Wiggins Saves No. 8 Kansas at Texas Tech, 64-63
LUBBOCK, Texas — In the epitome of crunch time, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid seemingly swapped roles. Trailing by one, Wiggins came up with a crucial block, sending the Jayhawks back to their goal where Embiid provided the clutch basket. But – as No. 8 Kansas clung to a 64-63 win at Texas Tech Tuesday night inside the United Spirit Arena – they switched back.
Down to the last two seconds before the upset, Wiggins was Wiggins. He saved a broken pass and found the basket for the game-winning layup. Kansas picked up its 20th win for the 25th-straight season with just 1.7 seconds to spare.
No. 8/8 Kansas (20-6, 11-2 Big 12) had already wrapped up the home and away season series with four different conference teams before squaring off against Texas Tech (13-13, 5-8 Big 12) for the first time in 2013-14. The wait was worth it as the Tubby Smith-led Red Raiders showed off their much-improved skillset, leading all but five minutes of the second half and forcing 13 lead changes against the Jayhawks before the visiting team sealed the win in the last possible second, disappointing a record-setting student crowd.
Wiggins led all scorers with 19 points, adding six rebounds, two steals and a major pair of blocks. His seven-foot sidekick was right behind him, adding 18 points and eight rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting. When nagging injuries held Embiid out of the starting lineup against TCU for the first time since December, the Jayhawk center made up for lost time in his return. He chalked up three of the first four Jayhawk baskets and tied the KU freshman block record barely five minutes into the game. His 62 blocks this season tie former standout Eric Chenowith for the most by a Jayhawk freshman.
The Jayhawk duo were KU’s only players in double-figures as the team tallied a conference season-low with 19 field goals on a season-low six assists. While Texas Tech started the night as the Big 12’s best free throw shooters, it was Kansas that benefitted the most at the line thanks to aggressive drives to the basket. In fact, after an 8-of-19 performance in the second half from the floor, KU relied heavily on its 17-for-21 free throwing shooting in the final 20 minutes. The Jayhawks ended the game hitting 19-of-42 shots (45.2 percent) and 22-for-30 from the line (73.3 percent), while Tech finished 24-for-51 from the floor (47.1 percent) and just 9-for-14 from the line (64.3 percent).
In stark contrast to the Jayhawk leaderboard, five different Red Raiders put up double-figures, led by junior forward Jordan Tolbert’s 16 points and six rebounds. Senior forward Dejan Kravic followed him with 13 points.
What looked to be the start of a blowout, junior guard Naadir Tharpe kicked off his night with a trey from the top of the key. Wiggins and freshman guard Wayne Selden, Jr., each had threes to their credit before the second media timeout as Kansas charged forward, 17-10. Though KU would go on to lead by as much as 10 points, it was anything but a blowout.
Five minutes into the game, TTU had yet to record a rebound of any kind, but that trend was short lived as the Red Raiders started giving themselves multiple scoring opportunities. Back-to-back offensive boards allowed Jaye Crockett the chance to hit his second three-pointer of the game, cutting the Jayhawk lead to 23-19.
A cooled-shooting effort on both sides helped keep the Jayhawks in front. After hitting six of their first nine, the Jayhawks made just four of their next 12 shots. At the same time, Tech started 5-of-10 from the floor, but connected on only two of the next eight to maintain distance between the two teams.
Kravic’s three-point play restarted the offense with two minutes remaining in the half as teammate Dusty Hannahs followed suit with a three-pointer of his own, cutting the KU lead to a single point. Ignoring the loudest crowd heard in the United Spirit Arena in recent meetings, freshman guard Frank Mason knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to three. Kravic again stopped KU momentum with a late layup that sent the Jayhawks to halftime with a slim 30-29 lead.
Looking for its sixth win in Big 12 play for the first time since 2008, the Red Raiders came out of the break on a mission. Their 8-2 run, thanks to four-straight makes, saw the Jayhawks fall to its largest deficit of the game. Down 37-32, Kansas used a timeout.
The pause was welcomed. Embiid surpassed double-figures when he completed the three-point play and Wiggins sank both free throws to tie the score in less than a minute – setting up an intense final stretch.
Known for using the most of its shot clock, Tech made it work in its favor all night. Kansas put up a strong defensive stand, fending off a late three-pointer, only to surrender the offensive rebound that gave Hannahs the room to shoot another. This time he connected. Moments later, Jamal Williams drained the clock before nailing his only trey of the night. While the Jayhawks stayed within two, 45-43, they had to do so from the free throw line. A weak 2-for-7 start from the floor meant KU had no choice but to be hot from the charity stripe, hitting 9-of-10 through the first eight minutes.
Tech maxed out its foul count quickly, giving Kansas the chance to close in with bonus trips to the line. It wasn’t pretty, but they counted. Free throws from Tharpe and Wiggins gave KU its first lead of more than a single point of the second half, 53-51. The 6:27 still remaining, however, gave off anything but a comfortable feeling.
While the Red Raiders surged about 50 percent shooting in the second stanza, the Jayhawks were desperate for a basket. Selden broke the Jayhawks’ three-point drought with a three-pointer with 2:35 to play, cutting the TTU lead to a single point, 59-58. Though Tech kept pace as the teams traded baskets – Wiggins and the Jayhawks were the last ones standing, 64-63.
Kansas will host Texas on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU and Oklahoma in its fourth ESPN Big Monday appearance of 2013-14 on Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. KU will travel to Oklahoma State on March 1 at 8 p.m. on ESPN. ESPN College Gameday will originate from Stillwater that day.
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): Jr. Naadir Tharpe (23/23), Fr. Wayne Selden, Jr. (26/26), Fr. Andrew Wiggins (26/26), So. Perry Ellis (26/29), Fr. Joel Embiid (17/17)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 26-4
ATTENDANCE: 12,667 (capacity 15,098)
- Improved KU to 20-6 on the season, against the nation’s most difficult strength of schedule.
- Gave Kansas 20 wins for the 25th-consecutive season.
- Made Kansas 11-2 in Big 12 play, the 20th-straight year the Jayhawks have won 11 or more conference games (beginning in 1994-95).
- Extended KU’s win streak over the Red Raiders to nine-straight games, pushing the all-time series record to 26-4 in favor of KU and 19-4 since the inception of the Big 12.
- Handed Kansas its fourth-straight win in the United Spirit Arena. After losing in his first three trips to Lubbock, Kansas head coach Bill Self has now won four-straight.
- Made Self 13-6 all-time against Texas Tech (12-3 at KU), 320-65 while at Kansas and 527-170 overall.
- Made KU 2,121-818 all-time.
- KU became the first team this season to beat Texas Tech when leading with 5:00 to play. Prior to the Jayhawks’ comeback, the Red Raiders were 12-0 when leading with five minutes remaining.
- Kansas held Texas Tech to 63 points, the 12th time in the last 13 meetings that the Jayhawks have kept the Red Raiders to less than 70 points.
- Kansas started the game 6-of-9 from the floor, but made just five of its next 14 to close the first half shooting 47.8 percent (11-for-23), barely in front of TTU’s 45.8 percent (11-for-24).
- Texas Tech scored first out of halftime, giving the Red Raiders a 31-30 lead, its first since taking a 2-0 edge 55 seconds into the game. TTU went on to start the final 20 minutes on an 8-2 run to take its largest lead of the game, 37-32.
- KU hit three of its first four three-pointers in the first seven minutes of the game, but did not make another until the 2:35 mark in the second half by freshman G Wayne Selden, Jr., missing eight-straight in between.
- KU grabbed a season-low 28 rebounds, but out-rebounded the Red Raiders, 28-26. The Jayhawks have out-rebounded 11 of 13 conference opponents and 22 of its 26 opponents this season.
- Kansas dished out a season-low six assists, its fewest since tallying five dimes at Oklahoma State (2/20/13).
- Freshman G Andrew Wiggins hit the game-winning layup with 1.7 seconds remaining. According to the freshman phenom, that was his first game-winner of his entire career. He led all players with 19 points.
- Freshman C Joel Embiid rejected one shot at Texas Tech, tying Eric Chenowith (62, 1998) for the Kansas freshman blocks record. He tied the record at the 14:37 mark in the first half.
- After snapping a 16-game starting streak in KU’s last game vs. TCU (2/15), Embiid now has a blocked shot in 19-straight games that he’s played.
- Embiid made up for his missed start, scoring 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting while grabbing a game-high eight rebounds.
- Wiggins went 6-for-8 from the free throw line on Tuesday for a total of 124, passing Ben McLemore (120) for the most-ever free throws made by a Jayhawk in their freshman season.
- Junior G Naadir Tharpe hit his only three-pointer of the night prior to the first media timeout, setting a new career-high for threes in a season (36).
- Days after his career-best performance, that included 13-of-15 field goals, sophomore F Perry Ellis didn’t hit a shot at Texas Tech. His four points all came from the free throw line.
- Sophomore G Andrew White III checked into the game in the first half, marking the first time he’s played back-to-back conference games this season. He tallied one rebound in two minutes.
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