Frank Mason dribbled through the lane, and with his eyes seemingly focused on wide-open forward Carlton Bragg, flipped a high-arcing shot — or was it a lob pass to the 6-foot-10 Bragg? — toward the goal.
“It was actually a floater,” said Mason, Kansas’ senior guard, of the 5-footer that dropped through the net in the second half of the Jayhawks’ 79-67 victory over Texas on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
“That should have been a lob to Carlton. It was just a mistake on my end. I’m just happy it went in,” Mason added after scoring 17 points with seven assists, two rebounds, one turnover and one steal in 34 minutes.
It’s a sign of how productive Mason has been this season that a mistake resulted in two more points for the 5-foot-11 Petersburg, Va., native, who topped the 1,500-point career milestone on Saturday and passed Ron Kellogg for 20th place on KU’s all-time scoring list.
“I”m not really focused on that. I guess that’s a good accomplishment,” said Mason who has 1,514 points. “I’m just focused how we play as a team, our effort, how we guard.”
Mason’s seven assists on Saturday upped his career total to 491, good for 11th on KU’s all-time list.
Sophomore forward Bragg did wind up with one dunk against the Longhorns. He took a feed from junior guard Devonté Graham and jammed it in to increase KU’s lead to 57-49 with 12:11 left.
“I feel strong. I need to get stronger, pay attention more,” Bragg said after scoring eight points with two rebounds, one steal and two turnovers in 15 minutes.
KU senior forward Landen Lucas grabbed 14 rebounds in 31 minutes, helping KU outrebound the Longhorns 40-33. Lucas scored two points.
“Landen rebounds all day. That’s his thing. I take a lot of pointers from him,” Bragg said, adding that he personally is, “trying to get to where I get 10 boards a game, absolutely. I’m trying to get back into it, get my rhythm back.”
One of KU’s seldom-used bigs, freshman Mitch Lightfoot, scored two points and grabbed two boards in four first-half minutes Saturday. He tipped in a Mason miss to give the Jayhawks a 26-21 lead with 5:45 left in the first half.
“I thought it was great. That’s as good an offensive tip we’ve had all year — left-handed, jump across his body. That was a great play,” coach Bill Self said. “I thought Mitch did well. I haven’t got him in, haven’t played him. Certainly, he deserves to play more than what he has. It’s nice to see him have success when he got out there.”
Texas coach Shaka Smart says he likes the atmosphere at Allen Fieldhouse.
“This is a special place,” Smart said. “One thing I was telling one of our guys on the way in was this is my second time being here. Both times have been on a weekend. And it’s kind of like the twilight zone because it feels like there is nothing else going on here besides the game. Everyone is locked in on the game.
“Again, that is a testament to the program and coach Self and what they’ve built over the years. As a player, I think that goes into having an excitement about playing. But our guys prepared well in terms of their mind-set. They were excited to play, even though I think they’re excited no matter who we play. We just made some mistakes early and Kansas really capitalized and it ended up being a really big difference.”
Tough schedule for KU
If West Virginia does not fall out of the top 10 Monday after losing consecutive games to Oklahoma and Kansas State, KU will play three-straight top-10 teams in the next three games (West Virginia on Tuesday, Kentucky on Saturday and Baylor on Feb. 1).
The last time KU faced three-straight top-10 teams was the end of the 2011-12 season, when the Jayhawks defeated No. 4 North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament regional finals, No. 7 Ohio State in the Final Four, and lost to No. 1 Kentucky in the title game.
“This is why you come to Kansas … to play these type of games,” Bragg said. “You’ve just got to be ready for it. We’re going to find out who we are. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
KU currently has sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with a 7-0 record. Baylor is 6-1 followed by K-State, West Virginia and Iowa State, all 4-3; TCU and Texas Tech, 3-4; Oklahoma 2-5; and Oklahoma State and Texas, 1-6.