FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Frank Mason III drove hard the length of the court a couple of times and made some other gritty plays to try to get Kansas out of an early funk on the road in its Big 12 opener.
The senior guard did enough for the third-ranked Jayhawks to win their 12th straight game and 26th consecutive conference opener, scoring 22 points with seven assists in an 86-80 victory over TCU on Friday night.
And while coach Bill Self liked the offense from his floor leader, he felt the slow start has plenty to do with what Mason and backcourt mate Devonte Graham didn’t do on the defensive end.
“I’m going to try to be very positive; he played good on one end,” Self said. “He certainly didn’t guard tonight and Devonte didn’t either. Those are good two-way players. We get our personality and our toughness from those two setting the tone and that never occurred tonight.”
Senior Landen Lucas had 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to help the Jayhawks (12-1, 1-0) hold off the Horned Frogs, who led by 10 points in the first half and stayed close after winning 11 of their first 12 under first-year coach Jamie Dixon, a former TCU guard.
Kansas improved to 13-1 against TCU, almost four years after the Jayhawks’ only loss in the series on the same court. But it wasn’t easy improving to 21-0 in Big 12 openers against a program that has finished at or near the bottom in all four of its previous Big 12 seasons.
“We can complain that we didn’t play well,” Self said. “I think there’s a reason why we didn’t. I think TCU’s good.”
Vladimir Brodziansky had a career-high 28 points and nine rebounds for TCU (11-2, 0-1), and Kenrich Williams had his fifth double-double this season with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Horned Frogs were within four points after Alex Robinson stole a pass by Mason and beat him to the end for a layup. Graham answered with a leaning runner over Brodziansky, and Mason made it 84-76 on a layup with 1:23 remaining.
“The thing about tough conferences, probably the biggest challenge, the biggest indicator, is how you respond to a loss,” Dixon said. “It’s a good team. We lost to a good team. We expected to win. I think we should have won.”
Mason, who had just one turnover, gave the Jayhawks a boost early, keeping them close with some gritty plays while they missed 11 of their first 12 shots and trailed by 10 points several times.
Lagerald Vick made 5 of 11 from 3-point range and finished with 17 points for Kansas.
Kansas: It was a good road win for a team that has won a school-record 12 straight conference titles, the second-longest streak in NCAA history. TCU shows signs of being much more competitive in the Big 12 under Dixon, who is familiar with rugged leagues coming from the Big East and the ACC.
TCU: The Horned Frogs have to be encouraged that they won’t have a repeat of 2014-15 when they started 13-0 before losing 10 of their first 11 in Big 12 play.
PHENOM’S TOUGH NIGHT
It was a frustrating night for Kansas freshman Josh Jackson, a potential No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft. He got a technical for slamming the ball after getting called for a foul, a sequence that left him with four fouls early in the second half.
Self also got a technical during the delay after the call against Johnson, who had season lows with four points and 12 minutes, fouling out with 4:27 remaining. “I think frustrated not playing well, didn’t play very smart,” Self said.
MORE FRESHMAN STRUGGLES
TCU guard Jaylen Fisher had game highs with nine assists and five turnovers, including several of the walking calls against TCU that Dixon said were crucial. He scored four points, getting just five shots in 38 minutes. “Obviously I think he’s a better player than what he played tonight,” Dixon said. “The great thing about him is I think he’ll respond great in practice tomorrow.”
Kansas: Following their first two true road games of the season, the Jayhawks get two at home against Kansas State on Tuesday and Texas Tech on Jan. 7. Kansas has 46 consecutive wins at Allen Fieldhouse.
TCU: The Frogs haven’t had a .500 conference record in the Big 12. They might have their best shot yet at home against Oklahoma on Tuesday.
Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apschuyler