeat, a margin that equaled a record for the program’s worst-ever loss inside Allen Fieldhouse. The drubbing broke streaks of 13 straight victories at home and 17 consecutive triumphs versus Big 12 opponents.

Refocusing on their next contest, a 9 p.m. Tuesday tilt against TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, the No. 6-ranked Jayhawks (8-2, 2-1) have drawn inspiration from recent history — last year’s squad fell 67-55 to Baylor on Jan. 11 in Lawrence, but that was the final defeat for a group that finished the abbreviated season a 16-game winning streak and as the nation’s consensus top-ranked team.

“That was brought up in the locker room (Saturday). Same thing happened (last season),” said redshirt senior forward Mitch Lightfoot. “It was a Saturday, 11 ‘o’ clock game. So we thought about that and we realized, hey, last year’s team did it and they bounced back well. So I think if this team takes that same attitude and that same, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chip on our shoulder now,’ I think we’ll be OK.”

Interestingly, that postgame reality check came from walk-on senior guard Chris Teahan, who spoke up to make sure his teammates understood the disappointing result “isn’t the end of the world,” detailed Lightfoot.

“Yes, it sucks, and yes, we need to improve on some things,” Lightfoot said. “But if we can all lock in and play our best basketball and play as a team, as a cohesive unit, then I think we have a chance to succeed.”

That said, there are plenty of lessons to take away from Saturday.

Unlike what he witnessed in the team’s first setback, a 102-90 season-opening defeat to top-ranked Gonzaga, head coach Bill Self indicated he saw a significant dip in energy when sledding got tough against the Longhorns.

“When we tasted our own blood, we didn’t react very well,” Self said. “When we got punched in the mouth against Gonzaga, we reacted right. We didn’t play well, but still, it’s a one-possession game with nine minutes left and your most effective player was on the bench with four fouls. I mean, we put ourselves in a position because we grinded and we fought, and we didn’t do that (Saturday).

"I’m not saying because we didn’t try. I’m saying we weren’t turned up enough to understand, ‘Guys, OK, hey, (a) 12 (point deficit) is plenty. We can’t give them any more.’ Against Gonzaga we didn’t give them more, then it gave some momentum. Against Texas we did give them more and then it kind of deflates you.”

Texas outscored KU 43-22 across the game’s final 17 minutes.

“Obviously Saturday was a bad, bad morning for us and we deserved exactly what we got, all of us,” Self said. “I mean me, players, none of us performed very well. But the biggest takeaway that I saw from that game was the fact that I didn’t feel like we tried or competed as hard when the game kind of got away from us.”

Self also cited a lack of vocal leadership down the stretch in the defeat, just the 15th loss inside Allen Fieldhouse in his 18-year tenure with the Jayhawks.

“I really didn’t see that energy level of, ‘OK guys, we screwed this up. How are we going to get out of it?’ I really didn’t feel that (Saturday),” Self said. “It was a weird vibe. It really was. It was a weird vibe to me in the game, in the building. I think Texas had most to do with it, though.”

Self said KU players came to practice Sunday with “great” attitudes and were able to take a blunt film review session “the right way.” Overall, he observed, they are handling the situation “pretty well.”

“We can get better through this,” Self said. “It’s one game out of ... 26, and we’ve got to look at it that way. We can’t put too much emphasis on something. I’d much rather win two close games and lose one big one than the reverse role. It’s one game. It’s a big deal, but it’s not anything that is Earth shattering or we can’t recover from if we take care of business.”

And if the Jayhawks are unable to, as last season’s group did, move on?

“If we can’t recover from this we’re the softest group of all time,” Self said. “I mean, this is what happens in sports, to everybody. So I can’t believe that our guys won’t respond.”

Garrett questionable versus Horned Frogs

Marcus Garrett, who left the matchup with the Longhorns in the second half after taking a blow to the head, didn’t practice Sunday and was expected to be a limited participant Monday. Self indicated the senior guard is questionable for Tuesday’s game at TCU (9-2, 2-1).

With true freshman Bryce Thompson (back) out indefinitely, redshirt freshman Dajuan Harris would be tasked with handling point guard duties for virtually the entire contest against the Horned Frogs should Garrett be unable to play. Harris played 13 minutes against Texas, scoring no points on 0-for-3 shooting with one assist and one turnover.

Self acknowledged we “didn’t see the best of” Harris against the Longhorns but added he has faith the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder can slide into a bigger role if called upon.

“I don’t know that 10 games into his career that he’s equipped to say, ‘OK, go win on the road by yourself with no backup.’ I don’t know how many guys are like that,” Self said. “But he’s ready. He’s ready to have a huge impact and play.”

#6 KANSAS AT TCU

Tipoff: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, Texas

Records: Kansas 8-2, 2-1 Big 12; TCU 9-2, 2-1 Big 12

Line: KU by 3½

TV/radio (Topeka): ESPN/KWIC-FM (99.3)

Up next for KU: vs. Oklahoma, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence