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No. 3 Kansas pulls away from Texas for 69-58 victory

Once again, the Longhorns took a lead into halftime, but the Jayhawks were just too good in the final 20 minutes.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

A late three at the buzzer to end the first half put the Texas Longhorns up by two points against the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence on Big Monday, but Kansas out-scored Texas by 13 points in the second half for a 69-58 win that featured a lead as large as 17 points.

Three Kansas players scored in double figures, including a double-double by senior center Udoka Azubuike, who started the game on the bench. Sophomore guard Devon Dotson added 16 points of his own, 14 of them scored in the second half after he dealt with foul trouble in the opening 20 minutes.

Junior guard Matt Coleman led the way for Texas with 20 points, but only had one assist and missed five of his seven three-point attempts. In the frontcourt, junior forward Jericho Sims scored 17 points and only missed a single field-goal attempt while corralling nine rebounds.

No other player for the Longhorns scored more than six points and sophomore guard Courtney Ramey and junior guard Jase Febres combined for 2-of-14 shooting from the field and 1-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

The shooting results by Ramey and Febres mirrored the team overall — after shooting nearly 50 percent from three-point range over the last two games, the Horns simply couldn’t find the mark, making only 4-of-24 attempts, including 1-of-10 shooting in the second half.

From an offensive standpoint, the game started out in a positive manner for Sims, who sandwiched a jump hook and floater around a near-assist to Coleman when Kansas came with a double team. With Azubuike benched to start the game, Sims was called for two questionable fouls and went to the sidelines himself just before the under-16 timeout. He was limited to eight minutes in the first half.

After Sims sat, Texas went through another period struggling to make good decisions with the basketball with Coleman also out of the game and missed its first five three-point attempts.

At the under-12 timeout, however, the Kansas lead was only 12-10 as Texas stayed close with the Jayhawks. Freshman forward Kai Jones provided a boost with three offensive rebounds in his first eight minutes of action, but wasn’t able to accomplish much for the rest of his time on the court, finishing without a basket and the second-worst plus-minus rating on the team.

The Longhorns once again received some positive play from freshman guard Donovan Williams, too — the Houston product hit a push shot along the baseline, found sophomore guard Andrew Jones on a back cut for a layup, and blocked a shot with a strong recovery on defense.

Meanwhile, Kansas was struggling with its outside shooting, but scored points in the paint frequently thanks to three buckets by Azubuike and too many dribble drives to the rim allowed by the Texas guards. The Jayhawks finished the game with a 40-22 advantage in the paint.

Two early fouls on Dotson sent him to the bench, however, and resulted in only two points during the first half.

Late in the half, the Horns finally generated some shooting momentum, as Febres hit one and Andrew Jones hit the other as the clock expired on the first half to allow Texas to take the lead, 33-31.

The second half once again started slowly for the Longhorns — the Jayhawks scored seven of the first eight points as the Texas offense bogged down. As Kansas regained the lead, the only real positives for the Horns were drawing fouls on the two Jayhawks bigs.

A brief surge narrowed the margin before Kansas four straight points and forced Texas head coach Shaka Smart to call a timeout with the scoreless streak for the Longhorns closing in on two and a half minutes.

Coleman ended that stretch with a jump shot from the baseline as both teams were forced into making one-on-one plays by the opposing defense — only five of the first 31 combined made baskets featured an assist. In a subsequent ragged possession, Sims was able to finish a lob from Williams to once again slice the Kansas lead to two points.

Three quick baskets by the Jayhawks forced another timeout by Smart, however, as the lead stretched to eight, the largest of the game, and the Longhorns quickly entered the danger zone of losing contact.

A significant factor was Kansas increasing its defensive intensity in the second half and benefiting from the heavy minutes of Kai Jones, who isn’t much of an offensive threat right now if he isn’t dunking the basketball.

By the under-four timeout, Texas was dispirited and out of the game — sophomore guard Courtney Ramey got caught against Azubuike in a rotation and settled for a half-hearted foul from behind as Azubuike converted the lay-in. The basket put the Jayhawks up by 17.

Texas was able to close the final margin and improve its shooting percentage in the second half, but only led for 2:40 for the entire game and clearly got worn down in the second half by chasing Kansas on the road.

The schedule isn’t going to provide any immediate breaks moving forward, either — Texas will host Texas Tech and then Baylor in the next two games. Those contests will happen in Austin, but the Longhorns aren’t favored against either opponent.