Rick Barnes should break out a Texas-sized smile this Saturday night. His Longhorns ended Kansas’ perfect season, ended a 69-game home win streak and threw a wrench into the Big 12 race, a race the Jayhawks have won each of the last six years.
Also, it was the Longhorns’ first-ever win at Allen Fieldhouse.
Not bad for a guy who got ripped for underachieving last season.
Texas’ 74-63 win in Lawrence showcased a defense that turned the No. 2 Jayhawks – days removed from torching Baylor – into an ordinary offensive team, especially in the second half when the No. 10 Longhorns overcame a 12-point deficit and held Kansas to just 28 points.
Marcus and Markieff Morris seemed overmatched, hitting just 8-of-24 shots. Freshman guard Josh Selby was indifferent (21 minutes, 2 of 9 from the field). The bench was a non-factor. The Jayhawks hardly seemed like a team that’d won its first 18 games of the season, let alone a team that’d done so more efficiently than Ohio State.
Sum it up this way: Texas made Kansas’ star players look average. Not good for a Final Four contender.
The shine’s off Kansas, which’ll certainly lose some support as the team to beat, in the Big 12 and the nation. Still, in a year where questions remain about every would-be champion, come April the Jayhawks are as likely as anyone to cut down the nets in Houston. They just don’t have much room for error. (It all plays into the “there are no great teams this season” topic.)
But enough about Kansas. Let’s talk Texas.
Few teams have fared as well lately as the Longhorns (15-3 overall, 3-0 in Big 12). They’ve won nine of their last 10 games, the one loss an instant classic vs. UConn that featured some Kemba Walker magic. It’s almost as if the uber-embarrassing 73-56 loss at USC back in early December served as the ultimate motivation for Barnes’ group.
They’re shooting well, hitting the boards and keeping foes from doing the same. Only two opponents in Texas’ last 10 games have posted an eFG% of higher than 50. Only two have grabbed more than 37 percent of their offensive rebounds (and one was Michigan State, which should be a given). Kansas leads the Big 12 in eFG%, but finished at 40.6 vs. Texas, their second-worst outing of the season. That’s what happens when you don’t get any easy looks at the basket. (Texas A&M can attest to that. It lost 81-60 to Texas on Wednesday.)
And with Jordan Hamilton turning in a decent, but not great day (17 points, but he missed 8-of-13 shots), Barnes must’ve been elated to see J’Covan Brown go off for 23 points vs. Kansas, including several of the key second-half baskets. After scoring 20 in the loss to UConn, Brown slumped somewhat the last three games. If he brings his best in big games, that’s an added bonus.
More tests remain for Barnes’ team, starting with a trip to Stillwater on Wednesday and a game at Texas A&M on Jan. 31, among others. Then perhaps it can end Kansas’ run atop the Big 12.
After winning in Lawrence, none of that seems out of reach. Even Houston.
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