Jayhawks Handle Horned Frogs in Agbaji’s Debut
“Faces Change, Expectations Don’t” is a slogan for the Kansas Jayhawks this season, one which was more applicable than ever on Wednesday night.
After sitting with a redshirt for the first 14 games of the season, freshman guard Ochai Agbaji made his debut against TCU at Allen Fieldhouse. He helped provide an energetic spark off the bench in the Jayhawks’ 77-68 win over the Horned Frogs.
Agbaji made his presence known instantly. It took all of nine seconds after he subbed in after the first media timeout of the first half to get in the box score. Fellow freshman guard Devon Dotson lobbed a pass toward the rim in transition, which Agbaji was able to flush.
He finished with four points in the first half, the other two also coming on the finishing end of an alley-oop.
While Kansas coach Bill Self implied Agbaji’s ability to play above the rim would be crucial for the Jayhawks earlier this week, the freshman’s shooting ability is also a necessary addition to Kansas’ offense going forward. He got a chance to show that skill off, too, burying a contested three pointer early in the second half. Agbaji finished with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting.
“”It was really my teammates and the coaches that put me in the right position,” Agbaji said, “they didn’t put any pressure on me, just believed in my athletic ability.”
After the game, he was asked how he thought he performed in his debut. While he started to say he thought he played well, junior forward interjected and proclaimed “You played great.”
During his “Hawk Talk” radio program earlier in the week, Self discussed all the expectations placed upon Agbaji heading into his first game, offensively and beyond. After the win over TCU, he said he was the next best player for KU after Lawson.
“I thought he was great,” Self said. “Other than Dedric, he was maybe the second best player in the game.”
While Agbaji was the catalyst off the bench for the Jayhawks, Lawson once again racked up the gaudiest box score numbers and played the best basketball down the stretch for Kansas.
Starting with just over 10 minutes to play in the game, Lawson went on a 6-0 by himself, extending a two-point Kansas lead into an eight-point game. He ended up with his 11th double-double of the year, netting game highs in points and rebounds with 31 and 14, respectively.
TCU coach Jamie Dixon said after the game that his team’s inability to stop Lawson’s offensive attack wasn’t for lack of preparation.
“We prepared for it, we double teamed and he still got 31, so that’s not a good sign,” Dixon said.
Lawson got to show off his shooting prowess as well, going 2-of-4 from long distance.
He was joined by Agbaji and Vick as the only Jayhawks to make a three in the game, though, as the team finished 5-of-21 overall from deep.
TCU played an efficient offensive game, which kept the score tight for most of the second half. The Horned Frogs shot better than 46 percent from the field and nearly 43 percent from three-point range. Turnovers were their bugaboo, however, giving the ball away 20 times.
“They were more physical than we were,” Dixon said. “I thought we would handle it better, the pressure and aggressiveness they brought us.”
Kansas, on the other hand, only committed 12 turnovers on Wednesday, a stark contrast from the 24 they gave up against Iowa State.
The Jayhawks will return to the road on Saturday when they head south for a meeting with the Baylor Bears. Self said that due to Baylor’s zone defense, the guard-heavy lineup featured on Wednesday may not be the go-to option this weekend.
“As much as we played four guards today, I don’t know if we’d bank on that going forward,” Self said.