Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins game-winning bucket saves Kansas at Texas Tech (VIDEO)

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No. 8 Kansas struggled with Texas Tech on Tuesday night, and that shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as the names on those jerseys make it seem.

The Red Raiders are tough this year. They beat Baylor in Lubbock, they beat Oklahoma State in Lubbock and they almost knocked off Iowa State in Ames over the weekend. Jordan Tolbert, Jaye Crockett and Dejan Kravic can matchup with any front line in the country, and on the nights when Tubby Smith’s guards are hitting shots, this group will put up a fight.

That’s exactly what happened against the Jayhawks, who needed yet another clutch lay-in from Andrew Wiggins, who got this one picking up a loose ball when Joel Embiid was stripped, to win the game. He did the same thing after missing a layup in an overtime loss to Kansas State last Monday.

In fact, Wiggins’ second half against the Red Raiders was as impressive of a performance as he’s had this season. He was a terror defensively. He got to the foul line. He got aggressive in big moments of a close road game when Kansas really needed him to try to take over. He was attacking the rim off of the bounce, beating people off the dribble and even finishing with a couple dunks instead of trying to finesse in off-balance layups. On the second-to-last Kansas possession, he took off from about a mile away and missed a dunk, but it was notable. That was one of the first times this season that I’ve seen Wiggins actively try to dunk all over a defender.

He missed it, but he tried.

And that’s what’s important here.

Look, Wiggins needs to add strength. Period. End of story. He has to be stronger finishing through contact, he has to be a stronger ball-handler, he has to add some upper-body mass. He just has to, because he almost seems cognizant of the fact that he’s going to be on the losing end of a collision with just about any front court player in the Big 12 right now. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get into the lane at will. He did that on Tuesday, and he finished with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting, six boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks.

More importantly, Kansas finished with a win.

If there was a concern in this game, it was Naadir Tharpe, who reminded everyone of why he was considered a liability entering the season. He was 1-for-7 from the floor with four turnovers. Late in the game, he had two awful turnovers that led to layups — one of which was simply Tharpe losing a handle without being pressured defensively — and one airball on a three-pointer.

That hasn’t been the norm for him this season, but when he does play like that, especially on nights where Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden combine to go 2-for-11 from the floor, the Jayhawks could end up in trouble.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.