The Kansas Jayhawks are Big 12 champions for the 17th time in 20 years under coach Bill Self after holding off the Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-63 on Tuesday night.
That’s also the 40th consecutive senior night win for the Jayhawks, dating back to the 1983-84 season.
While Texas Tech never led in the second half, third-ranked KU had to overcome a bevy of shooting struggles to secure the win, but in the game’s waning moments it was the senior honorees who came up with some of the biggest plays.
“I’m exhausted,” Self said. “That was a high-pressure game, self-inflicted pressure.”
Jalen Wilson, who’s graduating and went through senior night festivities but has been listed as a junior this year, posted a gritty performance fitting of the likely Big 12 Player of the Year. He led all scorers with 21 points, going just 6-of-16 from the floor but 9-of-10 from the free throw line.
Wilson’s effort in Tuesday’s game arguably epitomized something Self said about him during postgame senior night celebrations.
“I think he’ll go down as one of the greatest winners in the history of Kansas basketball,” Self said.
Wilson is in his fourth season with the program and has built up a larger legacy in that time, but senior guard and Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar has carved out a notable one of his own in recent games.
McCullar scored 14 points and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in the win, and one of the biggest plays of the game on each end. Defensively, with the Jayhawks clinging to a four-point lead with under seven minutes left, McCullar emphatically blocked his former teammate, Kevin Obanor, as the latter went for a dunk.
A few minutes later, with the lead down to one point, McCullar scooped up a lose ball that neither Wilson nor sophomore forward K.J. Adams could corral, swiping it away from Tech’s De’Vion Harmon and laying it in to extend KU’s advantage.
“If anyone was going to make a play like that, it’s Kevin,” Wilson said. “He makes plays when it matters the most.”
Self went on to call it one of the most competitive plays he’s seen in his time at Kansas.
McCullar downplayed the personal nature of this particular matchup, but still emphasized that moments like that are why he wanted to join the Jayhawks.
“I just wanted to win, I wanted to win a Big 12 championship with these guys,” McCullar said. “That’s one of the reasons I came here, to win games like this.”
Junior guard Dajuan Harris was KU’s only other double-figure scorer, adding 16 points on 7-of-12 from the floor. That was the most efficient shooting night of anyone for Kansas, save for one make on one attempt by reserve freshman center Ernest Udeh. As a team, the Jayhawks shot just 39.3% from the floor and 21.7% from three-point range.
“They find a way to win even when we’re not very good, and that’s what happened tonight,” Self said.
Texas Tech made 41% of its shots overall but struggled even more than KU on threes, going just 3-of-16 from deep. Harmon led the Red Raiders in scoring with 15 points in the losing effort.
“I think both teams struggled on the offensive end,” Texas Tech coach Mark Adams said. “I thought that they made some big plays down the stretch, especially the last couple of minutes. That was difference in the game.”
That’s two consecutive tight home wins for KU after also narrowly edging the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon 76-74. While they weren’t aesthetically pleasing wins, they came at a fortuitous time for the Big 12 race. Kansas has won seven in a row to surge to the top of the standings, but it’s gotten some help from the now second-place Texas Longhorns, who lost over the weekend to the Baylor Bears.
Now, KU has two ways it can win the Big 12 championship outright. If the Jayhawks win their season finale at Texas on Saturday, or if the Longhorns lose their penultimate game against the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday, the title belongs to Kansas alone.
Saturday’s season finale between Kansas and Texas is set for a 3:00 p.m. tip in Austin.
Click below to hear what Bill Self and the Jayhawks had to say following KU’s 67-63 win over Texas Tech.
For more reaction to the Kansas Jayhawks’ 67-63 win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders, check out Mic’d Up with Jake and Fulton from noon-3:00 p.m., and 580 Sports Talk with Brendan and Dan from 3-6:00 p.m. Wednesday on 580 WIBW.