Texas Tech's season ends with loss to No. 7 Kansas
Chris Walker made his case to be the basketball coach at Texas Tech.
Now it's up to decision-makers in the athletic department to say whether it was enough.
Walker stepped into the role of interim coach in October, shortly before the start of the season, when Billy Gillispie abruptly resigned. The longtime assistant never complained about his predicament, instead stoically leading the Red Raiders through a trying season.
One that ended with a 91-63 loss to No. 7 Kansas on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.
"I've done all I can to make a case," said Walker, who has been told he'll be considered for the full-time job. "The one thing I am very appreciative of is the opportunity I received from the university."
The Red Raiders (11-20) had few moments of joy this season, winning just three games in the league. But one of them was an upset of Iowa State, and Texas Tech managed to upend West Virginia in the opening round of the conference tournament Wednesday night to keep its season alive.
They simply ran into an opponent in Kansas that couldn't be stopped.
Ben McLemore scored 24 points and the Jayhawks (27-5) shot 66 percent from the field (31 of 47), the best mark by any team in a Big 12 tournament game. They also went 9 of 18 from beyond the arc and 20 of 23 from the foul line, putting on a show for a crowd that included new Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who sat a few rows behind the Texas Tech bench.
"They stared knocking down shots in the second half. We didn't know down shots," said Dejan Kravic, who led the Red Raiders with 20 points. "We were slow in transition, and that's how they built up their lead."
The Jayhawks, wearing their special, Zubaz-like Adidas uniforms, raced out to a 15-2 lead in the opening minutes, getting into transition and easily taking the ball to the basket.
McLemore, their star freshman, hit a pair of 3-pointers after missing his first nine tries against the Red Raiders during the regular season. He also added a mid-range jumper, a soaring dunk in transition and a couple of free throws before Texas Tech could slow him down.
"Ben helped us out a lot bringing us energy," said the Jayhawks' Jeff Withey.
The Red Raiders stormed back to make it close by halftime.
Kravic, whose buzzer-beating tip-in Wednesday night helped Texas Tech beat West Virginia, followed up a 3-pointer by Jamal Williams by scoring the Red Raiders' next nine points.
His jumper midway through the second half forced Kansas coach Bill Self, his face red with fury, to call a timeout and lay into a starting lineup that includes four seniors.
"We definitely showed that we're fighters," Hannahs said, "and we're going to fight to the end."
The end came after Kansas settled down.
The Jayhawks crept to a 34-25 lead at the break, and after Tolbert hit a couple free throws early in the second half, the Jayhawks ripped off an 18-4 run to put the game away.
It started when McLemore got loose in the corner opposite the Kansas bench and, with a silky smooth stroke, poured in his third 3-pointer of the game. Young added a dunk, Withey scored inside and McLemore hit again from beyond the arc as Walker burned another timeout for Texas Tech.
"It's definitely tough when they get rolling," Kravic said. "It's really hard to stop."
Later in the run, Travis Releford got ahead on a fast break and converted a layup as he was clobbered from behind by the Red Raiders' Josh Gray. The officials ruled it a flagrant foul, and the senior from Kansas City made both of his free throws to give the Jayhawks a 52-31 lead.
The Jayhawks emptied their bench in the closing minutes, the game well in hand, giving their starters the luxury of looking ahead to a semifinal matchup with Iowa State.
In their first memorable game in Lawrence, Kansas needed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by McLemore just to force overtime. In the return game in Ames, Elijah Johnson scored eight of his career-high 39 points in the final 29 seconds to again force overtime.
That second game was thrown into controversy when officials called a foul on the wrong Kansas player down the stretch, and then failed to call a block-charge call. The game was reviewed by the Big 12 office and the officiating crew was disciplined.
"We've been fortunate," Self said, "but we also had some players step up and make some plays, too. They're very capable of beating anybody and we know we're going to have to step up."
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