No. 25 Texas makes statement in win over No. 6 Kansas

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When it comes to discussing the surprising season that No. 25 Texas has enjoyed up to this point, the prevailing story is one of a team that made multiple additions by subtraction with talented players who had little desire to be a part of Rick Barnes’ program hitting the road. Is there truth in that? Yes, there is. Regardless of the walk of life, having people around who have no desire to be a part of that environment can drain the energy from the other members of a group.

But in evaluating these Longhorns, it’s time to have the conversations focus on the improvements that the players on the current roster have made. And in their 81-69 win over No. 6 Kansas on Saturday afternoon, returnees and newcomers alike displayed the progress they’ve made throughout the 2013-14 campaign.

Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor scored 23 points and junior forward Jonathan Holmes added 22 to go along with five rebounds to lead the way offensively for the Longhorns. As a team Texas shot 43% from the field and attempted 45 free throws (making 30), with their aggressive play before Kansas began giving fouls in the final three minutes factoring into that number.

This win wasn’t just about offensive production however, as Texas also got the job done on the glass (38-32 rebounding edge) and defensively. Demarcus Holland grabbed 11 rebounds, and centers Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley more than held their own against a deep front court led by star freshman Joel Embiid. They blocked three shots apiece (Holmes also finished with three blocks), with Ridley scoring nine points and grabbing ten rebounds.

Texas limited Kansas to 38% shooting, ending a stretch in which the Jayhawks shot 49% from the field or better in seven consecutive games. The last time Kansas shot worse than 49%? That would be in their home loss to No. 5 San Diego State, with the Aztecs possessing the athleticism and length needed to neutralize Andrew Wiggins and company in the paint. Texas had the ability to do the same, and on Saturday they did just that to great effect.

Texas is now one game out of first place in the Big 12, a spot few (if any) expected the Longhorns to be in before the season began. With the departures and last year’s disappointment, the general consensus was that this group would struggle and Barnes would be on the proverbial hot seat. But this season hasn’t worked out that way, and the biggest reason why is the fact that the remaining players have improved not only during the offseason but once the season began as well.

Can Texas win the Big 12? At this point anything’s possible, and for that Barnes and his players deserve all the credit.

PHOTO: Ohio State’s new LeBron James shoe display

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
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Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.

The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.