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Thursday, February 22, 2018

All eyes on Keenan Evans’ toe heading into Big 12 Game of the Year between Kansas, Texas Tech

Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (12) handles the ball during an NCAA basketball game against Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (12) handles the ball during an NCAA basketball game against Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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Texas Tech point guard Keenan Evans is not Superman. But there does appear to be a direct link between him and saving the day for the sixth-ranked Red Raiders.

After losing Evans for the second half of last Saturday’s loss at Baylor because of a toe injury, Texas Tech dropped its first Big 12 game in nearly a month.

Then, with Evans playing at less than 100 percent during Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma State, Tech dropped another one and fell to second place in the conference race with the Big 12’s game of the year coming to town this weekend.

His status might be the most talked about storyline leading up to tipoff, and KU coach Bill Self on Thursday acknowledged that it was a huge deal.

“You take Devonte’ (Graham) off our team, we wouldn’t be the same team,” Self said. “You take Keenan off their team, they wouldn’t be the same team. I mean, he has a chance to be the Big 12 Player of the Year. That would certainly be the case with anybody losing a player of that ability.”

There’s no disputing that the Red Raiders (22-6 overall, 10-5 Big 12) are still a good team even without Evans at full strength. But there’s also no denying that they take on a different look with him hobbled or on the bench.

On multiple occasions, Self has called Texas Tech “the most sound team in our league,” and he clearly has a great deal of respect and admiration for the Red Raiders’ roster, head coach Chris Beard and Evans.

“They’re the hardest to get easy baskets on and they’re probably the most difficult to finish defensive possessions on because of their patience and also the way they go to the offensive glass,” Self said, listing just a couple of strengths that have made Texas Tech a Top 10 team and kept them in the Big 12 title race.

But let’s take a look at what having Evans in limited capacity has meant for the Red Raiders. It goes far beyond the 18 points, three rebounds and three assists that the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior from Richardson, Texas, has posted as season averages.

In the two recent losses in which Texas Tech played either without Evans or with him at less than 100 percent, the Red Raiders’ offensive numbers were down across the board.

After shooting 46 percent from the floor, 41 percent from 3-point range and scoring an average of 76 points a game during the seven-game winning streak with Evans at full strength that preceded this week’s losses, those numbers dropped to 40 percent from the floor, 30 percent from 3-point range and 64 points per game during their current two-game losing streak.

Texas Tech’s overall assists per game dropped by just a half of an assist — from 14 with Evans at 100 percent to 13.5 with him hobbled — but their free-throw makes (18 to 13) and attempts (24 to 17) dropped substantially.

That makes sense given the fact that Evans ranks second in the Big 12 in both free throws and attempts and often impacts games most by getting to the free-throw line for easy points while putting the opponent in foul trouble.

Although Beard acknowledged the struggle of trying to play without their leader at full speed, he also praised Evans for even being on the floor on Wednesday night.

“Anybody who knows anything about basketball understands that he’s not 100 percent,” Beard said. “We’re just going to have to continue to work it with him. I know he’ll do everything he possibly can to put himself in position to help the team. I thought Keenan showed a lot of courage and heart and fight and toughness, not only in trying to play in the game (Wednesday) night, but also the preparation from when we got back from Waco late Saturday to tipoff — about as dedicated as he possibly could’ve been to try and put himself in position to play.”

As for Evans’ status for Saturday’s showdown with Kansas (22-6, 11-4) — a Texas Tech win ties things at the top, and a KU win clinches at least a share of Big 12 title No. 14 in a row for the Jayhawks — Beard said that ultimately came down to how Evans feels on game day.

“The bottom line with Keenan … The guy is not at 100 percent. He has a real issue, but it’s something he’s just going to have to fight through,” Beard said. “It’s a situation where it’s not making him any worse, so that allows him to play on it. We just hope and pray he can get to the point where he’s a little bit more comfortable than he was (Wednesday night).”

Comments

Len Shaffer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

It's a shame that Evans got hurt. With the way that KU has finally started playing, I think we would have had a good shot at winning the conference anyway, and now people will say that it was tainted because TT wasn't at full strength.

RJ King 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I hear what you're saying, but I don't think any of our victorious opponents, their fans, or sports pundits considered those wins tainted because we didn't have Billy Preston.

Doug Stahler 8 months, 3 weeks ago

They will say it's tainted no matter what. They can't fathom that our cult is WAY better than their cult.

Jeff Foster 8 months, 3 weeks ago

And don't put the cart before the horse yet, Tech is still pretty good. KU has to be the KU of the last few games to win there and lock it up. I could see a possible "L" there, then us winning Mon vs TX and them losing at WV, then again it comes down to us having to win at OSU, which will be a coin toss given the way they have been up and down. Hopefully we TCB Sat and none of it matters and we can play with a free mind knowing 14 is in the bag.

Len Shaffer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

"After losing Evans for the second half of last Saturday’s loss at Baylor because of a toe injury, Texas Tech dropped its first Big 12 game in nearly a month."

I assume you mean "the second half of last Saturday's GAME at Baylor ...?" Otherwise, you're basically saying, "After losing Evans for the second half of their loss, they lost."

Ben Kane 8 months, 3 weeks ago

nope. the sentence is fine. the game was in the past and it was a loss so it works just fine. granted, using the word 'lose' as a verb and a noun in the same sentence is odd.

Sam Allen 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Who really wants to unlock the KU signee to Kansas-Romeo Langford? Then we need to win Big 12 Title!

Tony Bandle 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Sam, please feel free to call me an idiot but I don't have a clue as to what your post is actually saying.

Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

For want of a nail, a horseshoe was lost. For want of a horseshoe, a horse was lost. For want of a horse, a rider was lost. For want of a rider, a message was lost. For want of a message, a battle was lost. For want of a battle, a war was lost. For want of a war, a kingdom was lost.

For want of a nail, a kingdom was lost.

=======================

For want of a toe, a point guard was lost. For want of a point guard, a game was lost. For want of a game, a conference was lost.

For want of a toe, a conference was lost.

Tony Bandle 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I knew it!!

You were an English major, weren't you!!!

RJ King 8 months, 3 weeks ago

For want of a rebound ...

For want of a loose ball ...

For want of a great attitude ...

For want of a little extra energy ...

The team that wants it most will satisfy their want of a conference championship.

Rob Byrd 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Even though the loss was noted twice, his point was that it was their FIRST Big 12 loss in nearly a month.

Barry Weiss 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I'd throw him in jail for about 30 days.

Kent Richardson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The FBI NCAA probe has named Duke, Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina as some of 20 teams that had alleged tainted benefits paid to either former or current players by a disgraced agent and his associate. Bam Adebayo, Wendell Carter and Miles Bridges are some of the players. The article did not mention KU but it did not list all the teams. I am hoping and would guess they would have been named because of being a prominent program but don't know yet.

Tim Orel 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Please be accurate - Miles Bridges plays at Michigan STATE, not Michigan. I haven't seen the list of schools, but I don't know that Michigan has any players with issues.

Harlan Hobbs 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Josh Jackson's mother and Elijah Johnson were mentioned in the report. There is now an article about it on the LJW website. The Yahoo site has considerably more details.

Richard Holmes 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Enough already, get this article off of here. I'm tired of hearing about his toe. Let's have an article about a Jayhawk so that we will have something interesting and worthwhile reading.

Edward Daub 8 months, 3 weeks ago

A "Keen" Individual would ask whether we are discussing Left Toe or Right Toe!

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