No. 7 Kansas holds off No. 25 TCU, 77-68

LAWRENCE, Kan. – A season-high 31 points from redshirt-junior Dedric Lawson and a spark off the bench from freshman Ochai Agbaji in his collegiate debut proved too much for TCU as the No. 7/9 Jayhawks outdueled the No. 25/rv Horned Frogs, 77-68, Wednesday night inside Allen Fieldhouse. Lawson turned his NCAA-leading 11th double-double as KU snapped TCU’s nine-game winning streak.

The win moved Kansas to 13-2 on the year and 2-1 in Big 12 play, while TCU suffered its second loss of 2018-19, now at 12-2 and 1-1 in the league.

It was a back-and-forth affair for much of the opening half as neither squad managed to open up a lead of more than four points until the final minutes before the break. With the Horned Frogs keeping pace early, head coach Bill Self turned to the freshman Agbaji, who was making his collegiate debut, to give his team a lift just over four minutes into the game.

It didn’t take Agbaji long to score his first collegiate points, throwing down an ally-oop dunk from Devon Dotson to ignite the Allen Fieldhouse crowd and give the Jayhawks a 10-9 lead at the 15:41 mark.

The Horned Frogs refused to go away, however, keeping the KU lead within three points for much of the opening frame. But a Jayhawk surge over the final three minutes of the half proved to give KU some breathing room. Lagerald Vick’s first 3-pointer of the night at the 2:58 mark sparked a 9-2 Jayhawk run to close half. Lawson scored the final six points to close out the run and hand Kansas a 40-31 lead as it headed to the locker room.

It only took six minutes after the restart for the Horned Frogs to claw themselves back into the game. Some hot shooting from R.J. Nembhard from both the free throw stripe and beyond the 3-point arc got the visitors back within striking distance. Kouat Noi’s lay-up at the 12:38 mark got the Horned Frogs to within two points, 52-50.

Kansas responded and, once again, built its lead back to nine points with help from a 12-3 run over the next four minutes. Lawson scored nine-straight points during that spurt, including his second three-pointer of the night, to get the Jayhawks seemingly back in control at 64-53 with just over eight minutes to play.

But once again, the pesky Frogs refused to go away. Back-to-back TCU three pointers pulled the Horned Frogs to within three points, 68-65, with under four minutes to play. A Self timeout following Alex Robinson’s 3-pointer did the trick though, halting the TCU momentum and getting his team organized for a strong closing stretch.

The Jayhawks held the Horned Frogs scoreless over the final 1:41 of regulation. Meanwhile, some clutch free throw shooting and a key offensive rebound and putback from Marcus Garrett with 1:10 remaining helped Kansas put TCU away once and for all to close out the 77-68 victory.

Lawson tallied his third-career 30-point game and his second in his last five outings. His 14 rebounds, 10 of which came in the second half, gave him the 11th double-double of the season, a figure that brings him into a tie for the most in the NCAA. Vick was the only other Jayhawk in double figures, posting 12 points on a 5-of-10 clip from the field. Garrett (8), K.J. Lawson (7) and Agbaji (7) rounded out the Jayhawks’ top scorers, combining for 22 points.

The KU defense took center stage Wednesday night by forcing 20 TCU turnovers, the most the Horned Frogs have committed this season. On the other end, Kansas managed to rebound from its season-high 24-turnover night against Iowa State four days prior, only giving the ball away 12 times and limiting TCU to 13 points off those 12 turnovers.