LUBBOCK, Texas | Kansas coach Bill Self says his Jayhawks are spoiled.
Every time they go on the road, it seems they are met by a rowdy bunch of hooligans who want to beat KU so they can rush the floor and celebrate a huge upset on national television. The Jayhawks have become adept at feeding on the crowd’s energy and making it their own, which is a lot easier to do than creating an atmosphere out of thin air.
But that was the task on Tuesday night at Texas Tech in front of an announced crowd of 9,055 that, due to temperatures in the teens and the threat of snow, may not have actually been half of that.
“It was just dead,” KU forward Marcus Morris said.
The Jayhawks had heard about how Self was 0-3 here as KU’s coach and imagined another packed house that would be amped to make it 0-4.
“I was shocked,” KU freshman guard Josh Selby said.
Without the “us against the world” crutch, Kansas had to just go out and beat Texas Tech because it’s the better team. That’s exactly what the Jayhawks did, spanking the Red Raiders 88-66 at a United Spirit Arena that couldn’t have been less spirited to welcome the No. 2 team in the land.
“I didn’t think we played with unbelievable emotion,” Self said. “I just thought we were very efficient.”
The rest of this season, opposing coaches will have the option of watching tape of this game to prepare for Kansas. They should do their teams a favor and junk it, because it was not a suitable simulation of how the Jayhawks would play in a real basketball game.
This was a mauling, a pounding in the panhandle that gave KU its first win in Lubbock under Self. It also gave Kansas a feeling of superiority over a Big 12 opponent that Self, in an honest moment, would probably say his team didn’t need one bit as the Jayhawks try to keep pace with Texas in the league race.
The Longhorns dismantled Texas A&M 69-49 in College Station on Monday night, a shot that was certainly heard by Kansas, which is trying to win its seventh straight Big 12 regular-season title.
“Somebody’s going to have to pull off a major upset for us to even have a chance,” Self said. “That’s if we run the table the rest of the way. We can’t even think like that. We lost a golden opportunity last Saturday, hosting Texas, and that put them obviously in the cat-bird seat, so to speak. We have a lot of hard games left. A lot. And we have no margin for error because Texas is playing so well right now.”
Kansas needed no margin of error to beat Texas Tech, which looked like the same team that lost by 29 at Washington and by 31 to Texas in this building. The Red Raiders lacked direction and were overmatched in talent. For KU, now 21-1 and 6-1 in the Big 12, it was a positive step that it didn’t play down to the level of its opponent.
The Jayhawks shined on Tuesday night, led by Marcus Morris’ 18 points and Markieff Morris’ double-double 11 points and 12 rebounds. Thomas Robinson added 17 points and nine rebounds, as Kansas put up 48 points in the paint compared to just 16 by a smaller Tech team.
The Red Raiders met KU’s braun with little resistance early, setting the tone. The Jayhawks’ first five baskets came from inside – three on close turnaround jumpers from Marcus Morris – and Kansas led 10-2.
“I think we just outworked them,” Marcus said. “They are really short on big men, so that was definitely the emphasis.”
Tech’s only hope was that the quiet over United Spirit Arena would put the Jayhawks to sleep, too, but it didn’t. Kansas wanted to get this elusive victory in Lubbock for Self, who has won in every other league venue – even Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, where some of Self’s best teams have struggled equally.
The Jayhawks continued their assault in the first half with 10 more points from the suddenly hot-shooting Brady Morningstar, who finished with 12 points on five-of-seven shooting. Just like a week ago at Colorado, Morningstar and freshman guard Josh Selby (14 points, four assists and three rebounds) led the scoring effort from the outside, which is a good sign that KU is heating up all around as February hits.
Marcus Morris credited the Jayhawks’ recent offensive spark to Morningstar.
“It’s Brady,” Marcus said. “Brady’s been shooting a lot better. He’s definitely back to the Brady we’re used to, the more aggressive Brady who makes the right plays.”
The Jayhawks are good, and the Red Raiders are bad. There wasn’t much else to take from Tuesday night. KU already knew that if it plays through its skilled big men and doesn’t turn the ball over – Kansas gave it away just six times – then it is going to be very hard to beat this season. The Jayhawks also already knew they were way better than Texas Tech. It was just a matter of showing it.