After one half of play, it looked like the Kansas Jayhawks were in line for a letdown after their thrilling overtime victory in the conference opener.
Kansas came out of a sloppy first half that saw them go into the locker room up just two points at 27-25. Texas Tech got to within 29-28 after a Jamal Williams Jr. dunk at 18:43 in the second half. Then Kansas went on their run, outscoring the Red Raiders 12-0 over the next 6:20 and cruised from there to a 60-46 win.
The Jayhawks were able to get going after a much better rebounding effort in the second half. They snagged the first six rebounds after halftime and got aggressive, consistently taking the ball to the basket. Texas Tech couldn’t keep up on defense and Jeff Withey was disrupting shots when they had the ball. TTU was patient on offense, often running the shot clock down to single digits, but they couldn’t hit the shots after those long possessions.
After being outrebounded in the first half, Kansas got much more active in the paint, crashing the boards and taking it inside. Kevin Young stood out, scoring 12 points, including an impressive double pump reverse dunk on a breakaway, but also in getting offensive rebounds and scoring after. On one such opportunity, Young missed two free throws, but got his own rebound and the layup. He scored 12 of his team-leading 14 points in the second half.
Ben McLemore wasn’t as sharp as his game against Iowa State, hitting only 2 of 7 from the floor, but did damage from the free throw line, hitting 6 of 8. He finished with ten points while Withey and Travis Releford finished with 12 apiece. Kansas only hit three shots from beyond the arc, with two of those coming from Naadir Tharpe.
One of the keys to the win, though, was their defense, and the Jayhawks held Texas Tech’s team leader in scoring, Jaye Crockett, to just three points. And he didn’t score those until the final 1:23 in the game.
For their first road test of Big 12 play, KU came out a bit flat, but they showed why their the class of the conference. Bill Self is usually able to get a better effort from his teams in the second half after adjustments have been made, and today’s game was no exception. Going forward, he’ll need to figure out his bench options, as Jamari Traylor hasn’t looked sharp when he’s been in, and while he’s looking more comfortable on the offensive end, Perry Ellis lost his man a couple of times on defense and could play up to his size more. Right now, Tharpe is the only reliable bench option, and that’s not usually how Kansas operates.
They have a lot of talent, but it’s still got a lot of polish until it the team really gets in gear with all key players contributing every night.
Their next opportunity will come up pretty quickly, as the 14-1 Jayhawks will next take on Baylor on Monday night at 8:00 p.m. CST at Allen Fieldhouse. Baylor is 10-4 on the season and at time of this publication was leading TCU in the second half and on the way to their 11th win of the year.