Tuesday, January 2, 2018
It was one of those signature Kansas blitzes in Allen Fieldhouse. The visiting team starts to melt under the pressure of the noise, the sheer talent of the opposition, the name on the home jerseys, and the game flips.
In 43 seconds midway through the second half Tuesday night, a 13-point Kansas deficit withered to six points. Pandemonium in the stands. Panic for the visitors was certain to follow. Surely, Kansas was in the midst of one of its wild second-half comebacks.
A Texas Tech squad that looked more aggressive and confident than the home team more than held on. The Red Raiders controlled the game from start to finish, but for those 43 seconds. Texas Tech never trailed and looked like the better team, winning 85-73.
View a gallery of images from Tuesday's game between the Jayhawks and Red Raiders at Allen Fieldhouse.
That Tech six-point lead became nine when freshman Davide Moretti of Italy hit a 3-pointer to silence the crowd, as big a bucket as anyone made all night.
Nothing about either the atmosphere or KU’s talent intimidated the Red Raiders, who looked as if they couldn’t wait for the ref to toss the ball in the air for the center jump. They trashed Baylor, 77-53, in Lubbock, Texas, and took their show on the road without missing a beat.
“I was proud of our poise,” second-year Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “I was proud of our demeanor.”
Red Raiders senior guard Keenan Evans spoke to how the Red Raiders stopped the bleeding when Kansas cut into the deficit.
“It’s something we preach every day: keep our composure, no matter what,” Evans said. “Once the crowd got going we knew they were going to make big shots and dunks. We just had to stay stone-faced and keep playing.”
Evans took the upset victory in stone-faced stride.
“We work too hard not to walk in here and expect that,” Evans said.
Beard used the “stone-faced” term, as well. It’s obviously something Beard preaches and his players did a terrific job of practicing it, a trio of freshmen included.
Jarrett Culver, Moretti and Zhaire Smith combined for 28 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals in 66 stone-faced minutes.
A half a week into Big 12 play, Texas Tech (2-0), West Virginia (2-0) and Oklahoma (1-0) are the lone teams not to lose a game. Flexing its home-court muscles will be tougher for Kansas than in most seasons. Home teams are 1-8 in Big 12 games, with the lone victory belonging to Texas Tech. That won’t last, obviously, but it does speak to how Big 12 players don’t sweat easily on the road this season.
Kansas coach Bill Self, who has won at least a share of 13 consecutive Big 12 titles, will have as tough a road to another as he’s ever had.
Oklahoma and West Virginia represent the biggest challenges, but after watching Texas Tech use its 10-man rotation so effectively, it’s not premature to mention the Red Raiders as title contenders, as well.
Self called them “10 guys who are tough, interchangeable. They like each other and they play for each other.”
Kansas had the best player on the floor in senior Devonte’ Graham (27 points), but depth prevailed from start to finish.