#1 Kansas sends Texas to 5th loss in last 7 games
Kansas gave Texas a lesson in not only what it takes to get to No. 1, but how to stay there.It started with a big early run and a rally-killing finish as the top-ranked Jayhawks beat No. 14 Texas 80-68 on Monday night, easily handling a team that a few weeks ago was supposed to challenge them for the Big 12 title.
“Going into the season, we were ranked one and they were two,” said Marcus Morris, who overcame dislocating his right ring finger in the first half to lead Kansas with 18 points. “We circled this game on our calendars. We were ready from day one to play this game.”It showed as Kansas (23-1, 9-0) outmuscled and outhustled Texas (19-5, 5-4) in just about every way.Kansas, No. 1 for the second straight week after three weeks out of the top spot, outrebounded a physical Texas lineup 45-34, held the Longhorns to 37 percent shooting and scored 27 points off 17 turnovers.And when Texas finally staged a late rally, Kansas slammed the door behind senior point guard Sherron Collins, who had 15 points, five assists, four steals and made several key plays down the stretch.When the final seconds finally ticked off, Collins punctuated the win by slamming the ball down hard with a yell, bouncing it high in the air.”We’ve put ourselves in pretty favorable position [in the Big 12],” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Somebody can get hot and run the table, but it puts pressure on us to keep playing.”It’s better than favorable as every other team in the league has at least three losses.Texas seemed game for a good one until a 22-0 Kansas run in the first half seized momentum and took the buzz out of the raucous home crowd. The Longhorns never recovered and the team that a month ago looked like a national title contender now simply looks lost.Texas started the season 17-0 to earn the first No. 1 ranking in school history in early January, but has since lost five of its last seven.Kansas was No. 1 in the preseason poll and for the first eight weeks of the regular season before its only loss, at Tennessee.Freshman J’Covan Brown led Texas with 28 points, scoring most of them in a late burst that cut Kansas’ lead under 10 late before Tyshawn Taylor made two free throws. Collins then bulled through two defenders to fire a sharp pass to Tyrel Reed for a layup that ended the rally.Damion James had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Texas but as has been the case in Texas’ previous losses, he was the only reliable scorer when the game was close.Texas tried to muscle up Kansas by inserting forward Gary Johnson into the staring lineup for the first time. But his 10 points on 3-of-8 shooting couldn’t make a difference.Texas led 14-11 early before Markieff Morris‘ long 3-pointer started Kansas’ big run that left the Longhorns looking bewildered at both ends of the court.Collins zipped a pass to Marcus Morris and he made a nifty grab in a dead sprint for a layup. Taylor made a 3-pointer before two Texas turnovers led to easy Jayhawks baskets. Collins’ long 3-pointer from the left wing made it 30-14.Texas went scoreless for more than 11 minutes and missed 12 straight shots before James banked in a 3-pointer. Kansas led 34-24 at halftime.”I didn’t know what was happening. It happened so fast,” James said of Kansas’ run. “They showed why they are No. 1 team in country. If we want to be there we have to watch this game and see what we can do to make things happen.”Kansas opened the second half with an alley-oop pass from Collins to Xavier Henry and the Jayhawks’ stifling defense continued to force wild shots and turnovers.When Texas guard Dogus Balbay mishandled the ball in the backcourt, all his teammates had already run to the other end. With four Jayhawks under the basket, Collins coolly tossed it to Marcus Morris for an empathic two-handed dunk and a 50-34 lead.Everything seemed to be working for Kansas at that point. Brady Morningstar stroked a 3-pointer and Collins spun through the lane for a behind-the-the back pass to Cole Aldrich for a dunk. Even a botched alley-oop pass to Marcus Morris worked when the ball bounced right back to him on the other side of the basket for an easy putback.”We were terrible on offense for long periods of time, and we helped them,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “You go back, 27 points off turnovers. That’s been the biggest killer in us for every game.”