Kansas basketball’s revenge tour is complete.
Now comes Act II — the postseason.
The top-ranked Jayhawks earned a 66-62 victory Saturday over Texas Tech in Lubbock, finishing off a perfect conference record away from Allen Fieldhouse and extending their current overall winning streak to 16.
Now locked in to the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament, KU will next play either the No. 8 or No. 9 seed in a Thursday quarterfinal at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. Regardless of what happens there, this much is clear: The Jayhawks are a virtual lock to receive the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Devon Dotson finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Jayhawks, who have also won 19 of their last 20. Udoka Azubuike (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Ochai Agbaji (12 points) rounded out the double-figure scorers for KU.
As it played out, the Jayhawks didn’t need a victory against the Red Raiders to achieve their biggest goal entering the afternoon. KU, which earned at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season championship with its victory Wednesday over TCU, captured the league outright midway through Saturday’s game by virtue of second-place and No. 4-ranked Baylor’s 76-64 loss at West Virginia.
“Certainly proud of our kids,” KU coach Bill Self said in a postgame radio interview. “To think … two weeks ago we’re down a game with four games left and you win the league (by two games). We close out obviously 4-0 and (Baylor) closes out 1-3. To win this league by two games, unbelievable.”
KU’s conference title is its first since a national record-breaking streak of 14 consecutive league crowns was snapped last season by co-champions Texas Tech and Kansas State.
“Our guys didn’t know the (Baylor) game was over,” Self said. “I got mad at ’em at the under-seven timeout when (Texas Tech) tied it up. I said, ‘You guys, all we’re doing is playing for pride. West Virginia beat Baylor by 12.’ They just kind of looked at me. I said, ‘We’re just playing for pride. Just go have fun.’ And they did compete down the stretch.”
The Jayhawks (28-3, 17-1 Big 12) led by eight at halftime after riding a 12-2 run into the locker room.
The Red Raiders (18-12, 9-8), who converted just one field-goal attempt in the final eight minutes of the first period, shot 30.3% in the first 20 minutes and made just six of 21 of their 2-point tries. A 3-pointer by Dotson — he had nine points, five rebounds and four assists before the break — capped the lopsided end-of-half rally as KU led 32-24 at intermission.
It was another shooting skid, this time from the Jayhawks, that opened the door for Texas Tech to get back in.
The Red Raiders took advantage of a two-for-12 shooting stretch by the Jayhawks to briefly take the lead, 44-43, on a layup by Kevin McCullar with 10:47 remaining. Agbaji’s three shook the KU skid, but Chris Beard’s crew didn’t go away — a TJ Holyfield three locked the game at 57-all and forced a Jayhawk timeout with two minutes left.
But Azubuike, who alongside Dotson is a frontrunner for Big 12 player of the year, put KU in front with an emphatic second-chance dunk.
“It was a great win,” Self said. “It was a no-pressure game. Both teams didn’t really have much to play for other than pride and maybe a seed line. I thought we were good and certainly made plays down the stretch.”
Moretti had a game-high 18 points and Holyfield 11 for the Red Raiders.
“Even bigger than this weekend, we put ourselves in a favorable position,” Self said. “Hopefully we can get some rest. … It’s been a grind. We need to get our minds fresh also.”
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