Jayhawks win in Mitch Lightfoot’s first start

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Mitch Lightfoot told his mom, Rhonda, on Monday to make sure to tune into Tuesday’s Kansas-TCU game on ESPN2.

Sensing a bit more to the request, Rhonda ascertained son Mitch would be making the first start of his college career. She hopped a flight from Phoenix to KC International on Tuesday and made it to Lawrence by 5 p.m., in plenty of time for the 8 p.m. tipoff at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I can imagine,” Mitch said with a smile, when asked if his mom was a bit nervous in advance of his first start in 50 games at KU. He turned in a solid six-point, four-rebound, two-block effort in the Jayhawks’ 71-64 victory over the Horned Frogs.

“It was great to have her here. She is one who got me started with basketball,” Lightfoot added. “It’s kind of nice to have her out there looking down at me (from the family section in the southwest lower-level bleachers).”

Also on hand for the sophomore’s first start: two of Mitch’s grandparents, his aunt, his little sister and a buddy from Tucson.

“I mean it felt pretty good,” said the 6-foot-8, 210-pound Lightfoot, a lifelong KU fan who was born in Kansas City but moved to Arizona when he was 6 years old.

“I’m glad we got a W. If we didn’t get a win, it wasn’t going to be for anything. So we went out there and fought and grinded the win out. It was good for us. We needed a grind-it-out win.”

The Jayhawks (19-5, 8-3) — who won on a night in which Svi Mykhailiuk scored just one point on two shots in 36 minutes, and Malik Newman tallied only four points on 1-of-9 shooting in 33 minutes — apparently did some soul searching after Saturday’s home loss to Oklahoma State. The Jayhawks dropped that game 84-79 in front of 200 former players, coaches and staff members in town for the school’s 120 Years of Basketball Reunion weekend.

“We had a couple of special talks,” Lightfoot said of the players getting together after that defeat, KU’s second at home in league play this season. “Being at the banquet the other day motivated us to be better because of the people who came before us and what this place means to so many people.”

 

Lightfoot, who found out Monday he’d be starting, provided an inside spark Tuesday with big man Udoka Azubuike, who scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Lagerald Vick, the player Lightfoot replaced in the lineup, came off the bench and scored 10 points in 29 minutes.

“He’s been fine. You saw his energy level was a lot better,” KU coach Bill Self said of Vick. “We need him to play with a higher energy level and with personality. I thought that was one of his better outings in recent games.”

Self — who said he wasn’t sure what his lineup would be for a 1 p.m. game Saturday against Baylor at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas — was pleased with what Lightfoot brought to the table from the start.

“One thing about Mitch,” Self said, “he has personality. I think it’s contagious. It’s not the reason everybody played with more energy. That was self-induced. Mitch added to it. We did well when Mitch was in the game. I was pleased with that.”

Of Mykhailiuk scoring just a point, Self said; “I asked Svi, ‘Why couldn’t you get a look?’ He said, ‘They (defenders) didn’t leave me.’ We probably didn’t do a great job looking for him. A couple of plays we ran to get him a shot, we didn’t execute them.

“He still contributed to the win. We will not be a team that he and Malik don’t make a three (in six tries) and Lagerald not make a three (in three tries) and still beat a good team. That won’t happen often.”

The game was tied at 52-52 when Azubuike hit one of two free throws and Vick made a bucket to give KU a 55-52 advantage at 9:57.

Vick hit two free throws, Devonte' Graham made a three-pointer and KU led 60-54 at the 6:07 mark. However, a 6-2 TCU run cut the gap to 62-60 at 4:16. A pair of free throws by both Vick and Azubuike — yes Azubuike, who made four of seven free throws — gave the Jayhawks a 66-60 lead at 2:47.

It was 66-62 KU when Graham missed two free throws with 43.9 seconds left. Graham returned to the line with 30.6 left and made one of two, and KU led 67-62. Then Newman went to the line with 15.8 seconds left and hit two free throws to give KU a resounding 69-62 advantage.

Alex Robinson scored with 10 seconds left to make it 69-64, but it was too late for the Horned Frogs, who were led by the career-high 17-point outing of Kouat Noi. Vlad Brodziansky added 15 points and eight rebounds for TCU (16-8, 4-7).

“I changed my form. I’ve been working with coach every day in practice. My legs … my elbow has to be straight on line to the rim. I’ve changed everything about it,” Azubuike said.

He was motivated to come through from the line.

“On the free-throw line, I hear it all the time (from opponents),” Azubuike said. “They talked that I wasn’t going to make it. The last foul I got, they fouled me on purpose. They were like, ‘Yeah, you’re not going to make it. You’re not going to make it.’ I wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying. I was kind of focused.”

He jammed fingers on his left hand during the game and taped them after the contest.

“It’s fine,” Azubuike said. “It’s not the wrist. It’s my fingers. … During the game, I think a man kind of hit me on my fingers and all that stuff. I’ll be fine.”

No. 10 KANSAS 71, TCU 64

TCU

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Brodziansky

31

6-17

2-2

8

1

3

15

Miller

18

0-2

0-0

2

1

3

0

Bane

24

4-6

2-2

5

1

4

12

Robinson

39

3-6

1-2

4

9

3

8

Williams

39

2-9

1-2

9

4

4

6

Noi

33

6-13

1-2

6

1

2

17

Hamdy

9

1-1

1-5

1

0

2

3

Olden

7

1-3

0-0

0

1

1

3

Dry

--

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

0

Totals

200

23-57

8-15

35

18

22

64

Percentages: FG .404, FT .533. Three-Point Goals: 10-25, .400 (Noi 4-11, Bane 2-2, Robinson 1-1, Brodziansky 1-3, Olden 1-3, Williams 1-4, Miller 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 3 (Brodziansky, Miller, Williams). Turnovers: 12 (Robinson 4, Williams 3, Miller 2, Noi 2, Brodziansky). Steals: 5 (Noi 3, Bane, Brodziansky). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled out: None.

 

Kansas

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Lightfoot

22

3-5

0-0

4

0

1

6

Azubuike

25

6-10

4-7

11

0

3

16

Graham

40

7-16

5-8

6

5

1

24

Mykhailiuk

36

0-2

1-2

3

1

3

1

Newman

33

1-9

2-2

6

5

1

4

Vick

29

3-9

4-4

1

1

3

10

Garrett

15

4-4

0-0

2

1

0

10

Totals

200

24-55

16-23

33

13

12

71

Percentages: FG .436, FT .696. Three-Point Goals: 7-21, .333 (Graham 5-9, Garrett 2-2, Lightfoot 0-1, Mykhailiuk 0-1, Vick 0-3, Newman 0-5). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 4 (Azubuike 2, Lightfoot 2). Turnovers: 10 (Graham 3, Azubuike 2, Lightfoot 2, Garrett, Mykhailiuk, Vick). Steals: 5 (Graham 2, Lightfoot, Mykhailiuk, Vick). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled out: None.

Half: TCU 36-34. Att: 16,300.


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