On a night when Ochai Agbaji blushed from behind the 3-point line, it was actually one of his closest shots that helped the No. 5 in Kansas pull out No. 14 Texas Tech, 58-57, in Lubbock. , Texas, where the Jayhawks won the 30th consecutive conference opener.
Following one with less than 20 seconds of play, the Jayhawks got two cracks in the winner of the game.
The first was a jumper missed by David McCormack with 14 seconds left. But Christian Braun’s glass shot kept the Jayhawks in check.
From there, he stayed until Agbaji, who opened twice on a game winner who came out of range with 13 seconds left.
“We miss him at easy pace and then Marcus (Garrett) finds him perfectly on a hard pass and Ochai is able to pick him up,” recalled Kansas coach Bill Self about the sequence that moved Kansas to 7-1. overall and 1-0 in the Big 12 game. “Incredible game. It was fitting that Ochai played to win the game, because it was probably as effective a game (as) someone has played for us for a long time. “
Photo Gallery: Kansas at Texas Tech
Garrett said he almost went to the third option of the song that Self developed during a timeout. But it was covered. So the senior guard returned to Agbaji, who was initially wide open on the lob game that was drawn up.
Garrett said the technical defender guarding the ball did a good job of cutting the lob. But that left the area under the basket unprotected. It was Agbaji who migrated after spinning on the screen, and Garrett made a soft pass that almost instantly became a plate.
“I was lucky with that,” Agbaji said, laughing after the game. “It was just a kind of fight, and Marcus did a good job finding me under the basket.”
Agbaji led all scorers with 23 points in the 8-of-11 shot, including a 4-of-7 clip from the 3-point range. It also added five rebounds and one-on-one assistance in 34 minutes.
More than anything, however, his ability to act as a confident, reliable and consistent presence in the Kansas offensive helped the Jayhawks win a night when his teammates shot only 11 of 36 (31%) overall. and 2-of-11 in the 3-point range.
At no time was he greater than the winner of Agbaji’s game, which he said was the first of his basketball career.
But Agbaji said Braun’s game of keeping the ball alive, such as Jalen Wilson’s defensive gem on the Texas Tech jumper at the final horn, was just as important to KU’s tough win as well as his delay. .
“Things won’t go their way all the time,” Agbaji said of Braun and Wilson, who combined for nine points on a 2-of-9 shooting in 59 minutes. “I know that. They just make winning pieces and I think that’s at the end of the game. “
The self added: “That’s what the winners do.”
As expected, this turned into a defensive battle from the beginning. Neither team shot particularly well, and both teams competed as if it were the last match of the season.
Kansas controlled most of the first half and took a 29-26 lead at the break. The Jayhawks pushed that lead to eight points to open the second half with five straight points from McCormack, who finished a night up and down by 7 points to 3 out of 10 in 21 minutes.
But Texas Tech (6-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12) didn’t take long to completely erase this deficit.
Brilliant with a serious energy on the offensive window, where the Red Raiders overcame KU 13-6, the host team took a 10-0 run in 2:55 to build a 36-34 advantage.
This race, which went 12-0 and eventually grew to 20-5, put the Red Raiders in control. Momentary.
After a miserable start in the second half, the Kansas offensive began when Garrett and Braun attacked the rim in back-to-back trips on the floor.
This led to four consecutive free throws for KU – one night KU went 14-of-15 on the line – and set the stage for a 3-pointer from Agbaji on KU’s next possession which equalized the game at 46 with 8:14 at Play.
“When he shot the ball tonight, he looked like a professional jumping and shooting,” Self said of Agbaji. “He seemed to be coming in.”
Even the worst moment of Agbaji’s night, which Self called “a terrible play,” set the stage for one of his best, while responding to a careless fluctuation in transition with a tracking block for LeBron James, to keep the Red Raiders from getting two easy points.
The Jayhawks needed every stop they had and every point they could muster to survive. And they even got some assists from their head coach, who chose to go on a 2-3-zone defense for most of the stretch and also fired two games from the late breaks that led to baskets.
“I enjoy those moments,” Self said of his ability to put his hand on the game in tight times. “But that was not a coach. These were players. “
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said after the game: “Here’s a little project for you. You could write a book (about) how many great games Kansas enters, which are one and two possession games and what is their winning percentage (in those games) with Bill Self. It is amazing “.
Whether the individual numbers of the Jayhawks looked good or bad, the Jayhawks as a whole left the United Supermarket Arena on Thursday night, feeling good for the second year in a row.
None of them would call victory the most pleasing aesthetic performance. But this group has always preferred gravel to beauty.
“Nothing easy happened tonight,” Self said proudly.
KU has now won 10 in a row on the road in the Big 12 game as a whole and all four games decided by four points or less this season.
Both numbers look nice. But none had the same effect on the Self as the 30 consecutive victories at the opening of the conferences, of which 18 came along.
“It’s a remarkable number,” Self said. “We have a lot of such numbers (but) I don’t know if anyone in America can say they have a statistic like that.”
Kansas will play its last game of 2020 on Tuesday, when West Virginia’s No. 8 (6-1) comes to Allen Fieldhouse for a 8 p.m. tipoff on ESPN2. Like Kansas, the only climbers’ failure this season was a five-point loss to No. 1 Gonzaga in the December 2 Jimmy V Classic.