The Kansas Jayhawks (20-6, 11-2) won 64-63 on an offensive rebound and put back by Andrew Wiggins with 1.7 seconds on the clock Tuesday night against the Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-13, 5-8). The Jayhawks played poorly most of the evening, and should feel fortuitous to escape Lubbock with a victory.
The Red Raiders had a very distinct game plan, and they executed to near perfection. They slowed the game down to a snail’s pace, patiently running the shot clock to under ten seconds nearly every possession. They limited Kansas’ possessions as much as they possible could. There is a reason Tech Head Coach Tubby Smith has a National Championship on his resume. The man knows what he is doing.
On defense, Texas Tech swapped out defenses on a regular basis, making the young Jayhawks uncomfortable when they had the ball. There was almost no natural ebb and flow to the game, which took the Kansas offense out of their rhythm. A whistle happy officiating crew further slowed the game, especially in the second half.
The Jayhawks received almost no help from the two players with the most experience in Bill Self’s system. Junior point guard Naadir Tharpe and sophomore Perry Ellis gave as empty of a combined 64 minutes of playing time as you will ever see out of a pair of Jayhawks. These two supposed team leaders were awful! They combined to go 1-10 from the field, scored 10 points together, recorded 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 turnovers.
Throw in Wayne Seldon Jr., who tallied just 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist, in 33 minutes and you have three starters who were not effective at all. All played way too many minutes.
This game was a perfect example of Self trusting his starters too much. Neither Tharpe nor Ellis are very good defensively, so it is hard to imagine some of the reserves not producing more off the bench than Tharpe and Ellis on a night when they obviously weren’t on their games.
Joel Embiid bounced back to have a nice night after missing a game due to some nagging injuries. At times his back still looked to bother him but he didn’t allow it to affect his play. He scored 18 points with 8 rebounds. Wiggins actually led the team in scoring, thanks to his late game heroics. He scored 19 points and corralled 6 rebounds.
For the Red Raiders, four players made to double digits, including Jordan Tolbert with 16, Dejan Kravic with 13, Robert Turner with 11, and Jaye Crockett with 10. It seemed as if every time Texas Tech needed a basket, Turner knocked one down. He came into the game shooting 39.8% from the field, and 29.2% from three. On Tuesday, he connected on 57.1% (4-7), and he was 1 for 2 from behind the arc.
This game was so unJayhawk-like. They only recorded 6 assists, and they only made 19 shots (45.2%). They only turned the ball over 11 times, 2.5 below their season average, but there were many fewer possessions.
By all rights, Kansas should have lost this game based on how they played. They allowed themselves to be taken out of the comfort zone on offense, and they did not pressure the ball on defense, which actually looked to be the game plan, especially after the intermission.
That led to a very ho-hum game that lacked much intensity on the Jayhawks’ part. After taking a big step forward defensively against TCU on Saturday, they took two steps back against Texas Tech.
The players on the bench this season tend to be higher energy players than some of the starters. Self should have used his reserves much more, especially with several of his starters playing poorly. If Kansas would have lost this game as they should have, we would be looking even more at the minutes Self played his ineffective starters.
Kansas’ luck ran high on Tuesday as the Texas Longhorns lost at Iowa State, giving the Jayhawks a 2-game cushion entering their match up in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.