The Kansas Jayhawks took the first step towards the Big 12 Tournament Championship today, cruising past Texas Tech 91-63 in Kansas City on Thursday.
Baskets came frequently early on, as Ben McLemore poured in 12 points in the first six minutes of the game as KU ran out to a 15-2 lead. Kevin Young had the other three, all on free throws. Kansas cooled off, scoring just four points over the next six minute stretch and Texas Tech chipped away at the lead, and with three minutes left in the first half were only down two points. Kansas finished off the half with a 7-0 run and led 34-25.
Jordan Tolbert scored the first two points of the second half on two free throws to bring the lead back down to seven. Kansas answered with ten points in the next 2:30, including two three-pointers from McLemore.
After that point, Kansas was able to cruise. McLemore scored 24 points, but he didn’t really need to. Kansas had everything working, holding Texas Tech to 39.6% shooting and forcing 17 turnovers while shooting 66% themselves. McLemore was 8-for-12, missing just four three pointers (but made four others), while Jeff Withey and Travis Releford led the starters with nine points each. It was a balanced scoring effort other than McLemore’s standout day – Perry Ellis had another good day with eight points and Rio Adams scored 11 in the late minutes of the game. Kansas scored 31 field goals on 22 assists.
What lies ahead for Kansas is a third matchup with the Iowa State Cyclones. After the first two games, this could be the matchup of the tournament. You’ll remember McLemore’s late bankshot three to send the game to overtime in Lawrence and Elijah Johnson‘s torrid late-game and overtime heroics in Ames. The last matchup led to controversy regarding officiating and there was also a report of a fan’s attempted confrontation with Bill Self.
After two intense battles, the third is anticipated to be another wild game. Iowa State had to put together a furious comeback to beat Oklahoma and may carry some momentum into the matchup.