Sights Set on Red Raiders

KU coach Bill Self was in extremely high spirits after his Jayhawks crushed Missouri, 90-65, last Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse.

"I'm falling in love with this team," Bill Self said. "They try hard and they're getting more and more aggressive all the time.

"It's just one game, but they did respond like champs today."

Now, Kansas can actually become champions and clinch a tie of the Big 12 title with a victory at Texas Tech tonight.

Tipoff is 8:30 p.m. (CST) at United Spirit Arena.

The Jayhawks have a chance to make history by winning their fifth straight conference championship, something they haven't accomplished since 1926. KU won six straight league titles from 1922-27 and five straight conference championships from 1908-12.

KU will also be shooting for its ninth Big 12 title and NCAA Division I all-time high 52nd conference championship.

Indeed, the stakes will be sky high in Lubbock.

"We've got to go play the best road game we've played all year," Self said.  

The No. 9 Jayhawks (24-5, 13-1 Big 12) are playing their best ball of the season and enter the Wednesday showdown on a five-game winning streak. Texas Tech (12-17, 2-12), meanwhile, is trying to rebound after losing six straight. The Red Raiders are coming off a 78-63 defeat to Oklahoma in Lubbock on Saturday; however, Tech trailed by just one (50-49) midway through the second half before OU pulled away.

Sophomore point guard John Roberson led the Red Raiders with 18 points and seven assists, setting a single-season school assist record with 187.

While Tech has taken its lumps in Big 12 play, the Red Raiders  have been in some tight games, losing by just six at Texas (87-81) on Feb. 25, six to Texas A&M (79-73) at home on Feb. 21, and just one at OSU (81-80) on Feb. 4.

"Texas Tech's played much better as of late, although they haven't won," Self said. "They played people really, really close and they can shoot the three."

The Red Raiders, whose two wins in conference play have come against Baylor and Colorado, average 77.8 points a game while allowing 79.3. They also make 7.1 three-pointers per contest. Roberson leads the team with 14.3 points and a Big 12-leading 6.5 assists per game. His 65 treys also rank second on the roster.

Senior guard Alan Voskuil is next in scoring at 13.8 points per game (team-high 78 three-pointers and 36 steals), followed by junior guard Nick Okories (11.2 ppg), sophomore forward Mike Singletary (10.7 ppg and team-high 5.4 rpg) and freshman forward Robert Lewandowski (7.2 ppg and team-best 22 blocks).

Sophomore forward D'walyn Roberts (5.4 ppg), senior forward Michael Prince (4.0 ppg), freshman guard Tyree Graham (3.9 ppg) and junior forward Darko Cohadarevic (3.9 ppg) also contribute to the attack.

The Jayhawks know it will be a stern test.

"It's going to be tough," said sophomore guard Tyrel Reed. "We can't overlook Tech. They gave OU all they had. Some of us have never been to Tech, so it's going to be a new arena for us. It's going to be (a) good (challenge)."

Self's Jayhawks have yet to win at Tech. KU fell 69-64 in 2007 and lost 80-79 in double overtime in 2005.  

"We've taken good teams to Lubbock and lost in the last possession both times," Self said on his weekly Hawk Talk radio show. "We've actually had pretty good success at most places, but not there. We need to play with the same energy and confidence and aggressiveness we've been playing. They're capable of beating anybody in our league because they shoot the ball, especially at home. If you don't defend the three, they can give you a lot of problems."

Self is impressed with Tech's personnel. He said Roberson "is having an all-league type year" and Okories "can go get his shot. He's an athlete. Voskuil can shoot the basketball. They got some nice pieces."

Self also has high praise for Lewandowski, a 6-10 Kansas City product from Blue Valley West High School, the same school KU senior walk-on Matt Kleinmnann attended.

"He's really a good player and probably surpassed their expectations with his play so far," Self said.

Last year, KU blew out Tech at home on Senior Night, 109-51, on March 3.  A year later, the Red Raiders will be looking for revenge against Kansas on their own Senior Night, where the team says farewell to five seniors.

"Last year, the stars were aligned perfectly for us," Self said. "It kind of got away from them and I'm sure Pat (head coach Knight) will use that as motivation for them."

The Jayhawks are primed for this road battle and the chance to win their fifth straight conference title for the first time in 83 years.

"Anytime you have a chance to play for your league championship," Self said, "it's high stakes."

"Every game from here on out is motivation," Reed added. "We're going to try to win (at Lubbock). If we win, we're going to try and win the league outright (in KU's final home game against Texas on Saturday). We're just going to go in with the same amount of energy we had (versus Missouri)."

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