University of Kansas

KU’s defense shuts down Texas Tech in first half of 85-68 victory

Kansas’ basketball team claimed all-time victory No. 2,200 on Saturday night thanks in part to the return of Bill Self-style defense.

It was improved defense — that is, at least for one half.

The Jayhawks, who allowed a whopping 88 points in a two-point victory over Kansas State on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse — and were challenged by their coach to step up the intensity on “D” — held Texas Tech to 27 points on 37.5 percent shooting in the first half of a somewhat workmanlike 85-68 Jayhawks win.

“There is no earth-shattering deal why we actually guarded a little bit better tonight,” KU coach Self said after a game in which Tech (12-3, 1-2 Big 12) went 3 of 13 on three-pointers in the first half in trailing by 10 points at the break, but rallied to hit eight threes in the final half and finished 11 of 28 to KU’s 9 of 18 mark from beyond the arc.

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“Guys were more into it. They played harder and played with more energy. It’s not that complicated,” Self added after the Jayhawks improved to 2,200-837 in program history, and more importantly 3-0 in Big 12 play this season and 14-1 overall.

“I do think our activity level was much better. I thought it was much better the first half than second half.”

KU players did credit their coach’s game preparation for the Jayhawks holding Tech to 40.7 percent shooting overall. The Jayhawks hit 51.8 percent of their attempts. Self fumed publicly about the defense after the K-State game and also was quick to point out all the mistakes in film sessions.

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“He was showing us on film just how bad we were,” said KU junior Devonté Graham, who scored a season-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting (4 of 8 from three). “Once we get called out like that, you have to respond (or) it’s a sign of weakness. Nobody likes to be called out like that. We’ve just got to get better.”

Self had reason to seek improvement after the K-State game, in which KU had just two steals. KU had nine steals Saturday — six in the first half.

“K-State made 20 layups. That’s a remarkably high number,” Self said. “Tonight that number had to be seven or eight (actually seven). You can talk about what your philosophy is, you can’t give up easy baskets. We can’t give up layups like we did against K-State.”

As far as whether complaining about the Jayhawks’ defense publicly may have helped, Self said: “Maybe.

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“Or it could be a situation you can’t play any worse,” he added, smiling. “I thought the guys played with more competitive spirit on that end.”

Senior guard Frank Mason, who scored 26 points (11 of 12 from the line), said the defense definitely made strides against a Tech team led by Zach Smith and Aaron Ross, who had 17 points apiece, and Keenan Evans, who hit for 16.

“We took pride in that ourselves because we knew how bad we were on the defensive end and how bad we played (against K-State),” Mason said. “Just to hear that from our coach, too. It just makes us want to go out there and prove we can do it. I think that’s what we did tonight.”

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Mason, who hit 6 of 11 shots (3 of 4 threes), scored seven points in a 12-0 run that extended a 60-55 lead to 72-55 with 6 minutes left and pretty much halted Tech’s hopes for an upset win.

Josh Jackson had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Landen Lucas six boards and eight points on a night KU outrebounded Tech, 38-29. KU hit 18 of 22 free throws to Tech’s 9 of 13.

“The second half,” Self said of a half in which KU outscored the Raiders 48-41, “we weren’t as good because they shot the ball so well from three and it’s hard to pressure teams that run motion. But certainly we did enough good things to put ourselves in a pretty good position. We played really well to close the game out.”

It all added up to program victory No. 2,200. Kentucky is the only program in the country with more wins — 2,218.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Self said. “To me those are nice (accomplishments) and we’ll have a nice autographed ball that goes in the office. I’m not sure that means a ton except the fact we are the second school to get there. We are 15, 18 behind Kentucky. It’ll take a few years to catch those cats. If we could ever get to the No. 1 slot it would mean quite a bit. It would mean these particular teams were doing something remarkable.”

Noted Graham: “It’s mind-blowing. It’s special. I can’t even put it into words.”

KU will next meet Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

The Sooners (6-8, 0-3) on Saturday dropped their sixth straight game, falling to Kansas State 75-64 in Manhattan, Kan. Oklahoma, who is rebuilding in its first season since the graduation of Buddy Hield, has 11 freshmen and sophomores on the roster, most of any Sooners team in the Lon Kruger era and the most of any Big 12 roster this season.

Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard has missed the last four games because of an undisclosed injury. He has averaged 17.6 points per game in 10 games.

Unofficial visitor

Kaleb “K.J.” Fitzgerald, a 5-foot-10 junior point guard from Cardinal Newman High in West Palm Beach, Fla., attended Saturday’s game on an unofficial recruiting visit.

Fitzgerald is unranked in the recruiting class of 2018 by Rivals.com. He’s heard from Kansas State, TCU, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and others.

Azubuike’s back in town

KU freshman Udoka Azubuike, who had wrist surgery Wednesday in Akron, Ohio, is back in Lawrence.

He attended the game and sat on the Jayhawks bench.

KANSAS 85, TEXAS TECH 68

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Texas Tech

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Gray

27

1-2

0-0

1

1

1

2

Livingston

14

2-8

2-2

2

0

3

6

Smith

35

7-11

0-0

7

3

3

17

Evans

31

6-14

1-2

1

5

1

16

Thomas

27

1-3

0-0

1

2

4

3

Ross

25

5-7

4-5

5

2

3

17

Millinghaus

15

0-5

2-2

3

0

3

2

Stevenson

11

1-4

0-2

2

0

1

2

Temple

9

1-3

0-0

1

1

2

3

Odiase

3

0-1

0-0

1

0

0

0

Brandsma

3

0-0

0-0

1

0

0

0

Totals

200

24-58

9-13

25

14

21

68

Percentages: FG .414, FT .692. Three-Point Goals: 11-28, .393 (Ross 3-3, Evans 3-5, Smith 3-5, Temple 1-3, Thomas 1-3, Millinghaus 0-2, Stevenson 0-2, Livingston 0-5). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 6 (Smith 3, Brandsma, Evans, Gray). Turnovers: 13 (Smith 4, Livingston 3, Evans 2, Temple 2, Stevenson, Thomas). Steals: 4 (Evans 2, Millinghaus, Stevenson). Technical Fouls: Livingston, 00:32 first. Fouled Out: None.

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Kansas

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Lucas

31

3-6

2-3

6

1

2

8

Graham

37

8-14

0-0

3

4

3

20

Jackson

31

7-15

2-3

10

1

3

17

Mason

36

6-11

11-12

5

4

1

26

Mykhailiuk

21

2-5

0-0

4

0

5

5

Vick

27

2-4

2-2

2

2

1

6

Bragg

17

1-1

1-2

6

1

4

3

Totals

200

29-56

18-22

36

13

19

85

Percentages: FG .518, FT .818. Three-Point Goals: 9-18, .500 (Graham 4-8, Mason 3-4, Jackson 1-2, Mykhailiuk 1-3, Vick 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 5 (Jackson 3, Lucas 2). Turnovers: 14 (Graham 4, Bragg 3, Mason 3, Jackson 2, Lucas, Mykhailiuk). Steals: 9 (Jackson 2, Mykhailiuk 2, Vick 2, Bragg, Graham, Mason). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled Out: Mykhailiuk.

Half: Kansas 37-27. Att: 16,300.

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