LAWRENCE — Texas Tech coach Chris Beard entered Allen Fieldhouse with eyes wide open.
Facing a reeling Kansas basketball squad stung by both the injury bug and the NCAA over the last 24 hours, Beard tried to warn his players about the proverbial hornet’s nest he was certain awaited in Saturday’s top-25 showdown.
“You’d have to be an idiot,” Beard said later, “not to understand what we were walking in to.”
The Red Raiders might as well have been entering the gallows.
Undoubtedly fueled by the absences of ineligible sophomore forward Silvio De Sousa and injured sophomore guard Marcus Garrett, the No. 11-ranked Jayhawks romped the No. 16 Red Raiders, 79-63, at a fervent and emotional Allen Fieldhouse. Dedric Lawson’s 25 points and 10 rebounds paced a KU squad that uncharacteristically drained 13 shots from beyond the arc.
KU played at a breakneck pace and led in a big way from the outset in the cathartic experience — the NCAA on Friday ruled De Sousa ineligible through the 2019-20 season, a decision that came down almost simultaneously as Garrett went down with a left ankle injury suffered at a team practice.
“I woke up this morning excited about the opportunity to play against Kansas at its best. Texas Tech has come in a lot over the years and it’s probably not Kansas at its best,” Beard said. “Tonight it was. Their backs were against the wall. This is how good coach (Bill) Self is. Too much pride in that locker room.”
If the Red Raiders’ ears weren’t ringing from the opening tip, their heads certainly had to be spinning just a few moments later.
The Jayhawks (17-5, 6-3 Big 12) hit 9 of 15 attempts from 3-point range in the first half en route to a 20-point advantage at the break, hanging 46 points on a Texas Tech (17-5, 5-4) squad that ranked second nationally in points allowed per game (56.8). Five different KU players hit first-half treys, including a pair of 3-for-3 efforts from Lawson and senior guard Lagerald Vick (13 points).
“That was the best half of basketball we’ve played in a long time,” Self said, “maybe all year.”
The good times kept rolling in the second half, with freshman guard Devon Dotson starting the scoring with yet another trey. While the Red Raiders cut the deficit to 13 midway through the period, Dotson opened and finished off a 9-2 run with swift layups, pushing what was already a comfortable lead into insurmountable territory.
Dotson (career-high 20 points) and freshman guard Ochai Agbaji (10 points, 10 rebounds) rounded out the double-figure scorers for the Jayhawks, who limited Texas Tech standout Jarrett Culver to 10 points on just 5-for-17 shooting and the Red Raiders to a 34.4-percent shooting clip overall.
“We really came together. That’s what I think our statement was,” Agbaji said. “... Obviously we didn’t have a really good week last week. We had a lot of pressure going into this game, and I think we handled it well.”
The victory broke a two-game skid for the Jayhawks, ensuring the team wouldn’t suffer what would’ve been just its third three-game losing streak in Self’s 16-year tenure. It was also an outcome Self said the team “needed,” given both its rough Friday and poor play that over the last two weeks has had the group’s “manhood being challenged a little bit," he added.
“You would think if we’re going to rally the troops and fight together,” Self said, “this would be the perfect opportunity to do so.”
De Sousa, Garrett and Udoka Azubuike (season-ending hand injury) stood together and watched their teammates during pregame warmups in a picture that served as a good reminder of the adversity the suddenly shorthanded Jayhawks have faced of late. Sporting a walking boot, Garrett is considered “questionable at best” for the team’s 8 p.m. Tuesday contest at rival Kansas State, Self said, though the team is hopeful he could return for next Saturday’s home tilt against Oklahoma State.
“We definitely wanted to come out here and get the win for those two guys, to lift those guys’ spirits and just be good teammates,” Lawson said. “Everything is not about basketball in life. You’ve just got to take it a day at a time and still be a good friend to those guys.”
Self said he felt the group did a good job playing through the De Sousa news, a decision the coach has called a “mean-spirited and vindictive punishment."
“(The players) were certainly disappointed and down. They love the guy and hurt for him,” Self said. “But they used that kind of as a rallying cry, too.”
On the heels of what became the team’s best wire-to-wire effort of the season — a contest played without three of the team’s most valuable weapons — Self expressed optimism this could be a watershed moment for the up-and-down group.
“There’s a point in time every season where a team becomes a team, and we’ve been given the opportunity, and maybe fortunately so, that we’ve dealt with some crap,” Self said. “Now’s when we need to become a team. Hopefully today was a step in us doing that, because I still don’t feel like we’re quite there yet.”
No. 11 KANSAS 79, No. 16 TEXAS TECH 63
TEXAS TECH (17-5)
Owens 6-10 0-0 12, Odiase 0-3 2-6 2, Culver 5-17 0-1 10, Moretti 3-8 5-5 14, Mooney 4-10 2-2 11, Corprew 1-2 1-2 3, Mballa 0-0 3-6 3, Sorrells 0-1 0-0 0, Hicks 0-0 0-0 0, Benson 1-2 0-0 2, Edwards 1-6 0-0 3, Francis 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 22-64 13-22 63.
D.Lawson 9-14 4-5 25, Vick 4-7 2-2 13, Dotson 7-12 3-5 20, Grimes 2-7 0-1 6, Agbaji 3-8 3-6 10, Lightfoot 0-0 0-0 0, McCormack 0-0 0-0 0, Luinstra 0-1 0-0 0, C.Moore 1-5 0-0 2, K.Lawson 1-3 0-0 3, Teahan 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-59 12-19 79.
Halftime — Kansas 46-26. 3-Point Goals — Texas Tech 6-28 (Moretti 3-8, Edwards 1-3, Mooney 1-3, Francis 1-3, Sorrells 0-1, Benson 0-1, Owens 0-3, Culver 0-6), Kansas 13-30 (D.Lawson 3-3, Vick 3-4, Dotson 3-5, Grimes 2-5, K.Lawson 1-3, Agbaji 1-4, Luinstra 0-1, Teahan 0-2, C.Moore 0-3). Fouled Out — D.Lawson. Rebounds — Texas Tech 40 (Owens 10), Kansas 36 (D.Lawson, Agbaji 10). Assists — Texas Tech 8 (Mooney 3), Kansas 19 (C.Moore 6). Total Fouls — Texas Tech 15, Kansas 18. Technicals — Francis, Vick.