LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) The way Kansas had labored over the past two weeks, coach Bill Self headed into Saturday’s game against Texas firmly believing it was the Jayhawks’ most important of the season.
Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr. rose to the occasion.
Ellis had 26 points in a dominant performance, Selden added 19 while leading a big second-half run, and the Jayhawks overcame a slow start to beat the Longhorns 76-67.
“We needed to eliminate the negative momentum because we were in a rut. We were in a funk,” Self said. “I thought our experience gave us our best chance to do that.”
So, along with Ellis and Selden, Self stuck with his three other starters for the majority of the game. He played just three guys off the bench for a total of 29 minutes.
“This isn’t a popularity contest,” Self said. “This isn’t having cookies and milk after the game.”
Devonte Graham finished with 14 points and Frank Mason III had 13 for the Jayhawks (16-3, 4-3 Big 12), who had played dismally during a two-week stretch since their victory over No. 1 Oklahoma.
Along with losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks struggled to beat TCU.
The Longhorns (12-7, 4-3) looked as if they would keep that malaise going when they built an early lead. But they were unable to get any stops in the second half, when Kansas used a 24-6 run covering more than 9 minutes to seize control in front of another raucous crowd at Allen Fieldhouse.
“You know a run is coming and the crowd is going to be behind this team,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “Kansas made some great plays. You have to give them credit.”
Connor Lammert had a career-high 15 points before fouling out for Texas. Isaiah Taylor and Eric Davis Jr. scored 13 apiece, and Javan Felix finished with 12.
It was the Jayhawks’ 34th consecutive victory at the Phog, the fourth-best winning streak in school history. It was also their 14th victory in 15 times the Longhorns have visited Lawrence.
In other words, little changed in Smart’s first trip.
Early on, it looked as if the Longhorns had brought the momentum from their win at West Virginia on the road with them. They roared to a 12-2 lead in the first couple minutes with Lammert doing most of the damage from the arc, though Kansas helped the Longhorns out with some woeful shooting.
The Jayhawks were 2 of 12 from the field with four turnovers at the 12-minute mark.
Texas never trailed in the first half, and was only tied 25-25 in the waning minutes, before Davis and Taylor willed the Longhorns to a 35-30 halftime lead.
Graham’s 3-pointer to start the second half put a charge in Kansas, but it was Ellis who finally got the Jayhawks over the hump. With a contortionist’s flexibility in the paint, the senior made a series of tough buckets at the rim, finally giving them a lead at 44-42 with 12:29 remaining.
Ellis added another basket a few minutes later, and Selden curled in a 3-pointer on its heels for a 57-46 lead, forcing Smart into a timeout that did little to quiet the crowd.
The Longhorns made a run in the closing minutes, but Kansas never let it get close again.
“We didn’t get off to that kind of fast start, but we knew we were going to come back the whole game,” Graham said. “We just had to settle down and get comfortable, I guess.”
Self improved to 200-9 in his career at Allen Fieldhouse. Asked what he would have said upon his hiring if someone told Self he’d have that record, he replied: “I know what the fans would have said: `Why did you lose those nine games?”‘
Already without big man Cameron Ridley due to a broken foot, the Longhorns lost Shaquille Cleare to a shoulder injury early in the game. “He wanted to come back and play,” Smart said, “but our athletic trainer decided he couldn’t go.”
Kansas had arguably the top prospects from the 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes on visits: Josh Jackson, a 6-foot-7 guard from Detroit, and DeAndre Ayton, a 6-11 center from Phoenix.
Texas: Prince Ibeh had seven points, seven rebounds and seven blocks. … The Longhorns had eight turnovers, their fifth straight game with eight or fewer. … Their only win at Allen Fieldhouse came on Jan. 22, 2011, when they ended the Jayhawks’ 69-game winning streak there.
Kansas: Landen Lucas had 10 rebounds. … Roy Williams (201-17) and Ted Owens (206-47) are the only other coaches with at least 200 wins at the Phog.
Texas tries to avenge its loss to TCU on Tuesday night.
Kansas visits No. 19 Iowa State on Monday night.