If there’s one flaw in Josh Jackson’s game, it’s his ability to shoot free throws. Coming into Saturday’s game against Texas Tech, he was shooting just 54 percent at the free throw line on the season.
However, when the game was on the line, it was Jackson that hit the big free throw to put Kansas up 80-79 with just under three seconds left. They would go on to win by that same score after a half-court heave at the buzzer from Keenan Evans was no good.
Jackson finished with a career high 31 points, but perhaps more impressively he did it while shooting 12-15 from the field. He was also 2-4 from three, and 5-7 from the free throw line. He also added 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal.
But this game wasn’t always a nail-biter, and perhaps that’s becoming a concerning thing for Kansas.
They controlled much of the first half, going up by as much as 12, but a small run by Texas Tech late in the half cut the halftime lead to seven at 42-35.
The lead was stuck around seven until about halfway through the second half, when a steal and break away dunk by Niem Stevenson knotted the game at 59. A pair of free throws by Zach Smith later gave the Red Raiders a 61-59 lead.
Stevenson posted a career-high 22 points in this game, and he also added 10 rebounds. Keenan Evans led the Red Raiders in scoring with 25 points on 4-5 from deep, and Smith put in 21.
Only two other Texas Tech players scored at all. Justin Gray had 9, and Aaron Ross had just 2.
The Texas Tech lead would extend to four, but that was quickly answered with a three-pointer by Frank Mason, and this nifty transition dunk by Lagerald Vick later gave Kansas the lead:
The teams continued to trade punches down the stretch, and some missed free throws by Landen Lucas and Jackson gave Texas Tech more opportunities down the stretch. Eventually, though, Jackson made the one free throw that mattered, and Kansas pulled this one out in the end.
Other notes from the game
While this was a gritty road win without their best player, Frank Mason, at 100 percent, blowing double-digit leads seems to be a common theme for this team now. It came back to bite them last week against Iowa State, but hopefully when it matters later in the season, they can start putting some teams away when they’re up big.
Svi Mykhailiuk was launching threes in the first half, as he had nine points heading into halftime. He then didn’t score in the second half, and got continually abused on defense, with every player he guarded taking it right to the rim. It was so bad that the recently ineffective Lagerald Vick was going to finish the game instead of Mykhailiuk until Mason fouled out. Svi is not the only guilty party to the poor defense, however he is the most expendable to Self. We’ve seen him, and most of these guys, defend at a high level before, so the lack of defense this year is strange, at least to me.
Only seven players checked into the game for Kansas today: Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Mykhailiuk, Jackson, Lucas, Vick, and Carlton Bragg. It was obvious this was going to be the case in March, however having to do that in a mid-February game against the team in seventh place in the Big 12 is a bit concerning. It was OK when Carlton Bragg was out, but the fact that Self doesn’t trust Mitch Lightfoot for even four minutes in a game like this isn’t good.
Texas Tech came into this game having given up just 189 offensive rebounds on the season, which is under eight per game. That was good for fifth in the country. Saturday, Kansas grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, four coming from Jackson, and three coming from Lucas.