LUBBOCK, Texas — Kansas basketball’s hopes of earning a national record-extending 15th straight Big 12 regular-season championship aren’t dead.
When it comes to that league race, though, the No. 12-ranked Jayhawks endured on Saturday night what may be best described as a near-death experience.
With four games left in the regular season, KU no longer controls its own destiny, the result of a 91-62 drubbing at the hands of No. 14 Texas Tech inside a rumbling United Supermarkets Arena. The Jayhawks (20-7, 9-5 Big 12) fell into a 25-point halftime hole, surrendering nine opening-period 3-pointers to six different Red Raider players while themselves scoring just one field goal in the final seven-plus minutes ahead of the intermission.
The 29-point margin represents the most lopsided Big 12 loss in coach Bill Self’s 16-year tenure.
“I just think we played bad, I mean, and I think they played great,” Self said. “They were terrific. They’d beat anybody in the country tonight. But certainly we contributed to them playing well, but it wasn’t because we didn’t show up.”
With the defeat, KU fell two full games behind first-place Kansas State, which drubbed Oklahoma State by 39 earlier in the day. The No. 23-ranked Wildcats travel to Allen Fieldhouse for an 8 p.m. Monday edition of the Sunflower Showdown, and even if the Jayhawks win that contest and run the table in their final three games, they need both K-State and Texas Tech (22-5, 10-4) to drop another one along the way to secure at least a share of the conference title.
KU’s seventh defeat this season in nine true road games was unquestionably the most unsightly.
Brandone Francis’ wide-open 3-pointer five minutes into the game represented the third in three straight possessions for the Red Raiders, creating a double-figure lead on the strength of a 3-for-4 team shooting start from beyond the arc and a 7-for-8 effort overall. Self, who saw the play unfold just feet in front of him, threw his fist forward and let out a rage-filled shout.
“You’ve just got to credit them. They made shots tonight,” said junior forward Dedric Lawson, whose 14 points made him the only KU player to reach double-figure scoring. “Some of the shots we was there; some we were not, I guess. They got confidence early, and then from there, they just took off with it.”
It only got worse for the Jayhawks.
Matt Mooney and Deshawn Corprew hit their own 3s to join the fun previously enjoyed by Francis, Jarrett Culver and Davide Moretti, with Corprew’s make extending the Texas Tech advantage to 24-10 at the 11:20 mark. The teams traded blows, with KU point guard Devon Dotson’s layup again making the deficit 14 with 7:34 left, but it proved a significant bucket — the Jayhawks made just one more, a Charlie Moore 3-pointer, before the intermission.
The Red Raiders, meanwhile, followed Dotson’s make with 3-pointers from Kyler Edwards and Moretti, a Tariq Owens dunk, a Norense Odiase free-throw make and a Culver layup — an 11-0 run that ballooned the home team’s advantage to 25. Moore hit his shot, but Edwards followed with a 3 — what else? — to make Texas Tech 9-for-15 from deep and give the group its 45-20 halftime lead.
Despite the demoralizing flow of the game, Self said he never sensed his team throw in the towel throughout the first 20 minutes.
“Did I sense frustration? Absolutely. But no, no (loss of resiliency). Not at all,” Self said. “We just weren’t very good. They were better. They were great; we were awful.”
KU’s final offensive possession of the first half was emblematic of the team’s struggles the entire evening. As the final seconds ticked off in the period, Self attempted to shout a play out from the sideline over the voices of the sellout crowd. It apparently wasn’t received by everyone — K.J. Lawson and Mitch Lightfoot got crossed up in the paint, and the ball ended up in the hands of Moore, who took an ill-advised NBA-distance 3 that missed badly.
Texas Tech didn’t let up after the break.
The Red Raiders, who entered averaging 68.3 points in Big 12 play with a 33.8-percent success rate from beyond the arc, hit 5 of 8 to start the second half, with Mooney’s banked-in 3 giving Chris Beard’s squad a 33-point advantage, 83-50, with 5:38 left. An “overrated” chant broke out soon thereafter, with at least one fan imploring Beard to “hang 100 on ’em.”
“Whenever you have three guys make three 3s and none of them take more than four,” Self said of Mooney, Moretti and Francis, who all finished 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, “that’s impressive.”
Culver’s trey with 3:10 left made it 86-55, with more sporadic “overrated” chants and the emptying of walk-ons onto the court the only remaining items of note.
KU sophomore guard Marcus Garrett, who played for the first time since sustaining a left ankle injury ahead of the Jayhawks’ 79-63 victory over Texas Tech on Feb. 2 in Lawrence, indicated the game simply snowballed after opening tip.
“They found something and they just stuck to it,” Garrett said, “and they was able to keep knocking down shots the whole game.”
Culver, the sophomore guard and Big 12 player of the year contender, finished with a game-high 26 points on 10-for-21 shooting for the Red Raiders, who have now won five straight by an average margin of 25 points. Mooney (13 points), Moretti (11) and Owens (10) rounded out the Red Raiders' double-figure scorers, while Odiase finished with a game-high 13 rebounds.
“I think you have to earn the right to play in big games like tonight. We’re doing our part of the fight," Beard said. "Somebody asked me this week if Texas Tech and Kansas is a rivalry. Uh, no. To have a rivalry you have to do your end of the bargain. You know we’ve beaten them two times in two decades it seams like. ...
"We gotta do this year after year and find some consistency and then maybe we can start talking about rivalries. But for now we are just pleased to be a part of the fight.”
All told, Texas Tech hit 16 of 26 attempts from 3.
“It’d be nice if you’re there close to them when they catch it,” Self said of defending the Red Raiders’ uncharacteristic proficiency from 3. “But the whole thing with that was, I’m not sure that we weren’t worth a crap, but when they go four guards, it changes what we do. We played the percentages in some ways and then they burned us, and after we got discombobulated, it didn’t make any difference what we did. We switched, we tried to hedge, but after we started changing what we were doing we were just very poor at everything we did.”
The Jayhawks departed Lubbock with an estimated 2 a.m. Sunday arrival home, exactly 42 hours to prepare for the relatively rested Wildcats. While Saturday’s outcome wasn’t a death sentence, a rare defeat to the in-state rival Monday would all but flatline KU’s league hopes.
Lawson, at least, believes this team thrives with its back against the wall.
“I think last time we played Tech we’d lost two in a row, and just the outcome and how we bounced back and the mentality that guys have of not wanting to lose two in a row and things like that (helped),” Lawson said. “Sometimes a loss can be a blessing in disguise, and hopefully this is one.”
No. 14 TEXAS TECH 91, No. 12 KANSAS 62
D.Lawson 3-8 7-8 14, McCormack 3-3 2-2 8, Agbaji 1-6 0-0 2, Dotson 3-7 0-0 7, Grimes 1-3 0-2 3, Lightfoot 1-1 0-0 2, C.Moore 3-8 0-0 9, Luinstra 0-0 0-0 0, Teahan 0-0 0-0 0, K.Lawson 3-6 0-0 8, Garrett 4-6 0-0 9. Totals 22-48 9-12 62.
TEXAS TECH (22-5)
Owens 5-6 0-0 10, Odiase 3-4 2-5 8, Moretti 3-5 2-2 11, Mooney 5-8 0-0 13, Culver 10-21 3-5 26, Ondigo 0-0 0-0 0, Corprew 2-2 0-0 6, Edwards 3-5 0-1 8, Sorrells 0-0 0-0 0, Benson 0-0 0-0 0, Francis 3-5 0-0 9. Totals 34-56 7-13 91.
Halftime — Texas Tech 45-20. 3-Point Goals — Kansas 9-21 (C.Moore 3-7, K.Lawson 2-5, Dotson 1-1, D.Lawson 1-1, Garrett 1-1, Grimes 1-3, Agbaji 0-3), Texas Tech 16-26 (Moretti 3-4, Mooney 3-4, Francis 3-4, Culver 3-8, Corprew 2-2, Edwards 2-3, Owens 0-1). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Kansas 23 (D.Lawson 5), Texas Tech 27 (Odiase 13). Assists — Kansas 8 (Grimes 3), Texas Tech 19 (Mooney 6). Total Fouls — Kansas 17, Texas Tech 11. A — 15,098 (15,098).