The chances of Kansas claiming at least a share of a fourth straight Big 12 title dramatically increased thanks to Texas Tech. Now it’s the Red Raiders who are standing in the Jayhawks’ way.
The fifth-ranked Jayhawks look to move into sole possession of first place in the Big 12 on Monday when they host Texas Tech, which is looking for its fifth win over a Top 25 team this season.
Kansas (26-3, 11-3) was a game behind first-place Texas heading into Saturday, but beat Kansas State 88-74 at home and got a big assist from the Red Raiders, who stunned the then-No. 5 Longhorns 83-80.
“Everything was good today,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Texas getting beat didn’t hurt our feelings much. Of course it tells us we need to be ready for Texas Tech.”
The Jayhawks’ 14-point win over the rival Wildcats avenged their first loss of the year, an 84-75 upset in Manhattan that ended Kansas’ 24-year winning streak on Kansas State’s home court.
“We came out and executed our offense and got the crowd behind us,” said Kansas guard Russell Robinson, who had 14 points and five assists Saturday. “This was the best the crowd has been, and the best that we have been.”
Brandon Rush led the Jayhawks on Saturday with a season-high 21 points and hit five 3-pointers. He hasn’t been as good as he was a season ago from beyond the arc, when he shot 43.1 percent, but the junior guard is still one of the Big 12’s biggest 3-point threats at 42.0 percent.
Rush is 8-for-13 on 3s in his last two games.
Kansas should have a major edge inside Monday. The Jayhawks outrebounded Kansas State, the nation’s fifth-best rebounding team, 41-34 on Saturday. Kansas averages 38.9 boards per game, third in the Big 12, while Texas Tech is 11th in the conference at 31.0 per game.
Texas Tech (16-12, 7-7) had 11 fewer rebounds than Texas on Saturday, but was still able to get past the Longhorns, which won the first meeting in Austin 73-47 on Jan. 26.
“We wanted to push it on them, we weren’t going to back down or try to slow it up,” coach Pat Knight said after his team scored 83 points against a Texas squad that’s allowing 64.8 per game. “I wasn’t worried about making one, two, three passes; if you’re open just shoot.”
The win came on the heels of an embarrassing 98-54 defeat at Texas A&M on Wednesday, the worst in school history. Knight, who took over for his father Bob Knight when the legendary coach abruptly retired last month, drew some inspiration from his dad’s hard-driving ways between the loss to the Aggies and Saturday’s game.
“He put us through, basically, hell,” said guard Charlie Burgess, who had 14 points and seven assists. “We survived it as a team.”
Texas Tech junior guard Alan Voskuil continued his outstanding play, scoring 18 points and hitting six straight free throws late in the game. Voskuil is averaging 18.5 points in his last six games.
The Red Raiders are looking to knock off a fifth ranked opponent this season, which would tie Texas for most in the country. However, bad non-conference losses to Sam Houston State and Centenary, combined with a 2-9 road record, could endanger Texas Tech’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Texas Tech has never won in nine trips to Lawrence, losing its last five visits by an average of 28.8 points.