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 16th set of games in the Big 12 Conference, played on Feb. 24 (rankings in parenthesis in standings are AP).
|BIG 12 STANDINGS||Conf.||All|
|Texas Tech (6)||10-6||22-7|
|West Virginia (21)||10-6||21-8|
Saturday, Feb. 24
TCU 82, Baylor 72
Texas 65, Oklahoma State 64
Kansas 74, Texas Tech 72
West Virginia 85, Iowa State 70
Oklahoma 86, Kansas State 77
NEXT GAMES (all times CST unless noted)
Monday, Feb. 26
Texas at Kansas, 8 p.m., ESPN
Texas Tech at West Virginia, 8 p.m., ESPN2
Tuesday, Feb. 27
Oklahoma at Iowa State, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Oklahoma at Baylor, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Kansas State at TCU, 8 p.m., ESPN2
20-point games: 29 — Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State); 28 — Barry Brown Jr., (Kansas State), Trae Young (Oklahoma); 26 — Devonte’ Graham (Kansas); 24 — Jevon Carter (West Virginia); 22 — Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (Baylor), Alex Robinson (TCU); 21 — Svi Mykhailiuk (KU); 20 — Zhaire Smith (Texas Tech).
10-rebound games: 11 — Dean Wade (KSU), Esa Ahmad (WVU); 10 — Cameron Lard (ISU), Mitchell Solomon (Oklahoma State).
5-assist games: 9 — Zoran Talley Jr., (ISU); 7 — Trae Young (OU); 6 — Alex Robinson (TCU); 5 — Kerwin Roach II (Texas).
4-block games: 6 — Sagaba Konate (WVU).
4-steal games: 4 — Dean Wade (KSU).
Double-doubles: Dean Wade (KSU), 15 points, 11 rebounds; Esa Ahmad (WVU), 18 points, 11 rebounds.
The Starting Five
Alex Robinson, TCU: The point guard scored 22 points, dished out 6 assists and led the Horned Frogs to their second-straight win.
Kerwin Roach II, Texas: Roach had 12 points, 5 assists and a huge layup with one second left to lift the Longhorns to a huge win. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas: Graham hit for 26 points and three key baskets down the stretch to lift the Jayhawks past Texas Tech.
Trae Young, Oklahoma: The Sooners needed to stop the bleeding, and Young finally stepped up with 28 points and a 6-for-10 clip at the 3-point line.
Sagaba Konate, West Virginia: A fine line for the Mountaineers’ center — 14 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocks.
The Sixth Man
Jacob Young, Texas: Picked up the slack for Eric Davis off the bench with 12 points in 28 minutes for the Longhorns.
Big 12 FBI Investigation Statements
At least two Big 12 teams have released statements related to the FBI’s investigation of college basketball. And the third statement? Well, that’s just Huggs being Huggs.
Bill Self and Shaka Smart have released statements on the FBI probe, while Bob Huggins takes a dig at everyone https://t.co/NgdaP29wN0
— Heartland College Sports (@Heartland_CS) February 24, 2018
Kansas 74, Texas Tech 72: The Drive for 14 is complete, and the Jayhawks have senior guard Devonte’ Graham to thank.
— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) February 24, 2018
What is it they say? Big players come up big in big games? Seniors come up big in big games? Well Graham was both of those things on Saturday. He scored 26 points, dished out 4 assists and grabbed three rebounds. He also hit two huge shots down the stretch as Texas Tech put the heat on the Jayhawks.
First, with 1:32 left and the game tied at 68, Graham dribbled the shot clock down and got just inside the 3-point line and drained a jumper over Texas Tech’s Zach Smith (we’ll get to Smith in a minute). That gave Kansas a two-point lead. On the ensuing possession the Jayhawks trapped Smith under the basket and forced a turnover. That gave Kansas a chance to make it a two-possession game. And, well, given how the game had gone to that point, who else was Kansas head coach Bill Self going to trust? So, Graham put up this beauty.
— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) February 24, 2018
With that bucket, Kansas was up four and managed to keep that lead for the final 31 seconds.
Graham may have put his stamp on Big 12 Player of the Year with that game. He’s been on my short list the past couple of weeks — along with Texas Tech’s Keenan Allen, Oklahoma’s Trae Young and West Virginia’s Jevon Carter (notice a trend?), but of the four Graham has probably been the most consistent. Plus, he’s been the fuel for Kansas’ push to a 14th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title, which is an NCAA record. With the win, the Jayhawks have at least a share of that title with two games to play. One more win and the title is all theirs.
Svi Mykhailiuk dumped in 21 points for the Jayhawks and is looking more and more like his mini-slump is history. Udoka Azubuike had 6 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks, two of which came in a 10-second span. Malik Newman added 12 points. The Jayhawks shot 50 percent from the floor and 44 percent from 3-point range.
Still, Texas Tech was right there at the end. And from the start they were behind the eight-ball a bit. Senior guard Justin Gray suffered a concussion in the game’s first minute and was out the rest of the game. Keenan Allen still has the toe injury, and even though he reportedly can’t do any more damage to it, he’s not the same player. He put up just 6 points on Saturday.
But, right before the game, the Red Raiders got some really good news.
Yup. #11 has been cleared for takeoff. I’m guessing he will get quite the ovation today. Out here warming up now. pic.twitter.com/V76a2qEQS9
— Chris Level (@ChrisLevel) February 24, 2018
Yep, Zach Smith was cleared to play for Saturday’s game. He snuck in late in the first half, played about a minute and left the game. But, when the second half started he was on the floor. He really didn’t make much of an impact, scoring one point. But, considering he’s missed the bulk of Big 12 action with that foot injury, he has to start somewhere. With the Red Raiders NCAA-bound no matter what, the goal has to be working Zach Smith into basketball shape so he’s ready for March Madness.
So, it was up to the other Smith — Zhaire — to get the job done. And he nearly did.
— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) February 24, 2018
Smith is going to be a true stud in this league next season, assuming he continues to develop the way head coach Chris Beard hopes he does. On Saturday he led the Red Raiders with 20 points and had 5 rebounds, all of which came on the offensive end and two of which led to put-backs like the one above. At times he defended Graham, and that didn’t always work out. But seniors know tricks that freshmen don’t. Given the shock of losing Gray so early, plus Kansas’ superb shooting to start the game, the Red Raiders being down only four at the half was pretty darned good. The Red Raiders’ other freshman stud, forward Jarrett Culver, picked up his offense in the second half and scored 18 points.
Kansas nearly led the entire way. Every time it seemed the Red Raiders were poised to overtake the Jayhawks, the Jayhawks found a way to fend them off. But, finally, the Red Raiders forced a tie. Down 8 points with 4:42 left, Zhaire Smith dunked, Culver drained a 3-pointer, Zhaire Smith scored another jumper and Zhaire Smith dunked again to tie the game at 68-all with 2:20 left.
And then came Graham. And it all slipped away.
Three interesting notes. First, Kansas now has 8 straight road wins against Top 10 teams under Bill Self, and that’s an NCAA Division I record. Second, with the loss, Tech’s 17-game home winning streak came to an end. Third, Kansas avoided being swept by a Big 12 team for the first time under Self.
This game lived up to the billing. And the great news is that there is an awfully good chance the two teams will be on opposite sides of the bracket in the Big 12 Tournament. So, they may see each other again, and that’s great news for everyone that loves college basketball played at a high level.
TCU 82, Baylor 72: Going into the game much was made of Baylor’s bubble status. ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi had Baylor as a “Last Four In” team as of his Thursday update. So, this loss didn’t help.
Truthfully the Bears were behind the eight-ball after four minutes as the Horned Frogs — who recorded their 20th win of the season — lit it up from distance. Shawn Olden had a pair early on. By the 8:28 mark of the first half the Horned Frogs had pushed their lead to 11 with an additional 3 each from Desmond Bane and Alex Robinson.
Robinson and Bane drove this game for the Horned Frogs. Robinson scored 22 points and has some huge plays late — both scoring and dishing — that helped push the Horned Frogs back out front by 10 points with 6:34 remaining in the game. Before that point, Baylor had briefly overtaken them. Bane, meanwhile, followed up his huge 27-point game against Iowa State with a 16-point outing against Baylor that saw him go 8-for-10 at the free throw line (TCU was 21-of-28 overall). Kouat Noi hit some big 3-pointers down the stretch to give TCU 11 points while Vladimir Brodziansky had 14. TCU shot 54 percent from the floor and, perhaps most telling, outrebounded Baylor by 5. In fact, this game featured the top two teams in the Big 12 in terms of rebound differential.
Meanwhile, Baylor tried pounding it inside with Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (22 points), Tristan Clark (14 points) and Mark Vital (12 points). But that wasn’t enough because the Bears had no outside shooting. Manu Lecomte (5 points in 33 minutes) was ice cold, while Jake Lindsey attempted just one shot. Terry Maston Jr., their ace off the bench, had a tepid outing, scoring just eight points. The Bears tried to use their overall size advantage over TCU to win this one and it didn’t work.
Baylor now has nine league losses with two games to play. If the logic holds that an 8-10 Big 12 team can make the NCAA Tournament, then the Bears still have some room to maneuver. But Bracketology on Monday should be interesting. TCU, at this point, feels like a lead-pipe NCAA lock regardless of the rest of the season. Perhaps more importantly, the Horned Frogs slip into fifth place by themselves with the win.
Texas 65, Oklahoma State 64: Before the game Texas put one of their top bench players, Eric Davis Jr., on the bench. The reason? Allegations that Davis had accepted money from agent Andy Miller (reported by Yahoo Sports). So, the FBI’s investigation into college basketball has now touched the Longhorns. Basketball-wise that’s a big loss for Texas because Davis was averaging nearly 9 points per game.
Then, it got worse. Texas center Mo Bamba left the game with a toe injury. He only scored 2 points and four rebounds. That should have been a death blow for the Longhorns, who according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
But it wasn’t.
— Texas Basketball (@TexasMBB) February 24, 2018
Kerwin Roach II, who has probably been Texas’ most consistent guard since the loss of Andrew Jones, had 13 points and five assists in this one. But his final basket was huge. His layup with 1.2 seconds left in the game lifted Texas to the one-point win, oddly enough by the exact score that Oklahoma State beat Texas by in their first meeting in Stillwater.
Plus, Roach was a significant part of making sure Oklahoma State didn’t run away with the game, as the Cowboys grabbed a 10-point lead, 45-35, with 15:06 left in the second half after going into halftime down 5 points. Starting with 8:58 left in the second half, Roach hit two free throws, scored a layup and drained a jumper to help Texas tie the game at 52-all by the 6:56 mark.
It wasn’t all Roach. Without Davis and Bamba the Longhorns still had four players in double figures — Dylan Osetkowski (13 points, 9 rebounds), Jericho Sims (11 points) and Jacob Young (12 points). Young, a sophomore guard, saw some of his most significant action since early in Big 12 action and hit double figures for the first time since scoring 10 points against Louisiana Tech on Dec. 16.
It’s a bad look for OSU to follow up their upset of Texas Tech with a loss to a depleted Texas team. It all but rules out any chance they might have of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team, but the Cowboys should be a solid team for the NIT, assuming they stay at .500 or better. Even with two losses in their final two regular season games, the Cowboys would be one game over .500 going into the Big 12 Tournament. The worse they can finish is 16-16, assuming they lose in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. But this was an opportunity lost.
Jeffrey Carroll scored 19 points and Lindy Waters III added 14 points for the Cowboys, who saw tepid games from center Mitchell Solomon (4 points, but 10 rebounds), forward Cam McGriff (5 points) and Tavarius Shine (3 points). The Cowboys shot just 37.9 percent from the floor.
West Virginia 85, Iowa State 70: Iowa State, which has been playing short-handed all season, played even more short-handed on Saturday. Guard Donovan Jackson did not play Saturday due to the death of his father. Guard Nick Weiler-Babb did not play, either, as he’s out for the rest of the season. Lindell Wigginton had 29 points and Cameron Lard grabbed 10 rebounds, along with 8 points. Heck, Zoran Talley Jr. dished out 9 assists, along with 9 points. But it wasn’t nearly enough against a West Virginia team that really looks as if it is rounding into shape for March.
Esa Ahmad had a double-double — 18 points and 11 rebounds. Daxter Miles Jr. had 14 points and center Sagaba Konate had a great line — 14 points, 9 rebounds and 6 blocks. West Virginia had a solid lead starting in the second half and that allowed Bob Huggins to get his starters some rest.
Guard Jevon Carter scored a team-leading 24 points and had just two assists, but those assists were career-altering for Carter, who is now the first major-conference player in NCAA history to record more than 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals in a career.
Plus, with Texas Tech’s loss the Mountaineers are now in a second-place tie in the Big 12. And guess who comes to Morgantown on Monday? Yep, those reeling Red Raiders. With a win the Mountaineers could have second to themselves.
Oklahoma 86, Kansas State 77: The Sooners and Trae Young finally stopped the bleeding. The win broke the Sooners’ six-game losing streak and put some salve on their faltering NCAA Tournament hopes. If the Sooners are going to get to March Madness, they’ll have to ride Young’s offense, and his night against K-State was encouraging. He scored 28 points, but the most critical part of his night was his 3-point shooting — 6-of-9.
Remember — during the six-game losing streak Young had been abysmal from distance. In fact, Young shot 11-of-56 from the arc during the streak. So seeing him bounce back from that disastrous stretch bodes well for the final week of Big 12 action.
OU head coach Lon Kruger stuck with his revamped starting lineup to mixed results. Jamuni McNeace had 10 points and 8 rebounds. But Kameron McGusty and Kristian Doolittle didn’t crack double figures. The Sooners shot 52.7 percent from the floor, 50 percent from the 3-point line and got 10 points from Brady Manek off the bench.
The 3-point shot killed the Wildcats in this one. While OU shot 11-for-22, the Wildcats shot 4-of-21 from distance. If you’re looking for a difference in the game, that’s it. Guard Barry Brown Jr. had 28 points, Dean Wade had a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Xavier Sneed scored 12 points. But with no legit 3-point threat in this one, the Wildcats never could overcome Young and the Sooners.
Kansas State remains in fourth place, even with the loss. But TCU and the hot-shooting Horned Frogs are one game behind the Wildcats. Plus, their game on Tuesday is in Fort Worth. The Wildcats won the initial meeting.
Looking ahead to next week: There are no Wednesday games, so Kansas hosts Texas on Monday with a shot at clinching the Big 12 title outright, while Texas Tech tries to get off the losing tip against the Mountaineers. On Tuesday the top game looks to be Kansas State at TCU, as the Wildcats try to improve their Big 12 Tournament seeding against a Horned Frogs team that is trying to do the same.