No. 5 Kansas defeated No. 14 Texas Tech, 58-57, in the Big 12 opener for both schools on Thursday night with KU's Jalen Wilson blocking a shot from TTU's Terrence Shannon Jr. at the buzzer.
After entering halftime down 29-26 to Kansas, Texas Tech opened the final frame with a 20-5 run that seemed to stun the Jayhawks. A 7-0 run by KU just before the under-eight-minute timeout knotted things back up at 46 all and gave head coach Bill Self an opportunity to switch up his defense.
Kansas (7-1, 1-0 Big 12) came back from the break playing a 2-3 zone and dared TTU to shoot from beyond the arc. The Red Raiders (6-2, 0-1 Big 12) went 3-of-13 from three-point range in the second half while KU kept the pressure up on offense with clutch shooting from Ochai Agbaji (23 points, 5 rebounds) and Marcus Garrett (10 points, 10 rebounds).
Texas Tech's Mac McClung scored 21 points in the loss.
Self is known for valuing man-to-man defense and primarily uses it for the majority of the season. But every once in a while, when his team needs a spark or an opposing player starts to heat up, he'll switch to zone for long stretches to change the rhythm of the game.
That certainly worked Thursday.
McClung went almost the entire second half without connecting on a field goal—his final make came with 19:09 left in regulation—after he shot 4-of-9 in the first half. Instead, he fell into KU's trap, jacking up three-pointers with minimal accuracy. Of the eight shots McClung took behind the arc, six came in the second half and only one went in.
Yet when it came down to the final possession, with Texas Tech holding the ball and 5.9 seconds remaining, Self switched back to man-to-man, once again confusing the Red Raiders and keeping Wilson on the primary ball-handler while KU's best defender, Garrett, kept McClung covered.
It was a bit of coaching that could be the difference in the Big 12 standings at the end of the year.
It also forced Shannon (20 points, 9 rebounds) to pull up from mid-range for a potential game-winner. The off-balance shot was tipped by Wilson, who snagged the rebound as the clock hit zero.
Despite an off night from Wilson (7 points, 3 rebounds, 4 fouls), 16 turnovers and barely any presence in the paint, Kansas scrapped its way to another road victory.
Whatever confidence the Jayhawks earned along the way will be greatly needed over the next few days as they continue a stretch of three games against ranked opponents, with No. 8 West Virginia set to visit Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday before they host No. 11 Texas on January 2.
Texas Tech will be back in action on Tuesday as well when it travels to unranked Oklahoma.