Kansas’ basketball traveling party reluctantly checked out of the Downtown Marriott Hotel on Thursday, cutting short what the Jayhawks hoped would be yet another rewarding early March weekend in Kansas City.
“It’s very disappointing that you work your (rear end) off all year long and you get to postseason where it’s championship week and everybody is excited to be part of it and you go home early,” KU coach Bill Self said dejectedly after the No. 1-ranked Jayhawks’ shocking 85-82 Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal loss to TCU on Thursday at the Sprint Center.
“I didn’t want to come over here and go home empty after one day,” he added.
The man who has led KU to 13 straight Big 12 regular-season conference titles isn’t used to early exits in the postseason extravaganza.
KU (28-4) lost its first game in the Big 12 tourney for the first time since 2009 and just the second time in the 21-year history of the league.
“Hopefully that will be a good motivator for us moving forward. Doesn’t mean anything is broken but certainly we have to tighten some things up,” added Self, whose Jayhawks will take Friday off, practice Saturday and Sunday, and late Sunday afternoon will likely learn they’ve still been awarded a No. 1 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Playing without freshman guard Josh Jackson — who sat on the bench in KU warmup gear while serving a one-game suspension — the Jayhawks, who led by as many as 12 points with 4:19 left in the first half, only to trail by as many as 11 points 6minutes into the second half, still had their chances to advance to a Friday semifinal against Iowa State.
The game was knotted at 82-82 when TCU’s Desmond Bane was fouled by Svi Mykhailiuk — who busted a recent slump by scoring 18 for KU —on a three-point attempt from the corner, right in front of TCU’s bench, with 2.5 seconds left. Bane, who scored 16 points hit all three free throws.
“I thought I blocked it and it was clean. They called it, so it was a foul,” Mykhailiuk said.“I think when I blocked it I fell into him. I just caught him a little bit. They called the foul.”
KU had just over 2 seconds to hit a game-tying three and force overtime.
Lagerald Vick, who had nine points and six rebounds while playing Jackson’s power forward position — “it’s really tough playing the position,” the 6-foot-5 Vick said — inbounded all the way from behind the end line to Landen Lucas (13 points, 14 rebounds) past halfcourt. Lucas tipped the ball to Devonté Graham, who released a deep three-pointer that missed.
When asked if he thought Graham’s shot would swish, senior guard Frank Mason (29 points, 6 assists) said: “I did. I thought he had a good look at it. It was a little deep. We did a good job executing that last play. It just didn’t fall.”
Graham had a bad vibe about his rushed shot.
“I could feel it as soon as it left my hand (that) it wasn’t going in,” Graham said. He hurt his left foot in the first half, but after a short stay in the locker room, returned and wound up scoring 10 points on 2-of-10 three-point shooting in 35 minutes.
“Somebody rolled on it. I’m good,” Graham said, referring to his ankle and his health.
KU lamented a couple of wasted possessions after the Jayhawks turned a 60-49 deficit at 13:55 into a 80-76 lead with 2:12 left.
Mason threw a lob to Vick that sailed over Vick’s head with 1:37 left. Had the play been completed successfully, KU would have led by six.
“It was a wide-open lob. I think I threw it a little too high,” Mason said. “If it would have been a little shorter, he would have caught it and dunked it. It was a bad pass.”
“(It was) probably a little too high,” Vick said.
Self thought it was a strange play since Vick didn’t leap for the ball.
“I’ve got to be honest. I thought he was wide open,” Self said. “I think he threw too high or Lagerald thought it was too high. It wouldn’t have been an exclamation-point play to me. It would have been a good play. He threw to an open man. I was disappointed Lagerald didn’t jump. I don’t know why he didn’t jump.”
Brandon Parrish followed with a pair of free throws after a foul by Vick and KU led 80-78 with 1:27 left.
Then, Mykhailiuk turned it over and Alex Robinson (13 points), who was fouled by Mason, hit two free throws to tie the score at 80-80.
“I was trying to pass to Frank. I just made a bad pass. They got a steal,” Mykhailiuk said.
The bad stretch continued when Lucas missed an inside shot and Robinson converted a layup on the other end to give the Horned Frogs a two-point lead with 31 seconds left. KU tied the game at 82-82 with 22 seconds left.
That remained the score until Mykhailiuk fouled Bane.
“Fatigue was a huge part of it,” Self said of the late-game problems against a team that had lost seven straight games heading into the postseason. TCU beat Oklahoma on Wednesday. “I made a mistake with 22 seconds left. Frank shoots a free throw. I asked our guys (assistants on bench) should I call a timeout? They didn’t have a timeout left. They said, why? I said, ‘Just to let our guys rest to get one stop.’ I didn’t do it. That was probably a poor choice on my behalf.”
The Jayhawks said in retrospect, it was tough playing without Jackson, who returns for the NCAAs.
“It was real tough,” Graham said, “Just because he’s so versatile. He can do so many things for us. Not having him was a big part of — one of the reasons why we lost.”
“It was tough. It showed out there. We miss his offensive presence and defensive presence. He’s a great shot blocker,” Mason said, “a great rebounder, passer, scorer. He does a lot of great things for us. We missed him tonight.”
Of Jackson, who did not speak to the media after the game, Self said: “He feels bad. Certainly it’s a teaching moment, not only for me but for our guys to learn and hopefully be better from it. I’m disappointed he didn’t get a chance to play. He’s disappointed, but I think he will respond favorably to it.”