The Kansas Jayhawks took on the Texas Tech Red Raiders last night in their first matchup of the conference season. With Jaye Crocket leading the way, Texas Tech played a hard fought game but the Jayhawks were able to pull out a win in Lubbock with a go ahead shot by Andrew Wiggins in the closing seconds. Let’s take a look at how the Jayhawks managed to steal a win in Lubbock:
1. Joel Embiid’s triumphant return: While Embiid sat out against TCU last week, the seven footer was back in action last night in Lubbock, Texas. Joel came up big with a blocked shot and a tremendous slam dunk towards the end of the game to help the Jayhawks get a late one point lead on the Red Raiders. Embiid was just shy of a double-double as he put up 18 points, 8 rebounds, and a block in 32 minutes of play. While it looks as if he’s still struggling with a little bit of a back injury, it will be crucial that Embiid can put up big numbers on Saturday when the Jayhawks take on a physical Texas team at home.
2. Can KU build on their second half defense against TCU? Unfortunately, the Jayhawks defense wasn’t that impressive again last night. Kansas gave up 47% shooting from the field and 50% shooting from behind the arc to one of the worst shooting teams in the Bg 12. They also didn’t have much of an answer for four of Texas Tech’s five starters, as Crockett, Kravic, Tolbert, and Turner all put up double figures. So, if it wasn’t for Wiggins’ last second layup, Kansas would have lost last night to a mediocre Tech team to find themselves only one game ahead of Texas in the Big 12 race. This is a bit alarming as a Kansas fan because the Jayhawks’ defense hasn’t looked very good ever since they lost to Texas a couple of weeks ago. If the Jayhawks want to contend for a national title, they’re going to have to buy in to Self’s defensive mentality, or they could see an early second or third round exit in March.
3. Who stops Crockett? Perry Ellis didn’t have a great offensive night as he went 0-3 from the field and hit only four free throws the entire game. Fortunately, his defensive effort in the first half was much better than his offensive effort as he held Crockett to just six points during the first 20 minutes of play. In the second half, Crockett was held to just four points as he finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds. Being able to contain Crockett gave an advantage to the Jayhawks as he couldn’t really get into a rhythm the entire night, however other players like Tolbert and Kravic stepped up which ultimately kept the game close. Wiggins guarded Crockett for most of the game because Ellis got in constant foul trouble. As always, Wiggins did a great job defending. Wiggins came up with two blocks in the final 3 minutes of the game. Both of them were Crockett shots. His second shot was the most important as it came with 50 seconds left when Kansas was down one point.