Kansas basketball’s revenge tour is complete.
Now comes Act II — the postseason.
The top-ranked Jayhawks earned a 66-62 victory over Texas Tech at United Supermarkets Arena, finishing off a perfect conference record away from Allen Fieldhouse — nine victories, no defeats. KU, which went an uncharacteristic 3-6 last season in Big 12 road games, extended its current overall winning streak to 16.
Devon Dotson finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for the Jayhawks, who have also won 19 of their last 20 contests. Udoka Azubuike (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Ochai Agbaji (12 points) rounded out the double-figure scorers for KU.
As it played out, the Jayhawks didn’t need a victory against the Red Raiders to achieve their biggest goal entering the afternoon — KU, which earned at least a share of the Big 12 regular season championship with its victory Wednesday over TCU, captured the league outright midway through Saturday’s game by virtue of second-place and No. 4-ranked Baylor’s 76-64 defeat at West Virginia.
"Certainly proud of our kids," said KU coach Bill Self in a postgame radio interview. "To think ... two weeks ago we're down a game with four games left and you win the league (by two games). We close out obviously (5-0) and (Baylor) closes out (2-3). To win this league by two games, unbelievable."
KU’s conference title is its first since a national record-breaking streak of 14 consecutive league crowns was snapped last season by co-champions Texas Tech and Kansas State.
"Our guys didn’t know the (Baylor) game was over," Self said. "I got mad at 'em at the under-7 timeout when (Texas Tech) tied it up. I said, ‘You guys, all we’re doing is playing for pride. West Virginia beat Baylor by 12.’ They just kind of looked at me. I said, ‘We’re just playing for pride. Just go have fun.’ And they did compete down the stretch."
The Jayhawks (28-3, 17-1 Big 12) led by eight at halftime after riding a 12-2 run into the locker room.
The Red Raiders (18-12, 9-8), who converted just one field goal attempt in the final eight minutes of the first period, shot 30.3% in the game’s first 20 minutes and made just 6 of 21 of their 2-point tries. A 3-pointer by Dotson — he had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists before the break — capped the lopsided end-of-half rally and delivered the visitors their 32-24 advantage at the intermission.
It was another shooting skid, this time from the visitors, that opened the door for Texas Tech to get back in the contest.
The Red Raiders took advantage of a 2-for-12 shooting stretch by the Jayhawks to briefly take the lead, 44-43, on a layup by Kevin McCullar with 10:47 remaining. Agbaji’s 3 shook the KU skid and delivered the lead back to Self’s squad, but Chris Beard’s crew didn’t go away — a TJ Holyfield 3, part of a personal run of eight straight team points for the senior, locked the game at 57-all and forced a Jayhawk timeout with two minutes left.
But Azubuike, who alongside Dotson is a frontrunner for Big 12 player of the year, put KU in front with an emphatic second-chance dunk, freshman guard Christian Braun’s steal and transition layup on the Red Raiders’ next possession pushed the lead to four, and, after a McCullar dunk, Marcus Garrett kissed the glass on a layup that pushed his team’s lead to 63-59 with 35 seconds remaining.
Dotson hit two free throws to create a six-point lead, and while Davide Moretti’s 3 with 11 seconds left and Garrett’s subsequent missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one created some late dramatics, Moretti airballed a 3 with 2.8 seconds left — Moretti protested the sequence, believing he was fouled by Garrett on the follow-through.
Garrett hit a free throw to make it a two-possession game, icing off the victory for the Jayhawks.
"It was a great win," Self said. "It was a no-pressure game. Both teams didn't really have much to play for other than pride and maybe a seed line. I thought we were good and certainly made plays down the stretch."
Moretti had a game-high 18 points and Holyfield 11 for the Red Raiders, who finished 37.1% shooting from the floor with an 8-for-26 clip from 3-point range.
"Nobody was really great offensively," Self said, "but if you guard and rebound you've always got a chance."
KU junior forward Silvio De Sousa, who was eligible after the completion of a 12-game suspension served for his role in a late-game brawl in a Jan. 21 home victory over K-State, was available off the Jayhawk bench but didn’t appear in Saturday’s game.
Now locked in to the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 Tournament, KU will next play either No. 8 Iowa State or No. 9 Oklahoma State in a 1:30 p.m. Thursday quarterfinal at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Regardless of what happens there, this much is clear: The Jayhawks are a virtual lock to receive the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
"Even bigger than this weekend, we put ourselves in a favorable position," Self said. "Hopefully we can get some rest. We’re not going to get a lot of rest if we’re able to play three games this week, but still yet, (Sunday) will be a rest day and Monday may be a rest day too just to let our guys kind of heal up a bit and get their legs underneath them.
"It's been a grind. We need to get our minds fresh also."