By request, some final thoughts on the Kansas game before we continue looking forward at the NCAA Tournament brackets. (I'll try to relate these notes to relevant points for our upcoming tournament matchups.)
The Longhorns erupted out of the gate on Sunday afternoon with a barrage of offense, strong defense, and rebounding - an effort that peaked with a 32-10 lead with 8:10 left in the first half. The stunned pro-Kansas crowd (easily 90% Jayhawk crowd at the Ford Center) was not going to sit by quietly while Kansas got blown out, though, and when Brandon Rush hit a three pointer on the next Jayhawk possession, they very loudly announced their intention to make this one a battle.
The Kansas players responded, upping their defensive intensity while improving their shooting percentage. Texas' 32-10 lead was cut to 34-29 by halftime. The last eight minutes of the half were particularly ugly ones for Texas because of the improved defensive intensity from Kansas; the Jayhawks started pushing Durant out further from the basket, while forcing Texas into three turnovers and multiple ugly shots.
After that, the game was mostly a back-and-forth battle, with Texas holding on to a two point lead with 45 seconds remaining. Texas played keep away for as long as they could, but the moment Craig Winder touched the basketball, Kansas pounced, fouling him and sending him to the line for two. Winder, who'd been playing MVP basketball for most of the tournament, made only one of his two shots, giving Kansas a chance to tie.
Incredibly, Texas retreated into a 2-3 zone, and AJ Abrams drifted too low off the three point line on a high Kansas screen, leaving Mario Chalmers wide open for an uncontested three point look. He buried it to tie the game, and the championship went to overtime when Durant missed a turnaround 17 footer as time expired.
In overtime, a worn out Texas team missed three free throws and couldn't hold off Kansas any longer. They were exhausted and simply didn't have enough left in the tank.
- Augustin struggled on Sunday, committing five turnovers (after zero through the first two games of the tournament). I thought he was a little bit drained physically, and an energetic Sherron Collins (who hadn't played nearly as much in Kansas' previous games) gave DJ trouble by manning him up pretty tight.
- Durant was sick, as usual, but he ran out of energy so quickly again on Sunday. This is just something we're stuck with, and we'll have to hope he digs deep for energy when Texas gets into a battle in the NCAAs.
- There was a lot of AJ Abrams teeth gnashing in the game thread, and though he had a strong first half on offense (for the most part), he was a real liability on defense. I already noted his mistake on the game-tying three pointer at the end of regulation, but it was his inability to keep the Kansas guards in front of him that really hurt Texas. Again, though - everyone looked tired for Texas.
- Connor Atchley gave Texas 15 pretty solid minutes, which was most welcome. In 15 minutes, Atchley blocked two shots, scored four points, and pulled in four rebounds. Just what we needed. I hope this gets him some confidence back.
- 22 more solid minutes from Winder, who gives Texas some desperately needed depth at guard. We're a better team coming out of the Big 12 tournament than we were heading in. And that's all that really matters. Time for the 'Horns to rest up, watch lots of film, and travel out to Spokane. (Seriously? Spokane? So much for protecting your top four seeds. Texas travels farther than any top seed in the country, while Louisville, a #6 seed, takes a cab to Rupp Arena. Excuse me?)