LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — No. 1 Kansas had the outright Big 12 title wrapped up before going back on the court after halftime. The Jayhawks then finished off something that hadn’t been done in the conference in a decade.
Devon Dotson scored 17 points while Udoka Azubuike had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Jayhawks beat Texas Tech 66-62 on Saturday. They became the Big 12’s first champion with only one loss in league play since they were 15-1 in 2009-10, two seasons before the conference expanded to an 18-game round-robin schedule.
“Everyone in the locker room, that was our goal, to win it outright and don’t share anything,” Dotson said. “For us to go 17-1 is big. Hopefully we can build off of it. We’re not satisfied. We have bigger goals and aspirations, but we can build off of this for sure.”
Kansas (28-3, 17-1 Big 12) had already clinched at least a share of its 19th Big 12 title, the 15th in 16 seasons, with a win Wednesday night over TCU. The Jayhawks were outright champions by halftime Saturday, when second-place and No. 4 Baylor (26-4, 15-3) lost 76-64 at West Virginia.
“I just want to say it’s a good conference,” Azubuike said. “In the Big 12 there are all these teams that are competing all the time. A lot of people really don’t know how hard it is with defense and everything. It’s tough.”
Texas Tech (18-13, 9-9), last year’s national runner-up after sharing the Big 12 title with Kansas State, had a chance to tie the game with 2.8 seconds left. But Davide Moretti, who made a 3-pointer only seconds earlier, missed another one from long range. The Red Raiders guard fell to floor after contact with Marcus Garrett, but was no foul called.
“That’s the best Kansas team I’ve seen,” Tech coach Chris Beard said. “Dotson, the best guard in college basketball. Dok’s the best big in college basketball and Garrett is the best defender in college basketball, and their role players just don’t make mistakes.”
Ochai Agbaji added 12 points for the Jayhawks. Garrett had nine points and eight rebounds, including a driving layup in the final half-minute of the game.
Moretti had 18 points, while TJ Hoyfield had 11 points for Texas Tech, which lost its fourth game in a row when trying to get back into the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought the guys played really hard,” Beard said. “We didn’t have any lapses of effort. … We have seven turnovers, 40-minute game against Kansas. That’s good. I thought the guys competed. They were dialed in. We didn’t get too high or too low. We were right there. We gave ourselves a chance.”
Azubuike put Kansas ahead to stay with his put-back dunk with 1:41 left that made it 59-57.
Holyfield’s 3-pointer tied the game with 2:11 left and came during a stretch of just more than two minutes when he and Azubuike were trading points. Both had a free throw, then both had layups before Holyfield’s 3 and Azubuike’s go-ahead putback.
HE SAID IT
“It’s just been a long grind and it’s been pretty well-documented kinda the not the ups and downs of our season because our season has been primarily all ups, but guys dealing with a lot of stuff. Coaches dealing with some stuff,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Keep focused. Stay disciplined. Stay responsible and to learn to grind. … Guys deserve all the credit.”
Kansas had a 32-24 lead after a 12-2 run over the final seven minutes of the first half, despite missing nine shots in a row. Tech missed nine of its last 10 shots. The Jayhawks then missed seven shots in a row early in the second half, allowing Texas Tech to tie the game at 37-all on Holyfield’s 3 with 14 minutes left.
Kansas: The Jayhawks had never won 17 conference games in the same season. They had won 16 games three times (2002, 2012, 2017). Kansas finished 9-0 in Big 12 road games. They are a certain No. 1 seed, likely the top overall seed, in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens in the Big 12 Tournament.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders, who won a school-record 31 games last season, lost to unranked teams Oklahoma and Texas last week before falling in overtime at No. 4 Baylor and then at home to Kansas. Jahmi’us Ramsey has been their leading scorer as a freshman, though he had only six points in the regular-season finale. Tech has struggled to have an inside presence this season.
The Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. The Jayhawks and Red Raiders both got first-round byes and will play Thursday against opponents to be determined.