One game up on Texas Tech with three left to play, Kansas can assure itself at least a share of the Big 12 Conference regular-season title with a win on Saturday in Lubbock.
The Jayhawks (22-6, 11-4) vaulted into sole possession of first place in the league standings on Wednesday night, courtesy of Oklahoma State, which defeated the Red Raiders (22-6, 10-5), 79-71, in Stillwater, Okla.
If Kansas prevails in Saturday’s3:15 p.m., tip at United Supermarkets Arena, the Jayhawks will lead the league by two games with two to play, clinching at least a tie for the title, their 14th consecutive, which would break the NCAA record currently shared by KU with UCLA.
“Certainly we are happy to have a game lead, but we know the way it’s set up Tech still controls their own destiny to win the league,” KU coach Bill Self said Thursday in a conference call with reporters.
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His weekly luncheon was canceled because of wintry weather in Lawrence that forced cancellation of classes on campus.
“If they win out, the worst they can do is tie. Certainly it doesn’t change anything about this being a huge game. Of course we have a chance obviously to clinch a tie in Lubbock. The reality of it is,” Self added, “is if we don’t play well and do that, we bring other teams into play — not only Texas Tech, West Virginia, but also K-State’s in the game. Certainly we’ve got to do our job. We need to go down there and play our best.”
Kansas State and West Virginia currently are two games behind KU at 9-6 in the league, a game behind Tech.
Here’s how the schedule shakes out. KU plays Tech on Saturday, then Texas on Monday at Allen Fieldhouse and Oklahoma State a week from Saturday in Stillwater. OSU beat KU, 84-79, on Feb. 3 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Tech, after playing KU, travels to West Virginia on Monday and closes versus TCU a week from Saturday in Lubbock.
West Virginia plays host to Iowa State on Saturday and Tech on Monday, then closes at Texas a week from Saturday. K-State travels to Oklahoma on Saturday and TCU on Tuesday, then finishes with a home game against Baylor a week from Saturday.
“I have not seen a possession. I take that back, at my radio show it was on,” Self said of Wednesday’s OSU-Tech contest. “I didn’t watch any of the second half.”
KU senior Svi Mykhailiuk said he watched the contest, but not because of its implications on the league race.
“I was just watching to try to see how they play,” Mykhailiuk said. “I knew it was going to be a great game. Oklahoma State (16-12, 6-9) beat us in the fieldhouse. They are a really good team. It doesn’t matter what record they have. They have a good team, good players. It was a really good game.”
Two Jayhawks honored
KU senior Clay Young and sophomore Udoka Azubuike were chosen to the academic all-Big 12 teams, announced by the league office Thursday. Young is a first-team selection, while Azubuike is on the second team. In all, 31 players made the 2018 team. First-team members have maintained a 3.20 or better grade-point average while the second-teamers hold a 3.00 to 3.19 GPA. Young is majoring in sports management; Azubuike in liberal arts and sciences.
Tech point guard Keenan Evans has been battling a toe injury of late. He had just two points in 25 minutes against Oklahoma State.
“The guy is not at 100 percent. He has a real issue. It’s something he has to fight through,” Tech coach Chris Beard said on Thursday’s Big 12 teleconference. “It’s a situation he’s not making it any worse so that allows to him play on it. He’s not at 100 percent. He’s playing in a lot of pain.”
Beard noted: “I thought Keenan showed a lot of courage, fight, toughness not only in trying to play the game last night but also the preparation from when we got back from Waco last Saturday (after loss at Baylor) until tipoff last night. He was as dedicated as he could possibly have been to put himself in position to play. Anybody who knows anything about basketball knows he’s not 100 percent. We’ve got to continue to work with him. I know he’ll do everything he possibly can to put himself in position to help the team.”