LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — David McCormack scored 15 points, Dajuan Harris and Tyon Grant-Foster provided a boost off the bench, and No. 15 Kansas slogged its way to a 59-51 victory over turnover-prone TCU on Thursday night to snap a rare three-game skid.
Ochai Agbaji added 13 points for the Jayhawks (11-5, 5-4 Big 12), who once against struggled offensively but made enough free throws down the stretch to beat the Horned Frogs (9-6, 2-5) for the eighth straight time.
They also managed to avoid their longest losing streak since the 1988-89 team dropped eight in a row.
Mike Miles hit five 3-pointers and had 18 points for the Horned Frogs, who turned the ball over 22 times while shooting just 35% from the field. R.J. Nembhard added 12 points, well below his season average of 17.2.
Because of COVID-19 problems, the Horned Frogs were playing for the first time since losing at Oklahoma on Jan. 12. They had a trio of games postponed, first because of issues with West Virginia, then because of an outbreak of their own.
Among those that tested positive was TCU coach Jamie Dixon, who said earlier this week that he was “questionable” to make the trip to Lawrence. But the recent diagnosis didn’t stop Dixon from spending the entire game with his mask around his chin rather than over his mouth, whether he was in the huddle or yelling at officials on the court.
The Jayhawks had reason to be rusty, too. They had only played once in the last 10 days, and their last game inside Allen Fieldhouse — with its socially-distanced crowd of about 2,000 fans — was Jan. 9 against Oklahoma.
So it wasn’t much of a surprise when TCU led 19-18 at halftime in a game every bit as ugly as the score.
There was one stretch covering more than seven minutes in which the Horned Frogs had nearly as many turnovers (five) as field-goal attempts (seven) and never scored. When they did get a bucket to go, it was in the midst of an eight-minute stretch in which Kansas went 1 for 13 from the floor, turned it over three times and even botched an open layup.
Junior high games have produced more efficient offense.
Jayhawks coach Bill Self tweaked his lineup to start the second half, putting seldom-used Harris and Grant-Foster on the floor. And they made an immediate impact. Foster attacked the rim and Harris scored five quick points, even following his own layup with a steal on the inbound and a foul — he made one of the two free throws.
On the other end, TCU had already hit the 20-turnover mark midway through the second half.
Kansas still couldn’t shake free until Grant-Foster caught a missed 3-pointer by Christian Braun and scooped under for a layup that made it 47-43 with 5 minutes to go. McCormack followed with his first 3 of the season as the shot-clock expired, and Agbaji and Garrett added dunks, pushing the lead to an insurmountable 54-44 with three minutes to go.
TCU did some good things, out-rebounding the Jayhawks and seemingly winning every 50-50 ball. But the turnovers proved to be too much to overcome, especially in the second half, when Kansas was putting the game out of reach.
Kansas won despite going 4 of 17 from beyond the arc and 9 of 16 from the foul line. The Jayhawks got little production from their starting backcourt, including Marcus Garrett, who had just eight points and four turnovers.
Kansas visits No. 18 Tennessee while TCU travels to No. 12 Missouri for the SEC-Big 12 Challenge on Saturday.