LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self has long insisted that five-star recruits Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo might be the best players on his team – five years down the line.
They might have been the best on Saturday.
Bragg had 10 points and four rebounds, Diallo had nine points and nine boards, and their spark off the bench helped the top-ranked Jayhawks to an otherwise sluggish 70-63 victory over TCU.
“Coach is always telling them to be ready when their number is called,” Kansas guard Devonte Graham said. “And in practice, you can see them getting better and better each week, and they’re going to be huge for us down the stretch.”
Wayne Selden Jr. had 11 points and Graham and Perry Ellis added 10 points apiece for Kansas (15-2, 4-1 Big 12), which bounced back nicely from its loss at West Virginia earlier in the week.
It was the 33rd consecutive win at Allen Fieldhouse for Kansas, matching the fourth-best streak in school history. It was also the Jayhawks’ seven straight win over the Horned Frogs.
“I was happy with Carlton, I thought he did some things in the first half,” Self said, “and I thought Cheick was a presence for the most part.”
Michael Williams had 13 points and Brandon Parrish and Chauncey Collins scored 11 apiece for TCU (9-8, 1-4), which remained close for a while thanks to a flurry of early 3-pointers.
The Jayhawks eventually took the perimeter away, and their size and depth in the post made it nearly impossible for TCU to score. Diallo finished with five blocks in just 21 minutes.
“They’re long. They’re really long,” Williams said. “So sometimes they’re not doing what they need to be doing offensively, and they struggle, but that length is really tough defensively.”
On the flip side, “I think my wife could score on us in the post,” TCU coach Trent Johnson said.
Malique Trent missed the Horned Frogs’ second straight game because of a violation of team rules. The transfer from New Mexico Junior College was tied for the team lead at 11.7 points per game.
His loss has been sorely felt for a team short on depth. The Horned Frogs were able to hang around with the Jayhawks for the first half, but their weary legs got the best of them late.
In fact, TCU built a 19-15 lead fueled almost entirely by 3-pointers before Kansas answered with a 16-2 run. But even after the Jayhawks took a 31-21 lead with about 4 minutes left before the break, the Horned Frogs were able to keep the game within striking distance.
It was still a 10-point game midway through the second half when the Jayhawks peeled off six quick points, first on a dunk by Ellis and then consecutive layups by Frank Mason III. And while TCU never truly went away, Kansas had enough depth and athleticism to prevent one more comeback.
Not to mention give Self another opportunity to tinker.
The Jayhawks’ coach is still experimenting with lineups, trying to find the best five guys – and the top guys off the bench – approaching the midpoint of the season. Bragg and Diallo made their case for more minutes, while Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas seemed to backpedal a bit.
Bragg soared past his career-best of nine points while providing some energy on the defensive end and the glass, while Diallo provided a jolt with a series of crowd-thrilling rejections.
“They look the part. They play the part. And they’re playing with the right guy,” Johnson said. “They’re going to be good players. Great players, probably. I hope they leave after this year.”
Fire alarms sounded in Allen Fieldhouse with just over a minute left in the game. True to form at Kansas, the 16,300 seats were never empty – despite a bleating horn and flashing lights. The officials decided to play through it and finish up the game.
TCU: Chris Washburn started for the third time after missing the early portion of the season with a broken finger. He finished with eight points. … TCU was 7 of 17 from beyond the arc.
Kansas: Ellis had nine rebounds. … Kansas was 5 of 20 from beyond the arc. … The Jayhawks had just 10 turnovers after piling up 22 in their loss to the Mountaineers.
TCU plays Texas Tech on Monday night.
Kansas visits Oklahoma State on Tuesday night.