Freshman Josh Jackson took over after senior Frank Mason fouled out as No. 3 Kansas held off Texas Tech, 80-79, for a Big 12 road win.
Jackson took an isolation and was fouled with 2.8 seconds left, making the game-winning free throw and finishing with a career-high 31 points. The freshman also added 12 rebounds and four assists, going 12-for-15 from the field.
Jackson took over the game down the stretch and willed Kansas to a road win when Mason only played 26 minutes and was held to 12 points. It was the type of performance that could be talked about on draft night because Jackson put together one of the most complete efforts we’re going to see all season. He looked completely in rhythm offensively and didn’t force anything as he was ruthlessly efficient and calm throughout a tense game.
Even after Mason fouled out, Jackson took over and scored multiple buckets and that has to give head coach Bill Self a lot of confidence this late in the season. It means that Kansas doesn’t need to rely solely on Mason to help win close games and it appears Jackson could be turning a corner heading into a monster final stretch.
This type of game is the reason many ranked Jackson near No. 1 in this loaded Class of 2016. He was that good on Saturday.
Landen Lucas also added 13 points and four rebounds for the Jayhawks while LaGerald Vick gave some solid minutes of the bench to finish with nine points. Vick played more crunch-time minutes as a defensive presence and he could also be counted on more down the stretch in close games if he plays like this.
The win also keeps Kansas (22-3, 10-2) in first place in the Big 12 standings after Baylor won earlier in the day over TCU.
Texas Tech (16-9, 4-8) went with the Iowa State approach of having three players have big games but the ultimately fell short against the Jayhawks. Keenan Evans (25 points), Niem Stevenson (22 points) and Zach Smith (21 points) all had solid outings for the Red Raiders but the rest of the roster only contributed 11 points. You do get the feeling, however, that Kansas might have been in trouble if this game went to overtime but Texas Tech never got that chance.
This was a crucial opportunity for Texas Tech to land a signature win over a top-five opponent but they fell short. Head coach Chris Beard will have to get his team together for another win that could put them in the tournament. The Red Raiders certainly looked like a NCAA tournament team and that was including off-nights from much of the roster besides the three 20-point scorers.
Texas Tech has back-to-back games against Baylor and West Virginia after this, so they’ll get more shots to win big games to help their postseason status.