LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas Tech fought back from an eight-point halftime deficit and tied the game with two minutes remaining on a TJ Holyfield 3-pointer, but were unable to close it out in a 66-62 loss to No. 1 Kansas on Saturday at the United Supermarkets Arena.
The Red Raiders (18-13, 9-9 Big 12) overcame a 32-24 halftime margin to get back in the game that they trailed by two after a Kevin McCullar dunk with 1:10 remaining, but the Jayhawks would secure the Big 12 regular-season title by answering each time throughout the game and with Marcus Garrett and Devon Dotson making back-to-back shots in the final minute to sweep the regular-season series and finish at 17-1 in conference play. Tech will go into next week's Big 12 Championships on a four-game losing streak and finished the regular season with a 13-4 overall record at home this season, while the Kansas has won 16 straight going into Kansas City.
"I thought our guys played really hard," Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. "We didn't have many lapses of effort. I thought we took care of the ball. We had a couple crucial turnovers late but if you look at the final box score, we have seven turnovers 40-minute game against Kansas. That's good. I thought they competed. They were dialed in. We didn't get too high or too low throughout the game. We were we were right there. We gave ourselves a chance. I'm proud of our guys."
Davide Moretti led the Red Raiders with 18 points after going 6-for-14 from the field with two 3-pointers along with knocking down 4 of 4 shots from the free-throw line. Moretti made his final 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to 65-62 before Garrett made one of two free throws to seal the game. Holyfield finished his final home game as a Red Raider with 11 points and three blocked shots, while Terrence Shannon, Jr. led the reserves with eight points and four rebounds. Kevin McCullar, who made a 3-pointer with seven minutes remaining to bring Tech to within 50-49, finished the game with a team-high eight rebounds and also had seven points. Jahmi'us Ramsey added six points and senior Chris Clarke matched McCullar with eight rebounds and also had four points, while Kyler Edwards led the team with five assists but was limited to three points.
Dotson led the Jayhawks with 17 points, five assists and added seven rebounds and Udoka Azubuike recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. KU finished the game shooting 41.0 percent from the field after going just 4-for-17 on 3-pointers, but owned the paint with a 38-16 scoring advantage. Ochai Agbaji led the Kansas bench with 12 points and six rebounds in a game where Garrett provided nine points and eight rebounds.
Kansas finished the game with a 46-36 rebounding advantage and limited the Red Raiders to 37.1 percent shooting and 8 of 26 on 3-pointers. Moretti, Holyfield and Ramsey each had two 3-pointers for Tech which also sent 8 of 13 from the free-throw line in the four-point decision. Moretti led the Red Raiders with nine points at halftime while Clarke had six rebounds after the opening 20 minutes. Tech was limited to 30.3 percent shooting in the first half and were 0-for-2 at the free-throw line. KU, which led by as many as 15 in the first matchup in Lawrence, led by eight at the break after owning a 28-16 rebounding advantage at the break and getting nine points from Dotson and eight from Azubuike.
Seeding for next week's Big 12 Championship will be solidified after the completion off all games on Saturday. Tech fell to 1-7 all-time against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation after topping Louisville by a 70-57 margin on Dec. 10 at the Jimmy V Classic in New York.
Statement about the game: "We came up a little short but we're proud of the fight. That's the best Kansas team that I've seen. I've been at Texas Tech for a long time. You know, [Dotson] is the best guard in college basketball, [Udoka] is the best big in college basketball and Garrett is the best defender in college basketball, and their role players just don't make mistakes you know, they're contributions are always positive, they never beat them. Moss might be the best shooter in college basketball so you know our guys would play 20-minute half first half come a little bit short and we beat him by four in the second half so I'm really proud of our guys, doesn't make it any better. We're here to win and we always will be, you know as long as I'm the coach here we'll try to win every game. Very thankful for our fans and I just really wanted to win this game for these two guys game and I just wish I could have done more, but we tried no doubt about it."
On the game against Texas Tech: "That was fun for me. I don't know how Chris feels, but I'm sure he's down, because nobody wants to lose a hard fought competitive game like that. But he should feel good about his team too, they're a good team and this game didn't really mean a lot as far as implications down the road, so hopefully both teams can build off of this and press on to do well moving forward."
On perimeter defense: "I don't know, I thought Dot had his hands full today with Moretti. Those guys kind of off-set each other. I thought he played really well, but the big thing is Marcus did a good job on their leading scorer. And I'm not saying it was all Marcus, but Ramsey had six and we did a good job of not letting him get loose like he did the first time. Holyfield got loose late, but we did a good job on him especially the first half. Our defense was pretty solid. When a team shoots 26 three's, they're a team that one of the best three-point shooting teams in our league and that's pretty good. Once again to get outscored, you know 12 points before the arch is not a formula for success, but fortunately for us we were able to get enough easy two's to offset the difference."
On Tech's close games: "Yeah, they could've won either game. They made free throws they could beat Kentucky, they were right there late tie game with us, and if I'm not mistaken there was another game or two that came right down to the wire. I don't know what 18-13 teams look like across America, but they're by far the best one. Without question."
On in the overall toughness of the game: "Very tough game. Credit to them, they battled. The fans ran it. They were on a run and it was a physical game. But we executed down the stretch and toughed it out to get the win."