Opportunity Knocks, Jayhawks Answer

Texas Tech played a great game Tuesday night against No. 8 Kansas and even held a one-point lead in the final seconds. But Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins dropped in a layup with 1.7 seconds remaining to help the Jayhawks escape Lubbock with a 64-63 win.

With the exception of free throw shooting, and corralling one loose ball, Texas Tech did everything well enough to beat the stacked Kansas Jayhawks.

Against a team with as much talent as Kansas, nearly perfect most often is not good enough. And so it was as the Red Raiders absorbed a gutting 64-63 loss to KU before 12,700 crazies in the United Spirit Arena.

With the exception of the game's first six minutes, where Kansas (20-6, 11-2) built a 17-7 lead over Tech (13-13, 5-8), this game was tense and tight, topsy and turvy, turvy and topsy. It was only fitting then that the game should come down to the final possession. Thus, with Tech holding a one-point advantage and only a dozen seconds showing on the clock, Kansas rushed a very ragged offensive set, and when the ball got poked loose in the paint, it looked like the Red Raiders would pull off the huge upset.

But the Jayhawks were opportunistic. And they had a fellow named Wiggins who somehow seems to make good things happen. The loose rock found its way into Wiggins' hands and he laid it up and in with three seconds showing. Jaye Crockett's succeeding half-court heave wasn't close and Tech had to swallow yet another close and stinging defeat.

There is, however, much consolation in how the Red Raiders played. As always, they were resilient. Many teams will fold upon falling behind double digits against a team as powerful as Kansas, but the Red Raiders simply put on their hard-hats and worked harder.

Tech, which was managed terrifically by point guard Robert Turner, kept the pace to their liking. The Red Raiders play a methodical, disciplined game because that is what gives them the best chance to win. Throughout this contest Tech shrugged aside KU's pressure defense and ran their offense deep into the shot clock. And as often as not, the Red Raiders found some gold in those waning seconds. The pressure of the clock winding down did not fluster Tech any more than KU's defense did. Indeed, the Red Raiders executed better the deeper into the clock they went.

Tech also did a great job of exploiting Kansas' suspect perimeter defense. The Jayhawks entered the game allowing 35 percent shooting from deep and the Red Raiders knifed in six of 12 from beyond the arc. Tech's three-point marksmanship gave them a chance.

So did their defense. Granted, Kansas had success getting into the paint, in no small measure because the officiating crew, particularly in the second half, basically forbade the Red Raiders from making any defensive contact whatsoever. Be that as it may, Tech still managed to limit KU to 45 percent shooting and 29 percent shooting from distance.

Rebounding was also solid. Although it often seemed like the Red Raiders were outmanned on the glass, Tech lost the rebound battle by only two. Kansas is a plus-eight rebounding team.

On the individual front, Tubby Smith got very good performances from Jordan Tolbert, Turner and Dusty Hannahs. Tolbert very quietly pumped in 16 points, snared six boards and dished a pair of assists.

Turner dramatically outplayed Kansas' Naadir Tharpe, holding him to one-of-seven shooting and harassing him into four turnovers, while scoring 11 points and recording a couple of steals himself. Turner was also Captain Clutch, hitting a huge jumper and draining a pair of free throws late to give Tech the advantage in the waning moments.

And Hannahs was a thorn in Kansas' side most of the night. He sparked a stuttering Tech early with points, rebounds and an assist, and finished the night with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.

Once Tech gets over the heartache, the program will build on performances like this. Even a blind man can see that Texas Tech basketball is mere degrees away from being a serious threat to win a Big 12 title.

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