Calling the 24-hour stretch from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon for the Kansas Jayhawks a whirlwind would be an apt description. But after hearing crushing news about a teammate, losing another due to injury and having the athletic director deliver an emotional speech just before tip, KU came out as energized as any game this season and crushed Texas Tech 79-63.
The emotional weekend got started on Friday, when the NCAA ruled sophomore forward Silvio de Sousa out for the rest of this season and next. Unsurprisingly, the decision sent shockwaves through the program. Coach Bill Self and AD Jeff Long released statements on the matter, with Self calling the decision both mean-spirited and vindictive.
“In my 30-plus years of coaching college basketball, I have never witnessed such a mean-spirited and vindictive punishment against a young man who did nothing wrong. To take away his opportunity to play college basketball is shameful and a failure of the NCAA. Silvio is a tremendous young man who absolutely deserves to be on the court with his teammates in a Jayhawk uniform. This process took way too long to address these issues. We will support Silvio as he considers his options.”
Texas Tech coach Chris Beard even offered his own opinion on the de Sousa matter briefly after the game, calling the NCAA’s decision “stuff that makes no sense.”
Long spoke to the media just before the game started and further addressed the situation. He said described the NCAA’s investigation and how much (or little) Self and de Sousa knew about the whole process. He also emphasized that KU is exploring what to do for an appeal, and added that his faith in the NCAA has been “shaken.”
He also became visually emotional twice during the press conference.
Adding to all of that, sophomore guard Marcus Garrett was injured on Friday at practice and was held out of Saturday’s game. He was wearing a walking boot on the sideline. Self said after the game that Garrett is “questionable at best” to play on Tuesday, while the team is hopeful he can go next Saturday.
Despite it all, the Jayhawks came out with as much as fire as they had in any game all year up until this point. That was the case on both ends of the floor, slowing down an already sputtering Red Raiders offense while also executing better on the offensive end that they have in recent weeks.
“You’d have to be an idiot not to understand what we were walking into,” Beard said.
Kansas went into halftime leading by 20, helped by a 9-of-15 effort from three-point range in the first half.
“That’s the best half of basketball we’ve played in a long time, maybe all year,” Self said.
Texas Tech kept the game hovering around a deficit in the high teens for most of the second half but wasn’t able to get much momentum beyond that. A poor shooting night didn’t help matters for the Red Raiders, who went just 6-of-28 from long range.
“I don’t even think it was a game of runs, they beat us from the tip to the final buzzer,” Beard said. “They were the more aggressive team.”
After the game freshman guard Ochai Agbaji expanded on the thought this was a statement game for Kansas, and one that the Jayhawks needed after losing three of their last four contests.
“We really came together, that’s what I think our statement was,” Agbaji said. “We had a lot of pressure going into this game and I thought we handled it well.”
Self echoed that sentiment, saying that while he doesn’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with losing to the likes of Kentucky and Texas, his team needed this win.
“You would think if we’re going to rally the troops and fight together this would be the perfect time to do it,” Self said.
Junior forward Dedric Lawson, as he usually is, was the leading scorer for the Jayhawks. The lone starting big man for Kansas picked up his 15th double-double of the year by scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds before fouling out.
The biggest wild card for the KU offensive attack is Lagerald Vick, and on Saturday the hot-shooting version of the senior guard showed up. Vick made his first four attempts from the floor, finished the game 3-of-4 from deep and scored 13 points.
Vick was the catalyst, especially early on, but three Kansas freshman guards who started all made sizeable impact too. Devon Dotson was the Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer with 20 points to go along with a game-high three steals. Dotson said that one of the most important parts of the win was taking every possession seriously.
“When we’re locked in like that on the defensive end we’re really tough to beat,” Dotson said.
Agbaji finished with a double-double of his own with 10 points and 10 rebounds. That included a pair of alley-oop dunks, one of which elicited a deafening roar from the crowd.
Quentin Grimes even got into the mix, knocking down a pair of three pointers and dishing out four assists.
The Allen Fieldhouse crowd was an active participant in the game on Saturday. Along with a standing ovation when de Sousa walked onto the court before the game, there was a consistent roar throughout the afternoon.
“I think Saturday games here at the Fieldhouse are something special,” Dotson said.
Four Red Raiders scored in double figures, but none scored more than 14 points from Davide Moretti. Tariq Owens posted a double-double for Tech, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“We were in catch-up mode all game,” Texas Tech senior Norense Odiase said. “Only one of [Texas Tech’s seniors] played well enough to win and that was Tariq.”
Next up for the Jayhawks is a trip to Manhattan on Tuesday night for the first Sunflower Showdown of the year against the Kansas State Wildcats. K-State is 5-2 in Big 12 play. Kansas is just 1-5 in true road games this season, but Self said he hopes this weekend’s game was a moment that will lead to better things going forward.
“You can say we’ve had trouble on the road but we’ve also had a hard schedule,” Self said. “Two months from now, I think this will be a totally different team than we are now.”