LAWRENCE — What’s happening Saturday afternoon inside Allen Fieldhouse, it’s rare.
Kansas men’s basketball is getting blown out at home. The Jayhawks’ comeback attempt has been quashed for much of the second half already. And fans are beginning to leave their seats in bunches with about a few minutes left in regulation.
TCU junior guard Mike Miles Jr. is watching it happen. He’s allowing himself to feel, then and there, that he knows his side’s going to win. And when the final buzzer sounded, he and his teammates are celebrating an 83-60 shellacking of a Big 12 Conference power in an arena their program had never won in before.
But even considering how deflating of a loss this could be for No. 2 Kansas, postgame Jayhawks head coach Bill Self, redshirt junior forward Jalen Wilson and sophomore forward KJ Adams Jr. weren’t sounding the alarm. They offered straightforward analysis on what’s led to their team dropping a second-straight game in Big 12 play, the loss against No. 13 TCU following one against No. 15 Kansas State. So, moving forward it’s just a matter of how much they can live up to their own potential.
“Losing two games is tough, especially one at home, but I think always, even like my past years playing, a loss at home like this kind of wakes us up even more than we needed to,” said Wilson, who scored a team-high 30 points. “And, also, it just shows us that we’re beatable if we don’t do certain things. I know last year, after Kentucky, we kind of bounced back in the right direction. And, last year, we lost to Baylor and TCU in a row and ended up running the table after that. So, I think that this is an eye-opening experience for us. One, that we’re not invincible at home, of course. And two, that we’ve just got to take pride on defense.”
According to Adams, the mood in the locker room at halftime was a positive one after Kansas (16-3, 5-2 in Big 12) had cut what was at one time a 22-point deficit down to 10. No one could blame them, considering the many comebacks they’d made just in conference play alone this season. But they weren’t able to hit shots at the rate they needed to in order to complete another comeback, especially with the issues they encountered defensively.
Self would joke postgame that TCU (15-4, 4-3 in Big 12) was doing everything right to the point that how the Horned Frogs were chewing gum, or tying their shoes, was perfect. He wouldn’t say it was a complete, 40-minute beatdown. But in the end it was one, with the Jayhawks last leading at 6-5 early in the first half.
A team that’s so often played well this season, and been fortunate at different points as well, saw what happened when neither potentiality went its way against a formidable opponent. Shots that normally fall didn’t. And Kansas didn’t play well enough defensively to ensure that wouldn’t decide the game.
“We know exactly what we need to do, so it’s not like we’re confused about how we’re losing games,” Wilson said. “It’s just making teams not be comfortable against us. It should be something that we take pride on, is them having to adjust, them having to change, them having to alter their game plan because of our intensity, our aggressiveness on both ends. And that’s just something we’ve got to focus on, especially with Baylor. It’s going to be another team just like them, fast guards, athletic guards, that are playing fast and downhill.”
As Wilson, Adams and Self reflected on this latest loss, only Sunday separated them with their upcoming game Monday on the road against No. 22 Baylor. The Bears are a team the Jayhawks split their two matchups against last season, including a loss in Waco, Texas. And Baylor would still be tough to prepare for even with an extra day or two that Kansas doesn’t have.
So, Self said he’d craft a preparation strategy that’d only include about 20 or 30 minutes of practice time Sunday. He wouldn’t dwell on this defeat against TCU, and show a seemingly never-ending run of clips of what went wrong instead of a select group that would better allow the Jayhawks to move on effectively. He’d prioritize fresh minds and bodies.
There’s an energy Self wants his team to play with that he didn’t see Saturday. Part of changing that, among other things, is each individual within the program taking it upon themselves to find ways to improve. And should it find its way into Kansas’ play against Baylor, maybe it’ll carry over into other future contests as well.
“Obviously, we’re going to think about it,” said Adams, referring to the loss against the Horned Frogs. “But, we have to think about next game and the next assignments that we have to do. So, especially after this game, we’re going to have to look at our assignments way more than we did today.”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. He is the National Sports Media Association’s sportswriter of the year for the state of Kansas for 2022. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.