University of Kansas

No. 1 Kansas survives scare at Texas Tech, closes out 69-59 victory

Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (center) drove to the basket defended by Kansas guard Wayne Selden (left) and Frank Mason in the first half Saturday in Lubbock, Texas.
Texas Tech guard Keenan Evans (center) drove to the basket defended by Kansas guard Wayne Selden (left) and Frank Mason in the first half Saturday in Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

With just under 11 minutes to play in the second half on Saturday night, Bill Self crossed his arms in front of the Kansas bench and surveyed a mess unfolding before him.

The problems were compounding. Self’s Jayhawks had led Texas Tech by as many as 10 points in the second half, and now the lead was crumbling. The Red Raiders charging, burying jumper after jumper. The noise inside United Supermarkets Arena had hit a crescendo.

Five days after a classic, No. 1 Kansas was mired in something altogether different, a slogging, fragmented, disheveled, whistle-heavy basketball game on a Saturday night in Lubbock. This was not beautiful or epic or any of the adjectives used to describe the Jayhawks’ triple-overtime victory over Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse.

This was a bare-knuckled street fight, and come to think of it, it was the perfect environment for Kansas junior Frank Mason, a guard who could double as a middleweight. Amidst the chaos, Mason came up clutch, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while burying three three-pointers during the decisive second half.

Mason’s performance, on the heels of a marathon defensive effort on Monday, was the primary reason the Jayhawks survived a scare and closed out a 69-59 victory in their annual trip to this basketball horror house in West Texas.

“The end of the game is when it matters most,” Mason said. “You have to be mentally strong.”

While Mason’s three-pointers neutralized the Red Raiders for much of the second half, it was junior guard Wayne Selden who drained the game’s biggest basket, a three-pointer with 2:24 remaining. With Kansas holding on to a 58-54 lead, Texas Tech switched into a zone defense for the first time all game.

For a moment, the look appeared to confuse Kansas’ players. From the sideline, Self screamed for an adjustment, and at the last moment, the Jayhawks executed a set play to spring Selden for a three.

“We just ran our little last-second zone play and it was perfect execution,” Self said. “Wayne hadn’t made a shot the whole game, and that was just perfect execution.”

Selden finished the game with nine points, hitting one of seven from behind the arc and four of 13 from the floor. His offensive struggles mirrored his team’s. The Jayhawks shot just 29 percent in the first half and finished with 15 turnovers.

“It wasn’t our greatest shooting night,” said senior forward Perry Ellis, who finished with 15 points before stating the obvious.

In some ways, the Jayhawks were content to survive against the Red Raiders with their No. 1 ranking intact and pack their bags for a trip home to Lawrence.

On Tuesday, the Jayhawks will continue their road swing at West Virginia, which is tied atop the Big 12 standings with Kansas at 3-0 after beating Oklahoma State on Saturday.

“It’ll be a war,” Self said, standing in hallway in United Supermarkets Arena.

First, of course, the Jayhawks had to escape from something akin to an unorganized skirmish against the best team Texas Tech, 11-3, has had in years.

Five days removed from Monday’s triple-overtime victory over No. 2 Oklahoma, Kansas tried to avoid a letdown in their annual trip to Lubbock. Once upon a time, this building had been a yearly nemesis for Self and his program. From 2005 to 2009, the Jayhawks dropped three straight games at what was then called United Spirit Arena.

“I still get twitches when I think about it,” Self said, retracing the peculiar happenings that have occurred here in Lubbock.

The losses included a double-overtime thriller and a 19-point humbling, but as the years passed, and the Texas Tech program slipped into the abyss, the Jayhawks restored order, taking five straight games in Lubbock.

That set up Saturday night.

The Red Raiders had opened Big 12 play with a home victory over Texas and a respectable road loss at Iowa State.

And for a moment, it appeared the Curse of Lubbock was ready to surface.

The Jayhawks hit seven of their first 23 shots from the field and piled up seven turnovers in the opening 15 minutes. Hunter Mickelson and Landen Lucas each picked up two early fouls as Self turned to his usual parade of big men, playing all six before the second media timeout.

“It’s always tough games down here,” Ellis said. “And we fought. We fought until the end. It’s always a great feeling to get that road win.”

The Jayhawks led 29-27 at halftime, despite receiving zero points from Selden and finishing the half with nine turnovers. With its offense bogged down and the opening half dominated by whistles, Kansas locked down on defense. The Jayhawks held Texas Tech to 31 percent shooting in the opening half and then watched as the Red Raiders made just nine of 19 from the foul line for the night.

KU had a trump card in Mason, who holds the title of Kansas’ most indispensable player. But even after averaging double figures, rebounding like a power forward, and bringing his pitbull mentality each night, Self still believes Mason has another gear.

“He hasn’t been as engaged offensively,” Self said.

If Self yearned to find positive amidst Saturday’s mess, he could perhaps take some solace in this. The Jayhawks have won 13 straight games, will be ranked No. 1 for at least another week and can take control of the Big 12 race on Tuesday. And they have done this with their best player laboring to find himself at times on the offensive end. For Self, this is a good problem to have.

No. 1 KANSAS 69

TEXAS TECH 59

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Kansas

Min

FG-A

FT-A

O-R

A

PF

PT

Mason III

31

3-8

8-8

1-10

5

1

17

Selden Jr.

33

4-13

0-0

0-2

2

2

9

Graham

30

1-6

2-2

0-4

2

1

4

Ellis

31

7-16

0-0

5-10

2

1

15

Mickelson

5

1-1

0-0

0-0

0

2

2

Lucas

16

1-1

3-4

1-2

2

3

5

Mykhailiuk

14

2-3

1-2

0-2

0

1

7

Bragg Jr.

14

2-3

0-0

2-3

0

2

4

Traylor

12

0-1

0-0

0-2

0

3

0

Greene

11

2-3

0-0

0-4

0

2

6

Diallo

3

0-0

0-0

0-1

0

0

0

TEAM

   

1-2

   

Totals

200

23-55

14-16

10-42

13

18

69

Percentages: FG .418, FT .875. Three-Point Goals: 9-22, .409 (Mason III 3-6, Mykhailiuk 2-3, Greene 2-3, Ellis 1-1, Selden Jr. 1-7, Graham 0-2). Blocked Shots: 3 (Traylor, Ellis, Lucas). Turnovers: 15 (Ellis 3, Bragg Jr. 3, Greene 3, Traylor 2, Mason III 2, Graham, Selden Jr.). Steals: 4 (Mason III, Mykhailiuk, Graham, Selden Jr.). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled Out: None.

TableStyle: SP-bkwideplayersCCI Template: SP-bkwideplayers

Texas Tech

Min

FG-A

FT-A

O-R

A

PF

PT

Williams

25

1-8

2-4

0-0

1

1

4

Smith

31

2-7

1-4

2-6

0

1

5

Evans

23

0-3

1-3

0-4

2

2

1

Gotcher

32

5-12

1-2

1-2

2

1

13

Odiase

29

7-11

0-1

0-3

1

2

14

Thomas

16

1-3

0-0

0-3

3

1

2

Gray

23

4-7

2-3

2-3

0

1

10

Ross

12

2-3

2-2

0-0

1

4

7

Temple

9

1-2

0-0

1-2

0

2

3

TEAM

   

1-3

   

Totals

200

23-56

9-19

7-26

10

15

59

Percentages: FG .411, FT .474. Three-Point Goals: 4-16, .250 (Gotcher 2-7, Temple 1-1, Ross 1-2, Thomas 0-1, Williams 0-2, Smith 0-3). Blocked Shots: 3 (Ross, Smith, Gray). Turnovers: 9 (Odiase 2, Evans 2, Thomas 2, Williams, Gray, team). Steals: 7 (Gray 2, Smith 2, Thomas, Gotcher, Evans). Technical Fouls: None. Fouled Out: None.

Half: Kansas 29-27. Attendance: 14,231. Officials: Gary Maxwell, Bert Smith, Michael Greenstein.

“I think he can give us a lot more,” Self said. “I still do.”

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