KU celebrates 10th straight Big 12 crown with emphatic win over Texas Tech
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Tarik Black pulled a Big 12 championship T-shirt over his broad shoulders, slipped a title hat on his head, and then gave Andrew Wiggins and the rest of his teammates a hug.
In the background stood the trophies, all 10 of them, brought onto the court at Allen Fieldhouse — a perfect ending to Black’s nearly perfect senior night.
The transfer from Memphis scored 19 points on 9-for-9 shooting, more than making up for the loss of injured center Joel Embiid, and led the eighth-ranked Jayhawks to an 82-57 victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday night.
“Wow, did he play good tonight,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Black matched the school record for field goal attempts without a miss held by C.J. Giles (2005) and Mark Randall (1990). The only shots he missed came at the free throw line.
Wiggins, also likely playing in his final home game, added nine points for the Jayhawks (23-7, 14-3 Big 12). Naadir Tharpe came off the bench to contribute 16 points and five assists, and Perry Ellis finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
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 didn’t do a good job of executing,” Gotcher said.
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 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.
“Didn’t you guys think Joel looked great in his suit tonight?” Self asked the crowd. “But Jo, listen, everybody thinks you look much better in a uniform.”
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.
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.
Meanwhile, the loss means that Red Raiders coach Tubby Smith, who spent most of the game sitting glumly on the bench, will have to beat Texas on Saturday and win the Big 12 tournament — four games in four days — to avoid his first losing season in 23 years as a head coach.
Texas Tech still has never won in 14 tries at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s just not our time right now. I feel like we still have another season coming up with the Big 12 tournament,” said the Red Raiders’ Jaye Crockett, “and hopefully we can make a run during the tournament along with our next game against Texas.”