Kansas-Texas Tech Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- Kansas has many upcoming games in Lawrence to make its push for an eighth consecutive Big 12 title. A second straight league road win also would help the team inch closer to that goal.
The 10th-ranked Jayhawks go for their sixth consecutive 3-0 start in conference play Wednesday night when host Texas Tech tries to end its 17-game losing streak against Top 25 opponents.
With a lopsided 67-49 victory over then-No. 23 Kansas State in its conference opener Jan. 4, Kansas made an early statement to Big 12 opponents that a trip into Allen Fieldhouse could be a rough one.
Before opening a stretch of four of six at home, the Jayhawks (12-3, 2-0) will go for their second straight league road victory following Saturday's 72-61 win over Oklahoma.
"Coach (Bill Self) told us that we have to go undefeated at home and be able to scrape up some wins on the road," said junior Thomas Robinson, who scored 18 points and was one rebound shy of his third consecutive double-double.
If reigning Big 12 player of the week Travis Releford can continue the best scoring stretch of his career, the Jayhawks have an excellent chance of leaving Lubbock with a sixth consecutive victory.
After posting his first career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds against the Wildcats, Releford set a career high in points for the second straight game with 28 against the Sooners.
"I'd like to say it's coaching but I can't say that," said Self, whose team has won nine of 10. "He was terrific against K-State and then today, the light came on. ... Certainly he's in a comfort zone right now."
That does not bode well for a Red Raiders team that already has challenging matchups versus Robinson, averaging 17.5 points and a league-best 12.1 rebounds, as well as senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor.
"(Releford is) really coming on for them when they need him the most," said Red Raiders first-year coach Billy Gillespie, an assistant under Self from 1997-2002 at Tulsa and Illinois. "He's really playing with a high level of confidence, it appears. It just makes them more dangerous."
Texas Tech (7-7, 0-2) has the worst overall record in the Big 12 and hasn't defeated a ranked opponent since a 99-92 overtime win over then-No. 12 Washington on Dec. 3, 2009.
However, Self isn't overlooking a Red Raiders team which has been competitive in its two conference games. Three days after cutting a 13-point deficit to two in the final minutes of a 67-59 loss at Oklahoma State, Texas Tech within four late in the second half of a 73-60 loss to No. 4 Baylor on Saturday.
"They had their chances," Self said. "They really attacked (Baylor's) zone well at times and did some really nice things. They also could have won that game at Oklahoma State. That was a one-possession game late, so they are getting better."
Freshman Jordan Tolbert has stood out for the Red Raiders, ranking sixth in the Big 12 in scoring (14.8 points per game) and ninth with 6.4 boards.
"He is, without question, one of the most dominant producing freshmen in our league so far," Self said.
Tolbert, though, had his string of double-digit scoring games snapped at six Saturday when he finished with nine points in 17 foul-plagued minutes. He came off the bench for the first time this season after missing a practice with a knee injury.
Robinson had 17 points and nine rebounds off the bench as Kansas ended a three-game skid in Lubbock with an 88-66 victory Feb. 1.
The Jayhawks have won three straight and 20 of 24 in this series.
Updated January 10, 2012