Jamie Dixon, who was firmly entrenched as head basketball coach at Pitt at the time, remembers watching a young Landen Lucas work out at the University of Kansas.
“I went to Kansas five years ago when he was a freshman,” Dixon said. “I saw him when we did the thing (coaches conference) with Bill (Self) and Kansas. We had brought in a couple of coaches and we talked basketball for the weekend. They were preparing for their trip overseas. I really liked him as a freshman.”
Dixon was speaking Friday night after the 6-foot-10, fifth-year senior forward Lucas torched Dixon’s first TCU team for 15 points and a career-best 17 rebounds in the Jayhawks’ 86-80 win over the Horned Frogs at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I thought he was going to be a really good player. Then you throw him in their system and their coaching and their development, I’m not surprised,” Dixon added. I think he’s really good. … I’ve always been a big fan of his. I didn’t think we’d be playing against him five years later, but you never know in this world.”
Dixon did note that the Horned Frogs, who were outrebounded 21-14 in the first 20 minutes, were partly responsible for Lucas’ 10 first-half boards. TCU outboarded KU 25-18 in the final half.
“We didn’t do a good job the first half. We had something to do with that,” Dixon stated.
Lucas, who entered averaging 5.6 rebounds a game, was motivated Friday — and not just because several of his relatives who live in Texas attended the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opener.
“We knew this was going to be a new season, a challenging game like every game in the Big 12 is,” Lucas said. “Personally I wanted to get off to a good start in the Big 12 season rebounding-wise. My mind-set coming in was to get as many rebounds as I could. They were falling my way, which was helpful, too.”
Lucas has upped his rebound totals in four straight games. He had seven against Nebraska on Dec. 10, eight against Davidson on Dec. 17 and 12 versus UNLV on Dec. 22.
“It’s been a process,” said Lucas, who was slowed by foot and oblique injuries earlier in the season. “It (rebounding) has been something I’ve been doing my whole life. There will be ups and downs like shooters (who) go through a slump. I’ve been through a slump this season. I’ve been building each game. Coming into tonight I was feeling good about rebounding. I went out there and it went my way.”
Lucas hit 7 of 9 shots and was 1 of 3 from the free-throw line in 30 minutes.
“I thought Landen really tried hard,” KU coach Self said. “I thought he did what he can do. Certainly he bailed us out. Carlton (Bragg, 5 points and 9 boards in 16 minutes) and Landen combined for 46 minutes, get 20 points and 26 rebounds. That is unbelievable production.
“I thought both did some good things, but without question, ‘Lando’ was by far, I mean there’s nobody else in discussion for player of the game. Maybe Lagerald (Vick, 17 points in 34 minutes), but I thought Landen played very well.”
Self was pleased with Lucas, but displeased with the Jayhawks’ overall performance.
“We didn’t guard anybody the whole night and were so slow,” Self said. “They were definitely more athletic than us. The second half … I don’t know if we could play less intelligent (basketball) down the stretch offensively. Defensively, we never guarded. I mean the simplest little ball screen. If I was playing against us, I would just say, ‘Put us, put our guards in a ball screen, they can’t get through it.’ Frank (Mason) and Devonté (Graham) can’t get through it and guard a ball screen. That’s all I would do. That’s what they did. They picked on us. We didn’t play very well off the ball; fortunately we made enough plays to get a ‘W.’ ”
The Jayhawks (12-1, 1-0 in the Big 12) will meet Kansas State (12-1, 1-0) at 8 p.m., Tuesday at Allen Fieldhouse.
“They are good,” Self said of the Wildcats. “TCU is good too. TCU will win a lot of games, especially here (home). We are a long ways from being a good team. I mean that totally in all seriousness. Unless we make a commitment to be tough and want to guard and play smarter, then it’s going to be a situation we’ll have a lot of games like this and hope like heck we make enough shots to win because certainly we are not tough enough to actually grind out a victory right now.”
Lucas, one of the team leaders, said the Jayhawks, “know we can’t win big games in the Big 12 without guarding.”
TCU forward Vlad Brodziansky burned KU for a career-high 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting (10 of 11 from the line).
“We’ve got to get back to what we do well in practice,” Lucas added.
Dixon on KU
Dixon likes the Jayhawks’ experience.
“I don’t know the exact ages. Mason (22 points and seven assists in 34 minutes) has to be 24, 23 years old (he turns 23 in April). Graham (11 points and six assists in 36 minutes) is a fifth-year guy when you are counting prep school. So you’ve got two experienced guys who have been well-coached since the day they got to campus and No. 10 (junior Svi Mykhailiuk, 12 points in 37 minutes) he is obviously a talented guy,” Dixon said.
“Their quickness is something that probably beat us a little bit. We’ve got to do a better job on that. We worked on it. It wasn’t a surprise. They made some tough shots, too and the foul trouble hurt us.”
Cunliffe to arrive for visit Monday
Sam Cunliffe, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard who recently announced plans to leave Arizona State after the first semester of his freshman season, has completed his campus visit to Georgetown. He said Sunday he will head to KU on Monday to begin a campus visit that will include attending Tuesday’s KU-Kansas State game.
He said the plan is to visit Seattle University on Thursday, then decide on a school sometime after that visit is complete.
Cunliffe averaged 9.5 points and 4.8 rebounds a game while starting all 10 of Arizona State’s games this season. He was ranked No. 36 in the recruiting Class of 2016 by Rivals.com.