Jackson lifts No. 3 Kansas past Texas Tech, 80-79

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LUBBOCK, Texas – Josh Jackson scored a career-high 31 points, including a critical free throw in the final moments of regulation, to lead No. 3 Kansas to a 80-79 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday afternoon at United Supermarkets Arena.

Jackson’s 31 points was paired with 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double in the last five games. The freshman phenom, who is on all the right midseason watch lists for National Player of the Year, played in all 40 minutes of regulation for the first time of his career as Frank Mason III was plagued with foul trouble while he dealt with an illness. Mason entered Saturday averaging a Big 12-best 20.4 points per game.

“Frank was half-speed – he has been sick lately. He wasn’t himself and that was obvious,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said after the game. “That left it up to Josh and man did he play great. He shot it, rebounded it, and drove it downhill like you’re supposed to. That was an NCAA Tournament team we played today.”

Three Red Raiders finished with 20 or more points, led by Keenan Evans’ 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Niem Stevenson (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Zach Smith (21, 10) each notched double-doubles for Red Raiders.

Kansas (22-3, 10-2 Big 12) took the wind out of the blacked-out Texas Tech crowd for most of the game as the Jayhawks rushed to double-digit leads behind a total of 10 3-pointers. Junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk made three treys to lead a group of four Jayhawks with multiple 3-pointers – Mason, Graham and Jackson all finished with two.

Jackson started the game with an emphatic put-back dunk and proceeded to score KU’s first six points of the day.

Sophomore guard Lagerald Vick went on a solo 5-0 run with a pair of free throws, followed by a 3-pointer on the next possession, to put Kansas ahead, 18-12, at the 11-minute mark of the first half. Vick finished with seven points and is shooting is shooting 88 percent at the free throw line this season.

The Jayhawks extended their lead to 12 points – the largest of the day – after Jackson and Mykhailiuk combined for three 3-pointers during a span of two minutes. TTU’s Zach Smith made a jumper to pull the Red Raiders within five points, 40-35, with one minute remaining in the first half, forcing a KU timeout. Devonte’ Graham found Carlton Bragg Jr. for a backdoor layup in the final moments of the first half.

Kansas made six 3-pointers in the first half and went into halftime with a 42-35 advantage.

TTU’s Smith made a 3-pointer, followed by a fast-break dunk off a KU turnover to tie the game at 59 with 9:36 remaining. Moments later, Smith capped off a 16-4 Red Raider run to put the home team ahead for the first time since the 13-minute mark of the first half.

The Jayhawks and Red Raiders proceed to switch leads 10 times in the last 10 minutes of regulation. There were a total of 14 lead changes on the day – a season high for Kansas during Big 12 play.

Jackson and senior center Landen Lucas made key offensive rebounds in one possession to create extra opportunities for Kansas late in the game. The second-chances were capitalized by Mason, who made KU’s third 3-point attempt of the possession for a 73-72 lead with 4:23 remaining. That went down as Mason’s last points of the contest as he later fouled out with 3:05 on the clock after scoring 11 second-half points.  

After Mason fouled out, Jackson took over and scored all seven of KU’s last points before the final buzzer.

Despite KU missing its first three free throw attempts in the final minute, Jackson stepped up to the line after being fouled on a drive with three seconds remaining.

Jackson broke a 79-79 tie by making 1-of-2 at the charity stripe. The Jayhawks escaped with their seventh-straight road win inside United Supermarkets Arena after a desperation half-court heave by Evans missed the mark.

Kansas retains sole possession of first place in the Big 12 after having won 16-straight over Texas Tech (16-9, 4-8). KU boasts a 33-4 all-time series record against TTU. The Red Raiders entered Saturday with a 14-1 record at home.

UP NEXT
Kansas hosts West Virginia on ESPN Big Monday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m., and will then play at Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 18 at noon on CBS. KU returns home to host TCU on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.

NCAA PRELIMINARY SEEDINGS
The NCAA Championship Selection Committee gave the Jayhawks a No. 1 seed – No. 2 overall seed – in the first-ever preliminary release of the March Madness bracket on Saturday morning. The Jayhawks were placed in the Midwest Regional (Kansas City) with No. 2 seed Duke, No. 3 seed Arizona, and No. 4 seed Florida State. Other No. 1 seeds in the first-look bracket include Villanova, Baylor, and Gonzaga. The selection committee only revealed the top-four seeds in each region of the bracket if the tournament started today.

GAME NOTES

KU STARTERS (CONSECUTIVE / SEASON / CAREER STARTS): 
Sr. G Frank Mason III (99 / 25 / 102)
Jr. G Devonte’ Graham (32 / 25 / 61)
Jr. G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (15 / 15 / 21)
Fr. G Josh Jackson (25 / 25 / 25)
Sr. C Landen Lucas (14 / 19 / 52)

SERIES INFO 
• Kansas leads the all-time series with Texas Tech, 33-4. Since the inception of the Big 12 Conference in 1997, Kansas is 26-4 against Texas Tech.
• The Jayhawks have won 16-straight games in the series since Jan. 16, 2010.
• Kansas is 13-4 against Texas Tech in games played in Lubbock, including a 9-3 record in United Supermarkets Arena.
• KU has won the last seven meetings in Lubbock beginning in 2011.
• Bill Self improves to 20-6 all-time against Texas Tech, including 19-3 mark while at Kansas. Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard is now 0-2 against Kansas.

KANSAS NOTES 
• Kansas improves to 22-3 overall, giving KU 22 wins for the 28th-consecutive season
• At 10-2 in Big 12 play, KU has reached double-figure league wins for the 23rd-straight season.
• ROAD WARRIORS: KU improves to 7-1 in true road games and 11-2 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• WINS: Bill Self improves to 407-86 at KU and 614-191 overall. KU’s all-time record is now 2,208-839.
• LEAD CHANGES: Kansas and Texas Tech exchanged leads 14 times on Saturday, marking the third-most in a KU game this season and most during Big 12 play.
• CLOSE GAMES: Kansas is 4-1 in games decided by three points or less and 9-2 in games decided by seven points or less.
• LEAD BLOWN: KU’s largest lead of the day was 12 points at the 4:23 mark of the first half. Texas Tech recovered from that deficit to take a 60-59 lead with 9:01 remaining in regulation. KU’s 12-point lead blown ties a season high for the third time; KU has won all three of those games (Duke, Nov. 15; K-State, Jan. 3).
• STARTERS: KU’s starting lineup of Mason, Graham, Jackson, Mykhailiuk, and Lucas has been used for 15-straight games. Kansas holds a record of 13-2 during that period.
• SCORING THRESHOLD: Kansas is 19-0 when holding its opponent to under 80 points this season.

INDIVIDUAL NOTES

SENIOR G FRANK MASON III
• Started in his 99th-straight game, moving ahead of Keith Langford ’05 the sixth-most consecutive starts in Kansas history. Monday’s game against West Virginia is expected to be his 100th-consecutive start, joining an elite group of Jayhawks to reach that mark, including Danny Manning ’88 (141), Raef LaFrentz ’98 (116), Aaron Miles ’05 (110), Wayne Selden Jr. ’16 (101), and Jacque Vaughn ’97 (100).  
• Despite playing in a season-low 26 minutes, Mason still reached double-figure points with 12 points on 2-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.
• Moved into 13th-place on KU’s all-time scoring list with 1,634 career points; passed Mark Randall ’91 (1,627).

JUNIOR G DEVONTE’ GRAHAM 
• Dished out six assists with two steals and six points on 2-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc in 37 minutes.
• Led Kansas is assists for the 10th time this season.
• Totals 12 assists in the last two games.  
• Moved into 14th-place on KU’s all-time 3-point field goals made list with 152 career makes; passed Rex Walters ’93 (151).

FRESHMAN G JOSH JACKSON
• Scored a career-high 31 points on 12-of-15 shooting with 11 rebounds and four assists in a career-high 40 minutes.
• Made the game-winning free throw with 2.8 seconds remaining in the 80-79 victory.
• His 31 points were the most by a KU freshman since Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points at West Virginia on March 8, 2014.
• His 12 field goals made set a team season high and a personal career high.
• Scored 18 second-half points, including KU’s final seven points of the contest in the last 3:42.
• Eighth double-double of the season. Has four double-doubles in the last five games.  
• First career 30-point game. Eighth 20-point game of the season.
• Led Kansas in scoring for the seventh time this season. Led Kansas in rebounding for the eighth time this season.

QUOTES

BILL SELF

On his plan after the final timeout:
“I told them ‘Don’t just go score’. When we got the rebound with about 13 seconds left, we weren’t going to use it. Devonte’ [Graham] hesitated, and Josh [Jackson] was at half court, I figured we better call one. Then, I drew up a bad play in the first timeout which I guarantee wouldn’t work. We kind of got a break when Chris (Beard) called right after that. So, we changed the play and said ‘To heck with it just get the ball to Josh and get out of his way.’ He did such a good job of driving it downhill. I don’t know if it was a fair play for Zach [Smith], because I don’t believe he was guarding Josh. Josh’s man fell, so Zach had to take Josh. He was able to get ahead of him and steam drive him downhill. Fortunately, he got fouled.”  

On how not having Frank Mason III impacted the final three minutes:
“I don’t know that it did a lot. Frank (Mason III) wasn’t himself tonight. He was laboring. I thought as poorly as we defended the whole game, we probably guarded well the last two minutes and certainly the last minute. Offensively, we were going to put the ball in Josh’s hands regardless. He put it in Josh’s hands twice, and we scored. Then, we got the ball to Landen [Lucas]. He got fouled, and we came up empty. Then, we put the ball in Josh’s hands late. We kind of exchanged roles, and Josh became our Frank (Mason III) down the stretch.”

On how the team responded when Frank Mason III fouled out:
“To me, we have seven starters. I think whoever is out there needs to do the job. I think we have good enough – and poised enough guys – to do that. Of course, we would much rather have him in instead of out, without question. If anything it will help us, but I don’t want that. I wasn’t looking forward to that moment. After we’ve gone through it, he can’t do anything to probable help us a little bit.”

On how Frank Mason III’s sickness affected his performance:
“He still made a couple of big plays. He had an unbelievable drive for a basket. That was a hard shot in the second half, but he did okay. Whenever our guards are going against the guards, and they get 47 [Evans and Stevenson], and our guys combine for 27 [Graham, Mason III, Mykhailiuk], that’s not a good day under most circumstances. So I think Devonte’ (Graham), Frank (Mason III) and everybody on our team would tell you that [Niem] Stevenson and obviously [Keenan] Evans were better than us today. That’s usually not a great sign for us, but our guys did find a way to get it done.”

On what Texas Tech to get back in the game:
“We didn’t play with more poise. I think Frank (Mason III) got his fourth when they came back. We had to sub him back in with eight minutes left. So, I think it went from eight to even when Frank was on the bench. They made shots. Their offense was really good, and they picked on us today. Certainly, we couldn’t guard the ball. They drove us, and we fouled way too much.”

On how a quick turn around effects the team:
“We’ve done them both. Last week, we did the losing side. Our guys responded fine. Any time you get it handed to you, you get an opportunity to play that same team that should be motivation enough. That’s certainly what happened the first time when we played West Virginia.”

FRESHMAN GUARD JOSH JACKSON

On his game winning free throw:
“It was a big moment in the game of course. After I missed the first one, I tried not to think about missing it too much because I find often that when I think about missing one then I think about missing another, and it just happens. So, I kept telling myself to knock it down.”

On his performance:
“With Frank (Mason III) being under the weather – he’s kind of sick – and he fouled out, I just had to come out and make a couple of extra shots. My teammates found me, and they went in.”

On avoiding charges on defense:
“That has been one of the biggest things we have talked about – that they really like to take charges. As you see, they do a really good job of it. I had to be mindful when I was driving in there.”

On the final play:
I think the play that really made the game was the screen that Landen set to get me open. It was an amazing screen, and I think that is what won the game for us.”

On the final timeout:
“It depends on the time of the game and how big the game is. We had an extra timeout, so we figured, “Why not use it, try to draw something up and try to get the best shot we possibly can?”

On the areas he can improve:
“I think so. Every now and then, everybody is going to have a bad game or not play as well as they normally do. I think there are definitely a lot of places where I can improve in my game – free throws is definitely one of them – ball handling is another. I think if I get that under control and start doing a little bit better in those areas, I’ll start progressing a little more.”

On what he liked about his performance:
“I liked how I didn’t turn the ball over today. The past few games I played so fast that at the end of the game I looked at the stat sheet and I had 4 or 5 turnovers. Today I had only one so that’s a good thing.”

SENIOR FORWARD LANDEN LUCAS

On how they dealt with Frank Mason III fouling out:
“That is the great thing about having multiple point guards. If one fouls out, you still have Devonte’.  I remember that happened last year at Oklahoma. We just rallied around each other and know that we still have another point guard on the court with us.”

On Josh Jackson’s performance:
“He’s been playing great. Obviously, this is stat wise his best game. He’s just been playing great for us this past couple of weeks.”

On Frank Mason III’s performance:
“It was big time. He’s a leader, and he knows that. To come out here and play a little sick with foul trouble too – that’s a couple of things going against him. He definitely stepped up and made sure we came out of here with a win.”

On the team getting back-to-back offensive rebounds down four late in the game:
“It was big. I was telling Josh, “Keep coming to the glass with me, and we’ll get some offensive rebounds late.” Those extra possessions are huge, especially at the end of the game. I was definitely happy to get that rebound. Overall, rebounding wise I was not very good, especially defensively. That offensive rebound, along with Josh’s, was definitely at a big time.”

On being a key player inside:
“It ended up being part of the plan. Early on, we saw that we had an advantage. In the second half, we did a couple of times but really it was just about getting Josh the ball.”

On his screen in the final seconds:
“One hundred percent. I was set the whole time, he (Justin Gray) just ran into me.”

On the importance of winning this game:
“I mean it’s big, but we also have to understand that it doesn’t mean much if we don’t handle business on Monday. We have to move on knowing that we have another game coming up against a team that beat us. We have to take them very seriously and get that home win streak started up again.”

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