In a blink of an eye, No. 3 Kansas shut the door on any potential upset bid by Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders, who ended KU’s streak of regular-season conference titles last year, were threatening late in the second half. And then, in a matter of just three possessions, the Jayhawks proved why they are among the two real contenders for the conference crown this year.
A sequence in the second half helped KU hold off Texas Tech for a 78-75 win on Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. With the win, the Jayhawks (18-3, 7-1 Big 12) remain alone in second place in the Big 12 standings while waiting for Baylor to have misstep from the No. 1 spot.
Texas Tech (13-8, 4-4 Big 12), which entered Saturday in a three-way tie for third place in the league, trailed all day before trimming the deficit to just two points with 8:46 left to play. Kansas had led by as many as 15, but appeared to be on the verge of a collapse at home.
View a gallery of images from Saturday's game between the Jayhawks and Red Raiders at Allen Fieldhouse.
With KU’s lead down to 57-55, sophomore point guard Devon Dotson took matters into his own hands. He drove hard with his right hand through the Texas Tech defense before netting a much-needed layup. One possession later, sophomore Ochai Agbaji drilled a jumper on a cross-court pass by sophomore center David McCormack.
The decisive blow came on the third possession, however. Agbaji gifted KU the ball with an emphatic block. On the other end, Dotson threw a perfect lob to McCormack for an alley-oop that brought the KU faithful to their feet in Allen Fieldhouse.
Texas Tech ultimately cut it to a one-possession game in the final minute, but KU made enough plays down the stretch to pull out the win. Dotson led the team with 21 points in the win on 9-of-16 shooting.
Marcus Garrett (15 points), Isaiah Moss (12) and Agbaji all joined Dotson in double figures for Kansas.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the action:
• The game turned when: Texas Tech didn’t go away quietly, of course, but KU’s dominant start proved to be pivotal in the latest clash between conference foes.
The Jayhawks jumped out to a 17-2 advantage within the first six minutes of the contest. Agbaji drilled a 3-pointer to notch KU’s first basket of the night, but the entire starting rotation contributed to the early 15-point cushion.
And it was especially important in this game to jump out to an early lead, considering the recent history between these two teams. Entering Saturday, the team that scored first in the previous four meetings between these two teams ended up winning with no lead changes.
In fact, the last time there was a lead change between TTU and KU was on Feb. 11, 2017.
• Offensive highlight: It might not have been the best offensive play of the day, but let’s recognize a nice pass by a post when possible.
In the second half, McCormack set a screen and then got the ball near the top of the key. Moss cut through the lane, and McCormack threaded a pass to him in stride. Moss finished things off with an easy layup en route to his seventh double-digit scoring effort of the season.
• Defensive highlight: A pair of defensive plays stood out in the first half.
The first of which came on a filthy steal by Garrett. The junior guard immediately pushed the ball in transition and got a layup on the other end to complete the sequence. Garrett had multiple strong drives in the first half, though he ended up taking a hard fall on one such play.
Garrett would return with over a minute left in the first half, which has almost become the expectation with how tough he has been this season.
With Udoka Azubuike dealing with foul trouble once again, McCormack got some extended run in the first half against the Red Raiders.
In his first game back from suspension, McCormack embraced the backup center role. With four guards around him, McCormack got a couple early buckets against TTU. But his play on the defensive end was arguably McCormack’s best highlight on the day.
McCormack swatted a layup attempt in transition, which was his lone block in the first half.
• Up next: Kansas will play host to Texas at 8 p.m. Monday.