Kansas seniors give fans plenty to cheer about in rout of Texas Tech

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- No time is ever good to try knocking off Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
Senior Night, however, is particularly difficult. The No. 4 Jayhawks ran their string of victories while celebrating that occasion to 29 on Monday by dismantling Texas Tech, 79-42. It was the 30th straight win in the season's final game at home for Kansas, which did not field any seniors in 2006-07.
In bidding their home farewells to the sellout crowd of 16,300, four Kansas seniors combined to score 56 points, snag 23 rebounds and distribute 15 assists.
"This now means it's time to rock out. It's time to get to business," senior point guard Elijah Johnson said, looking ahead to a game at Baylor on Saturday, when Kansas will bid for a ninth straight Big 12 title.
"When I mean rock out," Johnson said, "I mean let it loose and leave it all out there."
The Jayhawks' freshman star, Ben McLemore, added 13 points in what could have been his final home appearance before turning pro.
Center Jeff Withey led the Jayhawks (26-4) with 22 points and nine boards, while also making the first 3-point attempt of his career.
Kansas stayed atop the Big 12 at 14-3 after jumping to a 45-20 advantage by halftime, then scoring the first eight points of the second half.
Among the other seniors, Kevin Young added 14 points and Travis Releford 13. Also, Johnson distributed 12 assists, the most by a Jayhawk in a conference game since 2004 when Aaron Miles had 12 against Kansas State. Johnson dished 29 assists in the Jayhawks' last three games.
"With Elijah throwing lobs, it just brought energy to the fieldhouse," Releford said.
Kansas coach Bill Self took out his starters early in the second half, then brought them back for roughly four minutes before they left to standing ovations with 4:45 left.
"These (seniors), it was pretty emotional for them, but they kept it in check," Self said.
The win was the seventh straight for Kansas since a surprising three-game losing streak from Feb. 2-9 in which it lost to Oklahoma State, then at TCU and at Oklahoma. That skid has the Jayhawks with the same number of Big 12 defeats as No. 9 Kansas State, which plays at home Tuesday against TCU.
"We look more athletic the last two weeks and Elijah looks a lot more athletic," Self said. "Elijah's pumping energy into our team right now, and that helps so much."
Texas Tech (10-18, 3-14) was led by sophomore forward Jordan Tolbert with 16 points. The Red Raiders shot just 26.4 percent, going 14 of 53 from the floor. They fell to 0-15 against Kansas all-time in games played away from Lubbock.
Kansas went on streaks of 10 and 14 unanswered points during a 24-4 first-half spurt that stretched its early lead to 39-14. In addition, the Jayhawks scored the first seven points of the game.
"They are much more athletic than us," said Texas Tech coach Chris Walker, "and we simply lacked a little bit of toughness that could have negated some of those things. Once we spiraled downward, it was tough to come back from it."
Johnson was instrumental in that downward spiral, lobbing six passes for alley-oop dunks among his nine first-half assists. Withey and Young led the Jayhawks at the break with 12 and 10 points, respectively, while combining to go 8 of 9 from the field. As a team, the Jayhawks went 15 of 24.
Tolbert scored nine first-half points to pace Texas Tech, which finished with as many turnovers (14) as baskets. It managed to go just 5 of 28 in the second half and was 1 of 15 for the game from 3-point range.
"We pretty much did the same stuff we usually do," Tolbert said. "It was obviously a little more intense because it was a top-five team in the nation."
Notes: Kansas boosted its win streak in the series with Texas Tech to seven straight. ... This marks the seventh straight season the Jayhawks have managed 26 wins. ... Kansas will go into the 2013-14 season needing two wins to reach 700 all-time victories at Allen Fieldhouse, which opened in 1955. ... Of the last 15 opponents Texas Tech played, 12 were ranked in the top 50 of the RPI. ... With KU breaking away in the first half, students began yelling, "We want Wiggins." Andrew Wiggins, considered by some services to be the nation's top prospect, was at the game.

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