After surviving a scare against Oklahoma State, the No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks travel to Lubbock, Texas, on Tuesday to face Texas Tech in an early-season tussle that could have Big 12 tournament seeding implications in March.
KJ Adams Jr. hit a driving layup in the final seconds to provide Kansas (12-1, 1-0 Big 12) with the winning points in a 69-67 victory against the Cowboys. The Jayhawks had fallen behind by 15 at halftime.
Instead of screaming at his players at the break, head coach Bill Self tried some logic.
“I didn’t get onto them,” Self said after the game. “I said, ‘Well we screwed that up, what (are) we going to do now?'”
What the Jayhawks did was use a 22-5 run to start the second half to take the lead.
Self said coming into the game that there are no “bottom-tier teams” in the Big 12, and Saturday proved that. Now the Jayhawks will face a team that was predicted to finish in the top half of arguably the best conference in the country on their home court.
If Kansas gets the type of effort it showed in the second half, Texas Tech will have trouble.
“The second half … that’s about as turned up, good, solid man-to-man defense as we’ve played in a long time,” Self said. “They got five points the first 12 minutes, both (on) offensive rebounds. It was the exact same as the national championship game.”
Self was referring to last spring, when Kansas trailed North Carolina by 15 at the half but came back for a 72-69 win.
“You turn it up to tie it earlier than anticipated, then after it’s a basketball game, it’s like a heavyweight fight. Fortunately we got the last blow.”
The Jayhawks have the conference’s leading scorer in Jalen Wilson at 21 points per game. Gradey Dick (14.8 ppg, good for 10th in the league) and Kevin McCullar Jr. (11.5, 20th) also score in double figures.
Texas Tech (10-3, 0-1) experienced the opposite result in a 67-61 loss at TCU on Saturday. The Red Raiders led by 11 points at halftime but suffered 23 turnovers in the loss.
“We had success in the first half pushing the ball and attacking,” Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams said. “TCU is a very good team with a lot of veterans who made some adjustments in the second half.
“Their defense was the biggest difference in the second half in how they got back and forced turnovers. The first four minutes of the second half is always important and sets the tone. They responded better than we did.”
Pop Isaacs led Texas Tech with 17 points after hitting five 3-pointers. De’Vion Harmon added 13 points and five steals while matching a career high with seven rebounds.
“This is a learning experience for us coming out of our first Big 12 game,” Adams said. “We did some really good things and competed really hard in the first half. I’m proud of them for that. But we have to play with more consistency in the second half.”
Texas Tech is currently on a 29-game home winning streak.
–Field Level Media