Despite losing its last game, Kansas clinched at least a share of its fifth straight Big 12 regular-season title that night. It’ll likely need a stronger performance to claim sole possession of the conference crown.
The ninth-ranked Jayhawks look to rebound from their second conference defeat and secure the Big 12 regular-season championship outright Saturday when they host Texas in both teams’ final game before postseason play.
Kansas (24-6, 13-2) shot a season-low 33.3 percent and gave up its highest point total in conference play in an 84-65 loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday night. The Jayhawks didn’t have a player with more than 11 points, and they let three Red Raiders players score at least 17, including Alan Voskuil’s career-high 35.
Though they struggled in nearly every aspect of their biggest loss of the season, the Jayhawks secured at least a share of the regular-season conference title by virtue of Missouri’s win over Oklahoma that night. Those two teams are tied for second in the Big 12 at 12-3, keeping the pressure on Kansas heading into the regular season’s final weekend.
“I said, ‘Hey congratulations, we won the league and got beat by 19 or whatever we got beat tonight,’” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It’s pretty remarkable that a team that could perform as poorly as we did tonight was able to be 13-2, I guess, and clinch a tie with a chance to win it outright on Saturday.”
Self said one of Kansas’ problems Wednesday was a lack of maturity, perhaps a result of its climb from being unranked for most of December and all of January to one of the nation’s top teams.
“I don’t mean that in any negative way at all,” Self said. “We’ve gone from being under the radar and then all of a sudden people are saying good things about us. Guys were hearing what they’re saying.”
The Jayhawks shared last year’s Big 12 regular-season title with the Longhorns, but Texas (20-9, 9-6) has been inconsistent through its 2008-09 conference schedule. Getting their first win in Lawrence, though, would be a good way to cap it.
The Longhorns are 0-8 all-time when visiting the Jayhawks. They could have a hard time ending that drought against a Kansas team that’s 17-1 at Allen Fieldhouse this season and 19-0 in conference games there since a loss to then-No. 10 Texas A&M on Feb. 3, 2007.
Texas coach Rick Barnes, though, expects his team to finish strong as the Longhorns try to pad their postseason resume.
“This is the time of the season when you want to play your best basketball,” Barnes said.
In its last game Monday night, Texas cruised to a 73-57 win over Baylor. Junior guard Justin Mason had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists without committing a turnover. He made five of his 10 field-goal attempts, the most he’s taken since a Jan. 6 loss at Arkansas.
“Coach talked to me a bit about being more aggressive,” Mason said. “I think the team operates a little better when I’m on the floor attacking.”
Barnes would no doubt like to see more of that kind of play from Mason when he’s matched up with Kansas guard Sherron Collins, who’s fourth in the conference with 18.2 points per game.
Collins, a reserve for most of last season, totaled 11 points on 3-for-14 shooting as Kansas split two games with Texas in 2007-08.