No. 23 Kansas looks to keep up momentum vs. No. 15 Texas Tech
If Kansas wins any uglier, someone may want to hide all the mirrors in its basketball facility.
The No. 23 Jayhawks (16-7, 10-5 Big 12) still struggle to execute offensively but have grown capable of locking down opponents defensively as they carry a four-game winning streak into a game Saturday against No. 15 Texas Tech (14-6, 6-5) at Lawrence, Kan.
"I'm in no way, shape or form going to diminish what we've done," said Kansas coach Bill Self, "because they're actually doing exactly what I want them to do, is learn how to win ugly. They're getting confidence playing that way."
The win streak's start coincided with the Jayhawks dropping from the polls, which halted their NCAA-record streak of 231 consecutive rankings.
Lackluster competition, however, has also contributed to the recent surge, which includes three wins against two teams possessing just one collective victory in Big 12 play, Iowa State and Kansas State.
Kansas scored 29 points off 18 turnovers and benefitted from Kansas State missing its first 15 attempts from 3-point range in a sloppy 59-41 win on Wednesday. The Jayhawks got away with 16 turnovers and just four 3-point makes.
"We know that if the score is in the 80s," Self said, "it probably doesn't benefit us when you're playing really good competition because it would be harder for us to get 80 against really good competition, especially teams that guard. So, I think our guys are bought into this."
Proof can be further established against Texas Tech, one of the first Big 12 rivals Kansas outlasted with salty defense in a 58-57 road win on Dec. 17. The Jayhawks allowed 32.3-percent shooting while riding a 23-point performance from Ochai Agbaji, who averages a team-high 13.7 points.
Jalen Wilson has averaged 15.2 points and 11.0 rebounds in the last five games, including four double-doubles.
The Red Raiders will be coming off an 11-day layoff because of postponements that have derailed their schedule, including a scheduled matchup Thursday at TCU that got called off because of inclement weather.
Projected as a No. 4 seed in last Saturday's NCAA Tournament bracket rehearsal, Texas Tech must still make up two games with TCU and games against Baylor and Iowa State. The Red Raiders' last game on Feb. 9 resulted in a homecourt loss to West Virginia, which snapped a three-game winning streak.
"It's a unique situation, no doubt," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "But COVID-19 and the 2021 season has been nothing ... normal. So, it'll be interesting to see how this deal goes down."
Beard drew a reprimand from the Big 12 office following a tirade late in the loss to West Virginia, which prompted his ejection. Afterward, Beard praised the officiating crew working the game but said "sometimes you just got to fight for the players."
Mac McClung ranks second among Big 12 scorers with a 17.2-point average, and Texas Tech ranks first in the Big 12 in points allowed (62.7).
--Field Level Media