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Kansas State, Texas Tech Hold Serve in Big 12 Race on Big Monday

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Texas Christian

Kansas needed help to keep its streak of 14 straight Big 12 regular-season titles alive. Texas and TCU were not in helpful moods on Monday night.

Both the Longhorns and the Horned Frogs could have done the Jayhawks a solid with wins and helped solidify their NCAA hopes. But instead the Big 12’s top two teams — Texas Tech and Kansas State — took another step toward ending Kansas’ streak and earning at least a share of the Big 12 title.

Texas Tech (25-5, 13-4 in Big 12) slowly and methodically pulled away from Texas (16-14, 8-9), 70-51, in Lubbock, Texas. Simultaneously, the Kansas State Wildcats (23-7, 13-5) dismantled the Horned Frogs (18-12, 6-11), 64-52, in Fort Worth, Texas.

So the path ahead is pretty simple for both the Red Raiders and the Wildcats:

Texas Tech and Kansas State both win on Saturday, then the Red Raiders and Wildcats share the Big 12 regular season title.

If Texas Tech wins and Kansas State loses on Saturday, then the Red Raiders win the Big 12 regular-season title outright.

If Kansas State wins and Texas Tech loses on Saturday, then the Wildcats win the Big 12 regular-season title outright.

If Kansas State and Texas Tech both lose on Saturday, then the Wildcats and Red Raiders share the  Big 12 regular-season title, and could share it with Kansas if the Jayhawks win out.

So the race isn’t over yet, though at least one person thought it was after Monday’s Kansas State win.

Let’s be clear — it’s not over yet. And whoever runs Kansas State’s Wikipedia page figured that out about five minutes after I saw it.

The Red Raiders rolled on senior night in Lubbock as head coach Chris Beard honored his four seniors. One of them, Matt Mooney — who will only spend one season with the Red Raiders as a transfer — had 15 points and showed off his moves on a full-court layup in the first half.

Jarrett Culver isn’t a senior, but many assume the Red Raiders sophomore won’t be back in Lubbock next season. Most consider Culver to be a potential NBA lottery pick should he decide to leave school after this season. considers him a Top 10 talent. So Monday’s game could have served as Culver’s final game at home, and he scored 16 points. Davide Moretti scored 11 points. Brandone Francis, a senior, had 12 off the bench.

But the big story was the defense. The Red Raiders have one of the best defenses in the country. On Monday night the goal was to cool off Texas 3-point shooter Jase Febres, who connected on 15 3-pointers during two games last week en route to Big 12 Player of the Week honors. The way the Red Raiders defended the perimeter was clear — they weren’t inclined to let Febres beat them. And he didn’t.

Texas Tech made Febres irrelevant. He scored 4 points and took just 10 shots. Every shot he took there was a Red Raiders in his face. It was one of the best smother jobs on a single player that I’ve seen this season. Matt Coleman III led Texas with 16 points.

Texas has its own NBA problems. Many consider Jaxson Hayes to be a probable lottery pick should he decide to leave after this season. The Texas freshman’s numbers don’t look all that imposing (he’s averaging 10 points and 5 rebounds per game). But it’s his 6-foot-11 frame and what he can do with it athletically, along with his ceiling at the NBA level that has scouts drooling. So we’ll see if he sticks around. In the meantime, the Longhorns still seem pointed toward the NCAA Tournament, despite an overall record that shouldn’t really make the committee weak in the knees.

Texas Tech goes to Iowa State on Saturday and that’s a definite trap game for the Red Raiders.

Meanwhile, Kansas State put together a big run to end the first half to get the lead on TCU and never gave it up. TCU made a little noise toward the end of the game but the K-State seniors — Dean Wade, Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown Jr. — took care of that late. Brown ended up leading the Wildcats with 16 points, while Stokes added 15, Xavier Sneed had 11 and Makol Mawien had 10. Wade had 9 points. Mike McGuirl was the only non-starter to score for the Wildcats, who shot 47 percent for the game.

Kansas State has now won two straight since losing to Kansas on the road last Monday.

TCU is completely adrift at this point. Kevin Samuel had 17 points and 7 rebounds for TCU, while R.J. Nembhard added 12 points. Kouat Noi, one of TCU’s best players, had no points and took just four shots. Kansas State did a number on him defensively. The Horned Frogs have now lost six of their last seven going into Saturday’s game with Texas and they’re starting to make it really easy for the NCAA Tournament committee to pass them over for a spot in the Tournament.

There is just one Big 12 game on Tuesday as Kansas travels to Oklahoma. The Jayhawks need to win and the Sooners can end their hopes of a share of the Big 12 title by upending Kansas. Kansas has just three road wins in the Big 12, but is coming off a road win at Oklahoma State on Saturday. Tip is at 8 p.m. Central.

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