KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Kansas reached a major milestone, one just two other programs can claim.
A nice accomplishment, worthy of the trophy case.
There just isn’t time for the Jayhawks to enjoy it. Not after struggling against Texas Tech, not with more important goals still out there.
Leaning on stars Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, No. 1 Kansas became the third team to reach 2,000 wins by pulling out an 80-68 victory over scrappy Texas Tech on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
“It means a lot to us right now, but right now we still have a lot of games ahead of us and we don’t want to put too much focus on it,” Collins said. “It means a lot to people who support us, all the players who played before us and all the people who support the program, so it’s more for them than for us.”
Kansas (30-2) was upset by Baylor in last year’s Big 12 tournament and seemed headed for another with an uneven start. The Jayhawks slogged through a sloppy first half and had to withstand a Texas Tech rally in the second before pulling away to reach 30 wins for the ninth time, including three of the past four years.
Aldrich had 12 points, 18 rebounds and altered the game defensively, while Collins had 19 points and six assists despite foul trouble. Markieff Morris provided a lift off the bench with 11 points and nine rebounds, and Xavier Henry added 13 points help Kansas join Kentucky and North Carolina in the 2,000-win club.
The milestone behind them, Kansas has some work to do before Friday’s semifinals against the Texas A&M-Nebraska winner, then on into the NCAA tournament.
“We can improve on a lot of things,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Texas Tech (17-15) all but secured an NIT berth by beating Colorado in the opener, but its only chance at an NCAA berth was to win the Big 12 tournament. The Red Raiders gave themselves at least a shot against the nation’s top-ranked team, answering every run but one.
John Roberson had 14 points and eight assists, and Darko Cohadarevic added 14 points to keep Texas Tech within reach until the closing minutes.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. “Many kids would have quit after the three weeks we had, but they came back, won a game we had to have yesterday, then gave Kansas everything we had. I couldn’t ask for more from a group of kids.”
Ranked as high as No. 19 early in the season, Texas Tech staggered down the stretch behind a struggling defense. The Red Raiders had a few defensive lapses early against Colorado in the first round of the Big 12 before tightening up for a decisive win that ended a seven-game losing streak.
The intensity continued early against Kansas.
The Jayhawks manhandled Texas Tech inside in the first meeting in January – 14 more points in the paint, 11 more rebounds – and the Red Raiders were determined not to let it happen again, swarming Kansas’ post players on every touch.
Kansas was out of sorts even without Tech’s pressure.
The Jayhawks made careless passes, took poor shots and had one blunder after another in the first half to let Texas Tech stay within two – a 22-point turnaround from the first meeting.
“They played better than us for sure in the first half,” Self said. “We were fortunate to be up two.”
Kansas, as Texas Tech expected, went on a run, going up 12 early in the second half.
The Jayhawks tried to pull away from there, but Texas Tech wouldn’t back down.
The Red Raiders cut the lead to 55-50 on Mike Singletary’s three-point play with 11 1/2 minutes left and kept answering Kansas’ attempts to stretch the lead. Texas Tech made it 65-61 on Cohadarevic’s sweeping hook shot and were within two when Roberson scored on a tough reverse to set up a potential three-point play.
He missed and Kansas took over.
Collins hit a 3-pointer, Kansas got a stop and Henry added another 3, putting Kansas up 71-63 with five minutes left. Texas Tech didn’t have another run after that and will likely head to the NIT while Kansas hopes to sew up the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
“We know how they are,” Knight said. “A team like that, you get up 10, you know they’re going to come back. They’re just so potent from an offensive and defensive standpoint, you just can’t get too happy with yourself.”