NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Kansas

Feb 20, 2021; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Bryce Thompson (24) reacts after scoring against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half at Allen Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas men’s basketball has a record of 4-6 this season when it receives less than nine minutes from one of its go-to bench players: freshman guard Bryce Thompson.

The Tulsa, Oklahoma, native came to Kansas as the No. 21 ranked recruit and played a big role off the bench early in the season. He impressed right off the bat with 12 points in 28 minutes against Gonzaga to open the season, which is still his career-high.

However, Thompson has been plagued by injuries during his freshman campaign and is just now starting to find his groove again.

A back injury sidelined the frosh for three games — and then in his return against Oklahoma State on Jan. 12 — Thompson broke his finger going after a loose ball. During the stretch of January with Thompson out, Kansas struggled.

“Now, I’m not going to say Bryce is the reason, but when we didn’t play well and needed a pick-me-up, we didn’t have our pick-me-up because Bryce was hurt,” coach Bill Self said in a media availability Monday. “I do think he’s very important to us and certainly I think he’s going to get more and more confident and better over the course of the season.”

Self also updated us on the status of Thompson’s finger.

“He’s getting better all the time. He practiced without his glove for the first time yesterday and says he feels good,” Self said. 

Lately, Thompson has taken back the critical bench ball-handling role for Kansas and has given senior guard Marcus Garrett some rest. Self said he wants to rest Marcus as long as the team continues to do well.

“I do think limiting Marcus’ minutes benefits Marcus, especially in the last five minutes of the game,” Self said. “There were a couple of games that we lost where Marcus made a couple plays down the stretch that weren’t Marcus-type plays, and it has to be because of fatigue. That’s why it’s very important our bench produce like they did the other day so they allow Marcus to be more rested when it counts the most.”

Thompson will be getting his first look at both Texas and Baylor this week, as he was injured during those contests earlier in the season.

Texas will host Kansas Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m..