Another Big 12 home game. Another Big 12 home blowout. But this one wasn't like all the rest. This one was special and over a quality opponent. The #7 Horns (24-4, 12-2) crushed #18 Kansas (20-7, 11-3), 80-55 in front of a sellout crowd at the Drum. The Horns ended KU's ten game winning streak and pulled a full game ahead of the Jayhawks in the Big 12 with just two games left in the regular season. Two more wins will deliver Coach Barnes his second Big 12 title and will make a strong argument for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Kansas didn't play as awful as a 25 point loss sounds. Unfortunately for them, the Horns played as compete a game as they have all year. They dominated on both ends of the court and matched even the slightest KU run with a three pointer, a steal, or a defensive stop.
Texas shot a sizzling 55% from the floor and 50% from behind the arc. The hot shooting was led by Lamarcus Aldridge's 9/10 shooting from the floor and AJ Abram's 4/5 from behind the arc. Texas also pounded the glass. The Horns grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, three more than KU which led to a 15-6 advantage in second chance points. I thought the Horns needed big games from Aldridge and PJ Tucker and got them. LA was simply sensational in both halves. He established low post position, called for the ball, and our guards fed him early and often. He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, and four blocked shots in 35 strong minutes. Tucker was frustrated for the first twenty minutes mainly by the defense and length of Brandon Rush. The second half was a different story. Credit Coach Barnes with calling a set play on our first possession of the second half to get Tucker the ball on the low block. Tucker was fouled, made both free throws, and began dominating. Tucker wrapped up the Big 12 Player of the Year award with his performance in the second half. Tucker finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in 37 minutes.
AJ Abrams was the difference in the first half. His hot outside shooting broke open a close game. AJ's 12 first half points pushed Texas to a 36-27 first half lead. Daniel Gibson was saddled with two questionable fouls in the first half and barely played. Gibson did come back strong with two huge threes ending mini KU runs in the second. He also contributed four assists and two steals. Brad Buckman is even more valuable than his stats reflect. When Brad turns red, starts bleeding, or has visible scratches, you know he is playing well and the Horns are usually winning. Buckman has 12 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals, and a blocked shot. We are really going to miss Brad next season.
How about our bench play? Coach Barnes made a concerted effort to give the starters breathers in the first half. He was probably just trying to steal some minutes. There is no way he could have expected what he got. In addition to AJ's hot shooting, Conner Atchley showed up. In his first minute on the floor, he had a steal and an offensive rebound. Atchley finished with five points and four rebounds in just ten minutes of action. Our bench, which was thought to be our weakness, outscored KU's 20-11. WOW.
The Horns played our 2-3 zone like we had earlier in the season and also mixed in more man to man than we have been playing recently. KU shot just 42% from the floor and 26% from behind the arc. Outside of Julian Wright, no Jayhawk ever found his rhythm. KU's best player and likely Freshman of the Year, Brandon Rush, finished with just three points and four rebounds and committed four turnovers.
Our zone was much better. We closed out on the open shooter quicker. We limited dribble penetration, and we rebounded like crazy. The Horns outrebounded the Jayhawks 36-19. The turnover battle even went slightly in our favor. Even though we committed one more turnover than KU did, Texas outscored KU 22-17 in points off turnovers.
Texas wanted this one more. We came out with more energy and never relented. KU couldn't match our outstanding outside shooting, had no defense for Aldridge or Tucker, and didn't rebound the ball. When Texas plays like they did on Saturday night, there is no one who can beat them.
That said Kansas is extremely talented and should win their final two games (Colorado and Kansas State). The Horns probably need to win their final two for an outright Big 12 title. Big win!
Next up: Texas A&M Wednesday 7 PM CST ESPN.