Jayhawks squeak out win at Texas Tech
LUBBOCK, Texas — There is a reason the eighth ranked Kansas Jayhawks own nine consecutive Big 12 championships.
The Jayhawks survive where other conference teams fall.
Kansas escaped the Texas Tech trap, pulling out a 64-63 victory over the Red Raiders on Tuesday night at the United Spirit Arena.
Texas Tech notched wins earlier in Big 12 play against then-12th-ranked Baylor and then-19th-ranked Oklahoma State. But Kansas came up with the plays they needed in the final minutes to grasp a one-point victory.
Jayhawks center Joel Embiid, apparently trapped at the baseline with time running out, found guard Andrew Wiggins wide open for a layup with three seconds left. Texas Tech’s last-second prayer went unanswered.
Embiid said he went to the baseline intending to spin and shoot, but admitted he lost the ball.
“I lost the ball and I think it was a pass,” Embiid said.
That’s how Wiggins saw it, though Embiid was not officially credited with an assist.
“My heart was racing,” Wiggins said. “It was a great pass and I took a good shot.”
However, Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett blamed himself for not pouncing on the loose ball after Embiid lost it.
“This is tough,” Crockett said. “I’m a fifth-year senior and it came down to one play and all I had to do was dive on the ball and we win the game.”
With 31 seconds left, Embiid put back a dunk after Wiggins missed a dunk, giving Kansas the lead. Texas Tech guard Robert Turner answered by making two free throws to put the Red Raiders back in front with 12.8 seconds left.
Wiggins finished with a game-high 19 points, while Embiid had 18 points and eight rebounds.
Forward Jordan Tolbert scored 16 to lead five Red Raiders in double figures.
“They’ve got some really talented players but we have to do it as a team,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight.”
Kansas coach Bill Self said he was impressed not only by Texas Tech’s wins over ranked opponents at home, but also with their work in the last week when the Red Raiders won at Oklahoma and lost a close one at Iowa State.
Self said the Jayhawks (20-6, 11-2 Big 12) were a little lucky to go home with a win.
“I thought we deserved to win as much as they did,” Self said. “We were a little lucky that the ball happened to bounce to Wigs. We’ve been unlucky before.”
Kansas leads the Big 12 by two games after second-place Texas lost at Iowa State earlier Tuesday night. The Jayhawks and Longhorns meet in Lawrence, Kan., on Saturday.
“That’s the game that will give us some serious breathing room,” Self said. “I wasn’t banking on them losing. All I wanted to do was win two games this week.”
Texas Tech (13-13, 5-8) opened the second half on a 8-2 run, taking a five-point lead when Tolbert went down the lane for a basket at the 16:55 mark.
Kansas tied it in less than a minute on a three-point play by Embiid and two free throws by Wiggins. However, the Jayhawks didn’t take the lead again until Embiid hit two foul shots to make it 46-45 with 10:45 left.
Kansas went 22-for-30 from the free-throw line, while Texas Tech was 9-for-14.
Texas Tech led by four points in the closing minutes before guard Wayne Selden hit a 3-pointer at the 2:35 mark.
“It was the biggest shot of the game other than Wigs’ two,” Self said. “We screwed around and allowed them to go up four. The game wasn’t over, but it would be close to it if Wayne doesn’t step up and make that shot.”
Kansas guards Naadir Tharpe, Selden and Wiggins each hit 3-pointers during a 13-2 run that gave the Jayhawks a 10-point lead with 13:50 left in the first half.
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But Texas Tech refused to let Kansas take control so easily.
Crockett hit a 3-pointer to stop the Jayhawks’ surge and Tolbert threw in an alley-oop on an assist from forward Kader Tapsoba to cut Kansas lead to five points.
Late in the half,
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