The Kansas Jayhawks (23-7, 14-3) didn’t need their big center Joel Embiid Wednesday night after all. The Jayhawks had no trouble whatsoever with the Texas Tech Red Raiders (13-17, 5-12) in a 82-67 victory on Senior Night. It was the 31st straight season the Jayhawks have been victorious in their final home game of the season.
First things first. I want to apologize for forgetting that Niko Roberts was a senior. All season long, in my head, Tarik Black and Justin Wesley were the only seniors on this year’s team. Yesterday, when I talked about the seniors, I failed to mention Roberts – I apologize.
Now for one of the other seniors – Tarik Black. What a night for this big man! This season probably hasn’t gone as expected for Black. Early in the season, he had trouble staying on the court because of quick foul trouble in nearly every game. Then Embiid emerged as a force, and Black took a backseat.
It seems as if Black has accepted his role like a man. He is always the first player to jump off the bench to cheer on his teammates, and he appears to have the respect of the guys around him. The other players seem to get excited about Black’s positive performances. That says a lot about the young man.
Last night, when called upon to replace the injured Embiid, Black responded with enthusiasm, and produced a night he will always remember. He scored a season high 19 points, knocked in all nine of his field goal attempts on the night. He also pulled down 6 rebounds, had 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks, no turnovers, and only 2 fouls in 27 minutes.
Black’s time at Kansas has been short, but this was a memorable night for a player who could have sulked his way through the season, but instead, was the ultimate teammate. I wish we could have had him for more than just this one season.
As for the rest of the Jayhawks, only Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis, both coming off the bench so Wesley and Roberts could start, were in double figures. We were treated to the very good Naadir Tharpe last night as he bucketed 16, recorded 5 assists, and had no turnovers. Ellis added 13 points and 5 rebounds to the cause.
What difference a home court makes. In Lubbock, Kansas allowed the Red Raiders dictate the pace, and won by one – 64-63. On Wednesday, the Jayhawks had their way with Texas Tech most of the game, and won by 25.
Kansas shot the ball extremely well from inside the arc, which always makes the game an easier one. The Jayhawks were 7 for 21 from 3-point range, but nailed 20 of their 31 attempts for 2 points, for a sparkling 64.5%. Black, Ellis, and Jamari Traylor combined to shoot 15 for 15 on the night. Wow!
Now Kansas must turn around and travel for an early 11 a.m. CST game at West Virginia. The Mountaineers have only lost to Oklahoma State and Baylor at home, so they will not be an easy victim. They will be playing for their NCAA Tournament lives, and a big win over Kansas may go along way toward getting them onto the proverbial bubble.
The Kansas Jayhawks finished their home schedule going 14-1, with the lone loss coming to San Diego State. There were times earlier in the season when it did not look possible this team could win the Big 12 Conference so easily. They came through though, and stood out among a number of very stalwart schools yet again. They cannot let down now as they head down the stretch.