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The Wrap Up: Big 12 basketball Game 11 recap and analysis

NCAA Basketball: Texas Christian at Kansas

With eighteen games on the Big 12 men’s basketball slate we’ll break down each set of games upon completion. Today it’s a review of the eleventh set of games in the Big 12 Conference, played on Feb. 5-7 (rankings in parenthesis in standings are AP).

BIG 12 STANDINGSConf.All
Texas Tech (7)8-320-4
Kansas (10)8-319-5
West Virginia (19)7-418-6
Kansas State6-517-7
Oklahoma (17)6-516-7
Texas5-615-9
TCU4-716-8
Baylor4-714-10
Oklahoma State4-714-10
Iowa State3-812-11

Results

Monday, Feb. 5
West Virginia 75 Oklahoma, 73
Tuesday, Feb. 6
Baylor 67, Oklahoma State 56
Kansa 71, TCU 64
Wednesday, Feb. 7
Kansas State 67, Texas 64
Texas Tech 76, Iowa State 58

NEXT GAMES (all times CST unless noted)

Saturday, Feb. 10
Oklahoma State at West Virginia, noon EST
Kansas at Baylor, 1 p.m., CBS
Oklahoma at Iowa State, 1 p.m., ESPN
Texas at TCU, 1 p.m., ESPN
Texas Tech at Kansas State, 7 p.m., ESPNU

Superlatives

20-point games: 32 — Trae Young (Oklahoma); 24 — Devonte’ Graham (Kansas); 22 — Cameron Lard (Iowa State); 21 — Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech)
10-rebound games: 13 — Khadeem Lattin (OU); 12 — Mo Bamba (Texas); 11 — Udoka Azubuike (KU); Sagaba Konate (West Virginia)
5-assist games: 9 — Alex Robinson (TCU); 8 — Jevon Carter (WV); 6 — Barry Brown Jr. (Kansas State); 5 — Jake Lindsey (Baylor), Lindell Wigginton (ISU), Devonte’ Graham (KU), Malik Newman (KU), Brandon Averette (Oklahoma State).
4-block games: 4 — Khadeem Lattin (OU).
4-steal games: 6 — Jevon Carter (WV); 4 — Xavier Sneed (KSU), Mitchell Solomon (OSU).
Double-doubles: Udoka Azubuike (KU), 16 points, 11 rebounds; Mo Bamba (Texas), 18 points, 12 rebounds; Sagaba Konate (West Virginia), 14 points, 11 rebounds;

The Starting 5

Manu Lecomte, Baylor: His 3-point shooting during the Bears’ 16-0 run set up Baylor’s second straight victory.
Sagaba Konate, West Virginia: His progress has been amazing. A double-double with two blocks, and he probably altered a half-dozen other shots.
Devonte’ Graham, Kansas: He continues to be the fuel that drives the Jayhawks team, this time with 24 points and 5 assists.
Barry Brown Jr., Kansas State: A balanced game (11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) and a late basket to give KSU a 5-point lead in the final minute.
Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech: Come for the career-high 21 points. Stay for the burgeoning defender.

The Sixth Man

Lamont West, West Virginia: The guy was a microwave in the first half, hitting five 3-pointers on his way to 17 points.

Rankings and Bracketology

Every Monday I post the latest Bracketology from ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi and CBSSports.com’s Jerry Palm. Find the tweets below.


And this week, yes, there IS NIT bracketology.


WOODEN AWARD
The Big 12 occupies 25 percent of the remaining players in the running for the John Wooden Award, given to the nation’s best men’s player.

The Games

West Virginia 75, Oklahoma 73: Sometimes your strategy is your opponent’s strategy. Such was Big Monday.
After watching the Oklahoma-Texas game on Saturday I wondered how Trae Young’s stamina might look on Monday against West Virginia. He played all 40 minutes in that game and Texas used a two-pronged effort to try and wear him down — double-team him on inbounds passes off made baskets and extend their man defense to make sure he couldn’t shoot his long-range 3’s. It worked. Texas won. Young didn’t clear 20 points, but he did have a ridiculous 14 assists.

Both Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins surely watched that tape and both realized something. Kruger need to get his point guard some sort of break but managing his minutes like an NBA player isn’t an option. Huggins had to make a choice, and not an easy one — let Young beat him up or let Young’s teammates do it.
So, Huggins decided to do essentially what Texas did — force OU to inbound the ball to someone other than Young. As it turned out, the Sooners were totally OK with this. As I watched the game it became apparent Kruger wanted his other guards, Rashard Odomes or Christian James, to bring the ball up. It was made even clearer when Young headed up the floor instead of coming back for the ball after made baskets.

It worked for both parties. Think about it. If you’re West Virginia you’re putting your best defender on Young, and that’s Jevon Carter. He could use a rest on occasion, and by simply surrendering to the strategy and having Young high-tail it to the other end, Carter got exactly that. Oh, and he put that rest to good use when he defended Young in the halfcourt.


As for Young, well he needed the break, too. It’s not like the Sooners aren’t going to get him the basketball anyway. Let Odomes or James bring it up and then get it to Young. Now, that’s less time for Young to run the offense, of course. But unless the Mountaineers were going to totally deny Young the ball — which they, surprisingly, didn’t do — Young can make that work because, well, he is the offense.

Young had another fine outing, scoring 32 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 4-of-10 from the 3-point line (he really heated up there in the second half) and 8-of-9 shooting at the free throw line. But this game will be remembered for the fact that Young had just one assist — and that assist came in the final two minutes. It’s not like Young didn’t pass the ball. He passed it plenty. But while Young shot 50 percent from the floor his teammates shot 15-of-36 from the floor, or 41.6 percent. Not earth-shatteringly bad, of course. But when you consider the first half of this game, well…


Both teams tailed off after the break, starting 1-fot-19 from the floor by the first TV time out. West Virginia didn’t score until the 14:33 mark of the second half, but because the Sooners were shooting so poorly they maintained the lead. The Mountaineers didn’t shoot their first free throws of the game until 13:46 left in the second half. It made WVU fans long for the days of the first half when Mountaineers sub Lamont West was raining 3’s on everything as he ended up leading West Virginia with 17 points.


West’s stretch was pretty critical, though, because it helped the Mountaineers build a double-diglt lead in the first half. And the Mountaineers have had trouble with double-digit leads lately, having lost three of them in the second half of games in Big 12 play. And, as you would expect, the Sooners made a run and Young led it, with some help from a friendly spin off the backboard.


West Virginia had to hang on in this one, and an Esa Ahmad free throw with 13 seconds left at least pushed the Mountaineer lead to two points. But he missed the second one. In stepped “Press Virginia,” which made Young’s life almost impossible, forced him to pass it off under the basket and OU’s last gasp to tie the game fell off the rim.


That’s two straight wins now for West Virginia where the defensive effort has looked better than it did just a week ago when they went to Iowa State and got throttled. Center Sagaba Konate had another fine game, finishing with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocked shots (and he probably should have had more). Carter had a supremely good line, even though he didn’t shoot that well — 10 points, 8 assists and 6 steals. It’s starting to look like the Mountaineers are coming out of that trough that defined their January. But their overall shooting must improve as they get closer to the Big 12 Tournament.

Meanwhile, OU has now lost two straight. Brady Manek added 12 points and Khadeem Lattin had a great game on the glass with 13 boards, but only scored 6 points. The bench scoring that OU had against Texas on Saturday wasn’t there against West Virginia. The Sooners are finding that as teams adopt new strategies to slow Young down, it’s up to the rest of their team to help find ways to win.

Baylor 67, Oklahoma State 56: This game became about one massive run by Baylor at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half of Tuesday’s game with Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys were up by two points, 30-28, with 4:20 to play in the first half after Jeffrey Carroll hit a 3-pointer. To that point it had been a tight game. The Bears opened it up fast after the TV timeout at 3:54. Bears guard Manu Lecomte (18 points, 4 assists) hit a jumper to tie the game. Then he knocked home back-to-back 3-pointers to give Baylor a 6-point lead, which prompted OSU head coach Mike Boynton to take a timeout. That didn’t cool Baylor off. Nuni Omot (14 points, 5 rebounds) hit a corner 3-pointer to give the Bears a 39-30 lead and an 11-0 run to end the first half.
It didn’t stop there. Coming out of the locker room Mark Vital’s layup pushed Baylor’s lead to 41-30, and after a short drought Lecomte hit another 3-pointer to push Baylor’s lead to 44-30 before the under-16 timeout.

The 16-0 run set the Bears up for the rest of the game, even as Oklahoma State fought back after finally snapping their eight-minute scoring drought with a layup by Mitchell Solomon (13 points, 5 rebounds). The closest the Cowboys ever got down the stretch was a five-point deficit, 57-52, after Kendall Smith (15 points, 4 rebounds) hit a 3-pointer. But Baylor answered right away with a jumper by Lecomte and OSU could never get any closer.

The Bears looked dead a week ago after four straight losses, but back-to-back wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State has the Bears pointed in the right direction again. However, it could be short-lived happiness with Kansas coming to Waco this weekend. But we’ll see. If the Bears can shoot against Kansas the way they shot against Oklahoma State (54.2 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from the 3-point line and 100 percent from the free throw line), then the Bears have a chance. And, by the way, Baylor didn’t attempt a free throw until about 30 minutes into the game. Tristan Clark, who fouled out with six minutes left in the game, scored 10 points in just 16 minutes and is proving to be a solid part of Baylor’s starting lineup. Mark Vital gave Baylor a powerful line of 9 points and 9 rebounds.

This was a big win for Baylor’s teetering NCAA Tournament hopes and they need to keep this run going to make a legit run. Otherwise, it’s probably a trip to the NIT.

As for Oklahoma State, this may have been a good old-fashioned letdown game after upsetting the Jayhawks in Lawrence on Saturday. The Cowboys shot 37.3/23.8/47.6 for the game and Carroll had a subpar game from the floor, going 4-of-12 from the floor for 9 points. Cam McGriff, who entered the game averaging 13 points in his last three games, scored just five points.

Kansas 71, TCU 64:
“(We have) A couple of guys, starters, that obviously don’t try very hard. We’re going to make some changes in our lineup, at least one change. We don’t have a lot of options to do more than that. But it’d be nice to have guys who compete and play to their athletic ability.”

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to draw a line from Kansas coach Bill Self’s comments on Monday to his starting lineup on Tuesday against TCU. He benched Lagerald Vick and slid Mitch Lightfoot into the starting lineup. Vick was one of the best scorers in the conference during non-conference action, scoring 16.5 points per game. In Big 12 action Vick’s scoring has fallen off a cliff, averaging 8.3 points per game. Apparently, Self wasn’t thrilled with the effort, either.

Lightfoot has been a nice addition off the bench and has earned more playing time the last month, ever since his 9-point, 7-rebound, 6-block effort against TCU last month in Fort Worth. But Tuesday was his first career start. Lightfoot ended up with 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks, one of which came early in the second half.


Vick, meanwhile, came off the bench and scored 10 points, one of two Kansas bench players to score 10 points in the game (Marcus Garrett was the other). Vick shot 3-of-9 from the floor and missed a couple of layups he could have made, even in traffic. He went 0-for-3 from the 3-point line. But he did hit four critical free throws in the final eight minutes of the game that helped keep the Jayhawks in front of a pesky Horned Frogs team trying to hand Kansas another loss in Allen Fieldhouse.

Perhaps this was a breakthrough night for Vick. We’ll see in the next few games. But Kansas clearly needs more from him that its received since Big 12 play began. On Tuesday they played only seven players and that’s about all the depth they have right now.

It was a strange night for Kansas. Two of their starters — Svi Mykhailiuk and Malik Newman — had unproductive games. Entering the contest, the pair averaged 29 combined points. On Tuesday Mykhailiuk — one of the best 3-point shooters in the country — had 1 point, while Newman had four. Newman had a bad shooting night — 1-of-9. Mykhailiuk just didn’t shoot, as he went 0-for-2 from the floor. It really didn’t make much sense. Fortunately, the other two starters stepped in.

Guard Devonte’ Graham had 24 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals, while Udoka Azubuike had 16 points and 11 rebounds. We’ve come to expect this from Graham, who played 40 minutes for the eighth time this season. But I thought Azubuike had one of his more assertive games in Big 12 action, at times owning the paint and altering shots. But he also had a solid night from the free throw line — 4-of-7 — and that helped the Jayhawks down the stretch.

TCU had every opportunity to win this game. The Horned Frogs came out shooting the 3 very well, hitting eight in the first half. In fact, the Horned Frogs had a two-point lead at halftime, and Kansas had been 1-4 this season when behind at the half. But the Horned Frogs hit just two more 3-pointers in the second half and their accuracy slowed, giving Kansas a chance to assert itself as the game wore on. Kouat Noi had a great game off the bench for TCU, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring a team-high 17 points. Vladimir Brodziansky scored 15 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, while guard Desmond Bane had 10 points. But this game followed a familiar script for TCU, as the Horned Frogs were in the contest until the very but were unable to close the deal.

We all know Kansas is going to the NCAA Tournament. TCU? Well, right now they’re in both ESPN and CBS Sports bracketology, but now the Horned Frogs have seven conference losses. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla seems to believe that a team with an 8-10 league record in the Big 12 is capable of making it to the NCAA Tournament. If you accept that logic, the Horned Frogs still have some wiggle room to reach the NCAA Tournament. But the Horned Frogs need to start winning some of these close games.

Kansas State 67, Texas 64: You have to love a close game, especially when you can’t watch it (thanks, Longhorn Network).

Going into this one I actually felt there was a chance for a road steal here for K-State. Two straight losses by the Wildcats to Kansas and West Virginia, albeit both ranked teams, put the Wildcats in a position where they had to guard against getting on a downhill roll of losing games. And, when you consider the Wildcats’ next game is at home against Texas Tech on Saturday, a loss to Texas could have been a real blow heading into next week when K-State has winnable games against Oklahoma State and Iowa State. Remember — Bracketology has K-State as a bubble team right now. So, a win over Texas, which is seeded ahead of the Wildcats in both ESPN and CBS Sports Bracketology, would be a nice feather for them.

What stuck out Wednesday night was how well K-State shot (53.7 percent from the floor) and the balance on offense. There were no 20-point scorers, but all five starters were in double figures, led by Dean Wade’s 16 points. Head coach Bruce Weber had to love that. With all five starters scoring well (none of them shot worse than 50 percent), then Texas’ defense had to account for all of them. Barry Brown Jr. scored his final points on a layup with a minute left to give K-State a five-point lead and that proved to be the clincher down the stretch, despite Texas’ efforts to foul and extend the game.

I look at the Texas box score and I wonder what happened. Well, K-State is one of the better defensive teams in the Big 12 (ask Oklahoma’s Trae Young about that) and the Longhorns shot 41.4 percent from the floor and 27.6 percent from the 3-point line. Texas also had 16 turnovers. Guard Kerwin Roach was 2-of-10 and scored just six points. Guard Matt Coleman, after a great outing against OU on Saturday scored just 8 points. When the guards aren’t on for Texas, the Longhorns have problems on offense.

Mo Bamba was the only Longhorns starter in double figures (18 points) and he added 12 rebounds, but he only blocked one shot. Eric Davis Jr. added 13 points off the bench, including a 3-pointer inside the last 30 seconds that did cut K-State lead to two. But the Wildcats managed to avoid the tie.

A loss isn’t a deal-breaker for Texas, which has consistently been an eighth or a ninth-seed in Bracketology. But this stretch is a critical one for them, too. Winnable games with TCU and Baylor await before a rematch with OU on Feb. 17, followed by a rematch with K-State on Feb. 21. Of course, those games are just as winnable for their opponents. Like we’ve been saying all season, nothing’s easy in this conference.

Texas Tech 76, Iowa State 58: There are a passel of great young freshmen in the Big 12 and they’re not all named Trae Young. If you haven’t check in on Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, you need to start.


Smith had a career-high 21 points, but his overall game had to leave his head coach, Chris Beard, downright giddy. Smith added 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. Plus, Smith brought it when the Red Raiders needed to get a little distance between themselves and the persistent, but shorthanded, Cyclones.

It started with 7:46 left in the game and Iowa State down just four points, 55-51, after a Cameron Lard layup (and don’t worry, we’ll get to him in a minute). Tech senior guard Keenan Evans found Smith on an alley-oop dunk 10 times more impressive than the dunk in the tweet above to give the Red Raiders a six-point lead. The Cyclones did answer with some defense and a devastating dunk by Lard (again, we’ll get there) to cut the lead to 57-53. But on the next possession Smith took a pass off the wing, drove to the basket, up faked two defenders and then dished to Justin Gray for a layup. After a couple of more possessions, Smith drew a foul with 6:07 left, made both free throws and pushed the lead to 8 points, 61-53.

By this point the Red Raiders were rolling downhill and outscored Iowa State 15-5 the rest of the way to become the Big 12’s first 20-win team. Smith was the player that sparked the run and he was a consistent presence throughout the game. Earlier this season Smith had flash plays like this for the Red Raiders. He’s now starting to add defense, and if he can compete at both ends then Beard has a budding star on his hands. The Red Raiders haven’t had to ask Smith to be a huge presence on offense because they’re so balanced and because Evans is their offensive star. Evans had 15 points and Jarrett Culver, the other budding freshman star on this team, had 16 points. One thing to be concerned about? Just 2-of-11 from the 3-point line. The Red Raiders don’t live and die by it, but they have to shoot better than that.

Now, to Lard, the Cyclones’ redshirt freshman forward. He had a career night as well, netting 22 points before fouling out. He shot 10-of-11, grabbed 5 rebounds and had 2 blocks. He played with a real presence in the second half and was a big reason why the Cyclones remained in this game until the final six minutes. He kept wiping the glass on the offense end (4 offensive boards) and kept putting them back in. He’s not a traditional back-to-the-basket post at 6-foot-9, but he can jump out of the gym and isn’t afraid to go head-up against bigger players. When Lard is aggressive and going to the basket, Iowa State really benefits.

The Cyclones needed that from Lard because they shot 38.6 percent from the floor and senior guard Donovan Jackson was held to 6 points. Lindell Wigginton had 13 points for the Cyclones, but Tech’s defense made him disappear for stretches in this one. The Cyclones only dressed eight players as Nick Weiler-Babb and Hans Brase were out with injuries, but they played all eight because several Cyclones were in foul trouble. I’ve written several times this season that I really like the foundation ISU head coach Steve Prohm has built with these young players, but they’re taking their lumps. And I talked about that and the rest of Big 12 basketball on the Ken Miller Show on KBGG 1700 in Des Moines on Wednesday.


For Iowa State, the goal has to be to remain above .500 for the season to try and interest the NIT in offering them a bid.

Leftovers

Entering Monday’s game OU guard Trae Young had averaged 37.7 points in his last three home games and shot 56 percent from the 3-point line. … Young now has 23 straight games with a 3-pointer. … Young did not have an assist in the first half of Monday’s game, the first time that has happened this season. … West Virginia C Sagaba Konate hit double figures in scoring for the seventh straight game. … OU is now 11-1 at home this season and Monday’s loss snapped its 14-game home winning streak. OU’s last home loss was on Feb. 8, 2017, against West Virginia. … Before Mike Boynton led Oklahoma State into Lawrence, Kansas, last weekend and beat the Jayhawks, the last first-year coach to win at Kansas was Michigan’s Bill Frieder in 1980. … OSU’s Mitchell Solomon has fouled out of six of the Cowboys’ 11 Big 12 games. He did not foul out on Tuesday. … Baylor held a lead at halftime for the first time since Dec. 20 vs. Southern and is 10-0 this season with a halftime lead. … Baylor has recorded at least 20 wins in nine of its last 10 seasons. Head coach Scott Drew won his 291st career game at Baylor Tuesday. He is the program’s all-time winningest coach. … Baylor has had six NBA draft picks in the last six years, most of any Division I program in the state of Texas. … Baylor’s win on Tuesday was its first road win this season. … Kansas has been outrebounded in 12 of its last 13 games. … Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham has scored a 3-pointer in 24 straight games. … TCU is now 1-78 against ranked teams on the road. The Horned Frogs’ only road win against a ranked team came in January of 1998 at No. 24 Hawaii. … TCU guard Alex Robinson passed his head coach, Jamie Dixon, for No. 8 on TCU’s all-time assists list. … TCU guard Kenrich Williams is now TCU’s No. 5 all-time rebounder. … Texas Tech has now won 16 straight games at home. … Tech’s No. 7 national ranking is tied for the highest in school history.

Looking ahead to Saturday: It’s an early viewing day with four games starting by 1 p.m. central. Kansas at Baylor could be intriguing because the Bears have an inside advantage with their frontline, while TCU (vs. Texas) and Iowa State (vs. Oklahoma) look for home upsets. The Mountaineers host the Cowboys and, in the late game, Texas Tech gets a showcase on ESPNU vs. Kansas State.

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