Kansas survived a late challenge in its last game and pulled off a one-possession victory for the first time this season, extending its winning streak to six games.
Nonetheless, as the No. 3 Jayhawks (18-3, 7-1 Big 12) prepared for a quick turnaround and a home date Monday with Texas (14-7, 4-4) in Lawrence, Kan., coach Bill Self cared more about the circumstances that contributed to Saturday’s narrow 78-75 victory over Texas Tech.
“It wasn’t a one-possession game. We made it a one-possession game,” Self said. “I mean, we’re up eight with a minute and a half left and we made it a one-possession game. So, I look at it a little differently.”
In other words, the Jayhawks faltered in an area their coach finds critical.
“Our defensive execution,” Self said, “was awful.”
Another factor was the limited production from senior Udoka Azubuike. The 7-footer came in averaging a double-double in Big 12 play but logged only 16 minutes after drawing two fouls in the first half and another quick one early in the second half. He posted five points and eight rebounds.
After playing extended minutes recently because of suspensions to two other big men, sophomore David McCormack and senior Silvio De Sousa, Azubuike did not look as energized.
McCormack, who came off a two-game suspension for his role in a brawl against Kansas State, posted six points, six rebounds and three blocks in 19 minutes against the Red Raiders.
“A lot of it was Udoka,” Self said, before adding, “he just wasn’t into it.”
Teammates looked a bit uninspired, or least unable to execute, as Texas Tech enjoyed a closing 7-2 spurt but inexplicably failed to attempt a 3-pointer on its last possession.
Self, who often used a four-guard lineup before the suspensions, switched to that look out of necessity when Azubuike was the lone big man available. McCormack, who had been a starter, will continue to come off the bench.
“We only have two bigs and why let him get two fouls early and then we don’t have a backup for Dok,” Self said. “It’s not a knock to (McCormack). It’s just doing what we think is best for the team.”
Kansas sits a game behind No. 1 Baylor in what is shaping up to be a two-team Big 12 race.
An 11-0 spurt inside the final TV timeout enabled Texas to rally past Iowa State on Saturday. Sophomore guard Courtney Ramey scored all 14 of his points in the second half of the 72-68 victory.
“This isn’t the first game,” said Texas coach Shaka Smart, “where in the second half, (Ramey has) just been able to put whatever it is aside that was troubling him earlier in the game and do what he needed to do. We wouldn’t have won the game without it.”
The visit to Kansas begins a rugged eight-day stretch for the Longhorns that includes home games against Texas Tech and Baylor.
Texas fell 66-57 at home to Kansas on Jan. 18.
–Field Level Media