LAWRENCE — A new year was not celebrated, but only observed Tuesday in Allen Fieldhouse.
All the noise made by a sellout crowd, all the noise piped in artificially and all the noise about Kansas repeating again as Big 12 champion was quieted by a team that had never before won in Allen Fieldhouse.
Texas Tech ended a 16-game losing streak in the series, claimed its first victory in 18 tries in KU’s storied barn and became the first Big 12 team to win both at home and on the road during a fiercely competitive start to conference play.
“I tell our guys all the time there’s two things you’ve got to do to play at this level,” said second-year Tech coach Chris Beard. “It sounds real simple, but it’s not. You’ve got to compete hard. Every possession has to have a life of its own. You’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes. …
“Once you start playing hard, now you get into the next category, which is playing well. For us, that’s low turnovers, good shot selection, contest 3-point shots and overcome adversity.”
That much, Beard figured the Red Raiders would do to give themselves a chance.
Yet he did not come into Allen Fieldhouse expecting his team to grab a 23-7 lead and then let the Jayhawks get as close as only six in the second half.
Experience, depth and confidence were all elements that favored Texas Tech. Toughness, too. During postgame comments, the Jayhawks constantly lamented their inability to rise up and complete one of the patented comebacks they are known for pulling off at home.
They never even got the game tied after getting out-rebounded 44-29, surrendering a 15-4 difference off second-chance points and another 26 points off 15 turnovers.
“It’s ridiculous that kids could say, ‘We’ve got to want it more,’ but what’s sad is it’s true,’’ KU coach Bill Self said. “Whenever you say somebody wants it more than you, oh my God, as a coach it makes me cringe because that is my responsibility to put them in position to make them competitive.”
Good luck with that challenge.
There are the obvious limits to the Jayhawks’ depth, but who knows what Silvio De Sousa adds when he gets cleared and who knows if Billy Preston will ever get cleared. At this point in the season, their contributions could be a bonus, but they could pose as many questions as they do answers.
It could be that Kansas is not nearly as good as in past seasons. If the Jayhawks do not get the effort needed to overcome deficiencies, it negates their vaunted home advantage.
“I really didn’t see that much juice or that much intensity, guys rebounding the ball above the rim, playing with reckless abandon,” Self added. “I didn’t see any of that.”
Instead, Texas Tech was the aggressor. The Red Raiders relied on a relentless stream of subs and overcame 4-for-16 shooting from their top scorer, senior guard Keenan Evans, as well as a 6-minute effort from an injured senior starter, forward Zach Smith.
The Red Raiders not only wanted it more, their resolve and expectation strengthened throughout the game, which was their first in a true road environment.
“We work too hard not to come in here and think that,” Evans said.
Beard was not quite as forceful. He knows the bulk of the Big 12 schedule remains.
“I don’t know if we have an edge on Kansas in anything,” Beard said. “Maybe that we have Whataburger in Lubbock, Texas, and I don’t think you all do. That’s an advantage.”
Yet Tech handed KU its worst home loss since 2003 (Arizona), its first loss in a home conference opener since 2006 (Kansas State) and its worst home conference loss since 1989, when it tumbled by 25 against Missouri.
Beard achieved something in the Big 12 the most famous of all Tech coaches could not manage. Bob Knight never guided the Red Raiders to a win at KU. But Beard learned as an assistant under Knight to value the importance of productive subs.
That was reflected in one additional stat against the Jayhawks — the 42-16 scoring advantage the Red Raiders got from their bench.
The fine line the Jayhawks tread with their depth makes the need for poise, effort, execution and, yes, toughness, even more acute.
“You’ve just got to want it and gut it out and get stops,” said Devonte’ Graham, who did what he could to score, generating a game-high 27 points, but had five turnovers to offset six assists.
Wanting it more is one thing, but notice was served by Texas Tech that the Big 12 has teams capable of competing every bit as hard and every bit as skillfully as Kansas.
Contact Kevin Haskin at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.