This team is terrible for my blood pressure.
Tonight's opponent, seemingly destined to be a neck and neck matchup, was the Texas Tech Red Raiders. As we saw in the first matchup between these two teams, nothing comes easy against Tech and their hyperagressive defense. Tonight was no exception as Tech made Kansas work for just about everything they got, while doing just enough offensively to keep KU from ever feeling totally comfortable.
The teams traded 5-0 runs in less than four minutes to start. That's not exactly an offensive explosion by either team, but given Tech's rock fight style of play, it felt like off to the races. From there, the Jayhawks built a small lead, but Tech was able to battle back to a tie at 14. There was a period of time near the end of the first half where Kansas actually started to distance themselves a bit, and it felt like maybe the Jayhawks had finally found a winning recipe against the Red Raiders. Alas, after building a then-game-high lead of nine, 30-21, Tech made a small run of of their own to pull it back to within four. After Kansas made it an eight point lead, Tech closed the half by hitting a pair of free throws to make it 36-30 at the break. It wasn't a beautiful performance, but the offense was already clearly flowing better than it did at any point the first time these teams played.
The early second half had a very familiar feeling for Kansas. As we've seen in recent games against Iowa State, Oklahoma, and earlier games against Dayton and SFA, they maintained a small lead, but could never find that nice, extended scoring run to make them feel comfortable.
Finally, that run seemed to develop. An 8-0 run gave the Jayhawks their first double digit advantage of the night, taking a 63-52 lead with 10:15 remaining, when Christian Braun, struggling a bit to that point, hit a pair of free throws. About a minute later, following a Tech bucket, Ochai Agbaji hit his sixth triple of the night to push the lead to 12.
At the under-8 it was still a ten point game, 68-58, and all the Jayhawks needed to do was keep their foot on the gas, and avoid costly mistakes. By the five minute mark the lead was still eight, and it felt like, barring an uncharacteristic run of good Tech offense, Kansas might be able to ease their way into a nice win.
Of course,this team does nothing the easy way. Just before the final media timeout, a pair of Raider free throws brought them to within six, 70-64. On the other end, McCormack, who was a bit of a mixed bag in this one, drew the shooting foul. Coming out of the timeout, he nailed them both and prevented an opportunity for Tech to potentially get it back to a one score game. Unfortunately, he then allowed an offensive rebound on the other end, and promptly fouled the shooter. After one made free throw, Tech rebounded the miss on the second and put in two more second chance points, putting Kansas right back in the situation they keep finding themselves in: frantically trying to protect or acquire a small lead in the final minutes, this time in a 72-68 game with under three to go.
After a timeout, Agbaji did another Agbaji thing, knocking down a jumper to bump the lead back to six. Unfortunately, two infuriating quick buckets made this just a two point game with 1:28 remaining. A fast break and Agbaji foul later, a Terrance Shannon free throw had the lead at one.
At this point, KU found themselves in the same spot they've been in seemingly every time they play: with next to no margin of error in a nailbiter. A single made Agbaji free throw made it a two point advantage, and after Tech missed a key shot, Agbaji grabbed the board and it seemed like the Jayhawks were on their way out of the woods. However, Agbaji's hand touched the baseline as he steadied himself, giving the ball right back. Shannon drew another foul and tied the game with just 12 seconds left, giving Kansas a shot at a game winner coming out of their final timeout. Unfortunately they looked unusually disorganized out of the timeout, and couldn't get anything better than a deep, off-balance three from Agbaji that was off target.
Overtime (the first one at least) treated Kansas very poorly, as they couldn't get anything going offensively, and fell apart defensively. Basically just a continuation of the last several minutes of regulation. Tech built a five point lead with two minutes remaining, but in the end Kansas was bailed out by a quick flurry of scoring by Agbaji (who else?), forcing a second overtime. Yay?
Tech jumped out to an 88-86 lead at the start of the second OT, but KU scored three straight to get back on top. A three for the Raiders gave them a 91-89 lead, but after KJ Adams tied it up with 1:49 remaining, Tech wouldn't see the lead again. They missed a three on their next possession, and fouled Jalen Wilson, who made one of two free throws. Tech couldn't generate a shot on their next possession, and ended up having to foul Braun after a turnover. He hit both shots to make it 94-91, and Shannon's three to tie was no good. The Jayhawks survived again.
Agbaji had a career high 37 points, and while he was nails from the field in every big situation, he missed three clutch free throws that could have significantly changed the game in both regulation and overtime. But still, he was so incredible in other ways, it's hard to be too upset about him missing half his free throws. Jalen Wilson wasn't great, but looked more like good Wilson than lost Wilson, and scored nine with 11 boards and three steals. Braun played a team high 49 minutes, but struggled as he shot 4-13 and turned it over three times while having a couple of defensive miscues, despite grabbing seven boards and six assists. Remy Martin played just 22 minutes despite showing he was the team's best option in terms of getting into the lane and disrupting Tech's defense. Self can say whatever he wants, but there's clearly a rift there, and it's big enough to make Self leave Martin on the bench in critical situations in which he could be an immense help. He's not great defensively, but the team isn't great defensively, so that doesn't strike me as a great reason to leave him sitting.
Dajuan Harris didn't have a great game as he continues to try and cosplay a point guard due to whatever is going on with Martin. He was 2-10 from the floor, and finished with four points and two assists.
Kansas gets a nice long break to prepare for their next game, a Big 12-SEC challenge matchup with Kentucky at Allen Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon.