LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech’s inability to finish close games bit the Red Raiders once again in Saturday’s tilt against No. 1 Kansas.
Texas Tech fell to Kansas 66-62, again letting a tight game slip away in the final minutes.
Chris Beard’s teams are never scared of top-ranked opponents, and the Red Raiders went blow for blow with the Jayhawks throughout.
T.J. Holyfield tied the game with a corner 3-pointer with 2:10 remaining, but Udoka Azubuike answered with a rim rattling dunk. Chris Clarke turned it over on the next possession, and Christian Braun scored in transition.
The Red Raiders got a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but Davide Moretti’s 3 airballed, essentially finishing the affair. Moretti fell to the ground after releasing the ball, but didn’t get a foul call.
His box score numbers weren’t as monstrous as they were in Kansas’ last game, but Azubuike had a profound impact on the game.
He and David McCormack have a distinct size advantage over Clarke and Holyfield, the Red Raiders who were asked to check them for most of the game. Azubuike and McCormack would plant themselves under the basket and Kansas guards lobbed the ball in their vicinity. With good position, the behemoths could flip in a basket or draw a foul with ease.
To counter, Texas Tech’s bigs battled to keep Azubuike and McCormack out of the paint, and help swarmed in from the perimeter. Chris Beard even went to zone at points.
Azubuike and McCormack did some damage, but overall their impact was limited. They combined for 20 points and 17 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. On the game, Kansas out-rebounded Texas Tech 45-34.
The goal was to make Kansas beat Texas Tech from the perimeter. The Jayhawks shot just 4-17 from 3, but were able to get just enough inside to take the game.
On one of those 3-point misses, Jahmi’us Ramsey grabbed the miss and passed it to Terrence Shannon, who threw down a two-handed slam, giving the Red Raiders a 19-18 lead. After a Kansas basket, Kyler Edwards stepped behind a screen for a 3.
From that point, it was all Jayhawks until halftime. They finished the half on a 12-2 run, as their stifling defense held the Red Raiders to just one made shot in the final eight minutes.
Kansas’ star guard Devon Dotson’s jumpshot wasn’t falling, but he still gave the Red Raiders problems. When he wasn’t feeding his big men, he was constantly probing and driving to the rim. Dotson finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
The Red Raiders recovered in the second half. Their big men battled Kansas’ underneath, forcing the Jayhawk bigs to take tougher shots. On the other end, they attacked the basket with gusto. T.J. Holyfield eventually tied the game at 37 with a 3-pointer with 13:56 remaining in the half.
Texas Tech got a huge play in the second half from Russel Tchewa. The big man put the ball on the floor and drove to the basket for an and-one that cut Kansas’ lead to one with 11:28 left. After a Jayhawk turnover, Kevin McCullar gave the Red Raiders the lead.
Texas Tech kept the game close with its energy on defense. Davide Moretti led the team in scoring with 18, but missed some key 3-pointers down the stretch. Jahmi’us Ramsey went scoreless after two early 3s.
Going into the postseason, Texas Tech is in an interesting spot. The Red Raiders have proven time and again that they can play with anyone in the country, but the results have been lacking in wins and losses.
Now, they head to Kansas City with something to prove in the Big 12 Tournament.