Published February 18, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Billy Gillispie's last game at Allen Fieldhouse went a little better than Saturday night.
He was coaching Texas A&M when it knocked off Kansas on the road four years ago, something that rarely happens in the venerable gym. Fast forward to the present, and Gillispie could only watch as his overmatched Texas Tech squad fell to the fourth-ranked Jayhawks, 83-50.
"You fight like crazy," said Gillispie, who is trying to rebuild the Red Raiders in the same fashion he did the Aggies. "That's what you do against everybody you play, no matter what your situation is. You fight at the start, you fight at the end. Our guys are fighting hard."
Texas Tech (8-18, 1-13 Big 12) doesn't have the luxury of stars like Acie Law that dotted the Texas A&M team that walked into Lawrence and left with a victory.
Every game has been a grind this season.
"They've tried as hard as any team could every try," Gillispie said. "They'll come out the next time to practice and they'll fight like crazy. They've never really gotten down and they've never let their record dictate their fight."
Gillispie said he isn't focused so much on the result as the process.
"All my teams play that way and that's why we've had a great deal of success," he said. "I've taken on challenges before. I love challenges."
Thomas Robinson had 16 points and eight rebounds for Kansas. Travis Releford added 12 points and six others scored at least nine for the Jayhawks (22-5, 12-2), who built a 44-22 lead by halftime and then cruised back into a tie with Missouri for the Big 12 lead.
Kansas shot 56 percent from the field, including a 9-for-15 clip from beyond the arc, while forcing 20 turnovers and turning them into 24 points.
Javarez Willis had 17 points to lead the Red Raiders. Freshman forward Jordan Tolbert added 12 points and Ty Nurse finished with 11.
"They're a physical team and we just weren't physical enough," Nurse said. "We didn't pursue the ball hard enough. The person that wants it more is going to get it. They just played harder."
Texas Tech still has not won a Big 12 road game this season, although losing at the Phog is hardly shameful. Kansas has won 20 straight at home, the sixth-best streak in the nation. The Red Raiders are winless in 12 tries at Kansas, and 4-22 in the series overall.
The Jayhawks cruised to an 81-46 victory over Texas Tech when the two teams met Jan. 11 in Lubbock, their most lopsided Big 12 road win under coach Bill Self.
They had just as easy of a time at home.
From the moment Elijah Johnson made a scooping reverse layup in the opening minute, to the back-to-back baskets by Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor that gave the Jayhawks a 14-7 lead just after the first media timeout, the outcome of the game was never really in doubt.
Gillispie may have sensed it, too.
Texas Tech's coach was hit with a technical foul with 12:42 remaining in the half, and Jeff Withey made both free throws as the lead grew to 19-7. Reserve guard Naadir Tharpe even got into the act, burying a 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down to push the lead to 15.
It was all part of an 18-2 run by the Jayhawks, the only bucket for the Red Raiders over a span of nearly nine minutes coming from Nurse, who had all of his points in the first half.
He didn't get a whole lot of help.
The Red Raiders only made seven field goals in the first stanza, were outrebounded 20-9 by the bigger, stronger Jayhawks, and failed to score a single second-chance point.
Kansas had built a 30-9 lead by the time Self started to substitute liberally midway through the first half, trying to build some confidence in his bench for the stretch run. He often relies on seven regulars, but eight different players scored in the first half alone.
Connor Teahan's basket in the closing minute gave Kansas a 44-22 lead.
Just about the only thing that didn't go right was a power surge that knocked out juice to a couple of concessions stands and prevented school officials from playing the historic montage on the big screen during player introductions. But even that was resolved in the first half, and the fixture was played prior to the start of the second half, working the crowd into frenzy.
The second half was merely a tuneup for Kansas for what should be a critical week.
Missouri (25-2) hosts Kansas State on Tuesday, while the Jayhawks travel to Texas A&M on Wednesday, and then the bitter rivals collide at Allen Fieldhouse next Saturday in what should ultimately decide the regular-season conference champion.
The Jayhawks have won four straight since falling at Missouri on Feb. 4.
"If you work your tail off all year long to put yourself in good position, how can you look past anybody when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel?" Self said. "Everybody will talk about that game, but I guarantee we won't even mention it until Thursday or Wednesday night."