LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) – In 23 years as a head coach, Tubby Smith has never had a losing season.
Barring a miracle, that’s exactly where Texas Tech is headed.
After falling to No. 8 Kansas 82-57 on Wednesday night, the Red Raiders must knock off Texas on Saturday and then win the Big 12 tournament — four games in four days — to finish the season at least .500.
“Basketball is a game of runs, during the game and even with games,” forward Jaye Crockett said. “We know it’s going to be tough. We know what we’re getting ourselves into.”
If Texas Tech is going to start any sort of run, it must shake off a lousy performance on senior night at Allen Fieldhouse, where Texas Tech still has never won in 14 tries.
Tarik Black scored 19 points on 9-for-9 shooting for the Jayhawks (23-7, 14-3 Big 12), matching the school record for field goal attempts without a miss held by C.J. Giles (2005) and Mark Randall (1990). Naadir Tharpe added 16 points and freshman forward Andrew Wiggins had nine in what was likely his final game at the Phog.
Toddrick Gotcher scored 10 points to lead the Red Raiders (13-17, 5-12), who trailed by 20 points at halftime and never threatened down the stretch in losing their sixth straight game.
“We just weren’t thinking and throwing the ball away,” Gotcher said. “We didn’t do a good job of executing.”
The lopsided victory allowed Kansas to celebrate its latest conference title in style.
The Jayhawks backed into the outright championship despite a loss last weekend at Oklahoma State, and Self was so disheartened by the performance that he ordered the title T-shirts and hats waiting in the locker room to remain in their boxes. His decision was criticized in some circles, but Self defended it in a news conference Tuesday.
They were finally brought out moments after the final buzzer Wednesday, along with a series of tables at midcourt that held up the Jayhawks’ 10 straight Big 12 title trophies.
Self also made sure that senior night at Kansas focused on the seniors, which is why Black started alongside classmates Niko Roberts and Justin Wesley — two rarely used role players.
Still, the packed crowd was keenly aware that it was probably the last time Wiggins would step on the Phog’s court, too. The fans roared at every basket made by the star forward, who has already made it clear that he plans to enter the NBA draft this summer.
“We’ve been able to recruit some guys that will probably never get to a senior night, and we should be happy to have those guys,” Self told the crowd after the game. “So one last time, let’s give the entire team a loud ovation and thank them for their efforts.”
All the positive vibes made it easy to forget that the Jayhawks were playing without Joel Embiid, their talented 7-foot freshman, whom Self decided to sit the rest of the regular season because of a lower back strain. It’s the same injury that caused Embiid to miss a game against TCU earlier in the season, though Self is hopeful he will be back for the Big 12 tournament.
Without the big man patrolling the paint, it was up to Black to leave his mark.
The graduate transfer dominated the overmatched Red Raiders in the paint, scoring just about all his baskets at the rim. The highlight came in the midst of a 17-4 run to end the first half, when Black caught an alley-oop pass from Tharpe and slammed it home.
“The things we did try to do they did a good job of denying, making us go to the second or third option, making us put it on the floor, and us not having the toughness to execute things,” Smith said. “When you get intimidated like that this is the result.”
By the time Conner Frankamp buried a 3-pointer and Frank Mason added a free throw in the final seconds, the lead had swelled to 39-19 and Kansas was well on its way.
The second half was merely an excuse for another sellout crowd, this one including 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Packers coach Mike McCarthy, to enjoy a rollicking party.
It was a far cry from when the teams met on Feb. 18 in Lubbock, Texas. In that game, Kansas needed a late tip-in from Wiggins to escape with a 64-63 victory.
“We were taking that confidence from that game and we knew that we could compete with them tonight,” Crockett said. “We just didn’t come out with the right attitude like we did when we were at home.”
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