KANSAS CITY, Mo. – David McCormack had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Ochai Agbaji made a pair of clinching foul shots with just over a minute to go, and sixth-ranked Kansas beat No. 14 Texas Tech 74-65 on Saturday night to win the Big 12 Tournament title.
Agbaji finished with 16 points, Christian Braun had 14 and Jalen Wilson and Remy Martin 12 apiece to lead the Jayhawks (27-6), who showcased poise and resilience in the final minutes while the Red Raiders fumbled away a chance at the title.
Texas Tech trailed 63-58 with about 4 minutes to go when Terrence Shannon Jr. was called for charging. Kevin Obanor turned it over on the Red Raiders’ next possession, then stepped over the end line while trying to inbound the ball for another turnover, each of them allowing the Jayhawks to draw away down the stretch.
The heavily pro-Kansas crowd began its haunting “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk” chant with 28.6 seconds left on the clock, and coach Bill Self’s squad coasted to its 12th conference tournament title since the league’s inception in 1996-97.
It probably locked up a No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament, too.
Shannon finished with 14 points, and Bryson Williams had 17 for the Red Raiders (25-9), who still have never won the Big 12 Tournament. They also lost to Oklahoma State in their only other championship appearance in 2005.
The teams, who finished a game apart in the Big 12, waged a pair of nip-and-tuck classics during the regular season with each winning at home. Their game at Allen Fieldhouse may have been the league’s best all year, a back-and-forth showdown that went to double overtime before the Jayhawks escaped with the win.
Just how evenly matched were they Saturday night?
Neither team scored more than five straight points in the first half. Neither led by more than four. Neither scored more than two straight baskets without the other team providing some kind of answer at the other end.
Even when it looked as if Kansas was building some momentum, and Martin knocked down a long jumper to make it 37-33 in the final minute, Williams provided an answering 3-pointer to keep the Red Raiders within a point at the half.
It remained close throughout the second half.
When Kansas edged ahead by five, Shannon and the Red Raiders responded with seven straight points. When Texas Tech took a 54-51 lead with 11:20 to go, Wilson and Agbaji – the tournament’s MVP – provided back-to-back buckets that began a 12-2 charge and gave the Jayhawks a 63-56 lead with less than 5 minutes to play.
They showcased the veteran poised needed to maintain it the rest of the way.
Texas Tech was still within 64-60 with 3:06 to play, but Kansas scored the next six points as the Red Raiders continued to wilt under the pressure. It was a stunning departure from the norm for a team that starts a junior (Shannon) alongside five seniors and that has played in plenty of tight games this season.
Kansas overcame a poor performance from beyond the arc (3 for 22) by doing the little things: The Jayhawks took care of the ball, made the extra pass and got to the foul line. They were 25 of 32 on their free throws, including big ones from Agbaji – the league’s player of the year – when the outcome was on the line.
It’s time for Selection Sunday. The Jayhawks have an eye on one of the four No. 1 seeds while the Red Raiders could land as high as the No. 2 line after their spirited run to the Big 12 Tournament title game.