In front of another raucous crowd at the Erwin Center, the No. 20 Texas Longhorns picked up a signature win against the No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks on Big Monday, using a strong finish to upset the Jayhawks, 79-76, the third straight win for the Longhorns in the series.
A put back by Kansas star Ochai Agbaji gave the Jayhawks a four-point lead with 1:04 remaining and a 76.8-percent win probability, according to ESPN. But after that offensive rebound, everything went right for Texas as the Longhorns made winning plays in the final 55 seconds.
After Texas junior forward Tre Mitchell missed first five attempts from three, often wildly, Mitchell banked one in to cut the deficit to one. All he could do was smile at his good luck.
On the next possession for the Jayhawks, Agbaji tried to throw a driving lob, but it hit the rim instead and Texas recovered the loose ball, then took the lead when senior forward Timmy Allen found an opening at the free-throw line on a nice cut behind a drive by senior guard Marcus Carr and sunk the clutch jumper.
this. is. everything. pic.twitter.com/zlj8C7joEB— #20 Texas Men's Basketball (@TexasMBB) February 8, 2022
With senior guard Courtney Ramey ensuring that Agbaji couldn’t get the ball on the crucial late possession for Kansas, something he did consistently on the evening, Dajuan Harris was forced to drive, but lost control of the ball. Carr recovered, forcing Harris to foul him and the Minnesota transfer, an 80.3-percent free-throw shooter this season who prides himself on making clutch plays, calmly hit both free throws with 6.8 seconds remaining, giving the Horns a 7-0 run over less than 50 seconds.
“We had a player-led team tonight where guys said, ‘We’re not losing tonight,’” Beard said.
After the Longhorns closed out the win, the Texas student sections swarmed the court after the game, for perhaps the first time since 2004, to celebrate the team’s biggest victory of the Chris Beard era.
Great TEAM win tonight vs a tough talented Kansas team.— Chris Beard (@ChrisBeardUT) February 8, 2022
THANK YOU to our fans and TEXAS STUDENTS. Erwin Center was
HOW WE FEELIN LONGHORN NATION pic.twitter.com/mHQ1t3Fppw— #20 Texas Men's Basketball (@TexasMBB) February 8, 2022
“Maybe it’s one that they needed,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “You talk about Chris Beard getting a signature win? He’s going to have a ton of these wins while he’s here. There’s gonna be equally good wins for him and this program moving forward.”
Allen finished with a game-high and season-high 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting as he consistently made mid-range jumpers and the right cuts off the ball to find openings. The Utah transfer added nine rebounds in finishing plus-16 in his 30 minutes on the court.
“I thought he was the one we defended the worst,” Self said.
Other teammates contributed in spurts.
Senior forward Christian Bishop’s energy provided a boost early in the first and second halves. Bishop secured the first two offensive rebounds for Texas, blocked a shot by Kansas big David McCormack, scored four early points, and drew two charges before rebounding four of the first five misses by the Longhorns in the second half. Texas had 11 offensive rebounds and scored nine second-chance points in the second half. Bishop finished with a season-high 10 rebounds.
“Offensive rebounding is a mindset for me,” Bishop said.
Mitchell couldn’t hit from distance until his late three, but reached double digits for only the second time in his last 11 games with 10 straight points in the first half keyed by strong post moves scoring or fouls drawn as Texas opened up a seven-point lead. Kansas was forced to adjust, working harder to deny entry passes and sending help when he did catch the ball deep.
In two different stretches of the first half, senior guard Andrew Jones had four-point scoring bursts, hitting a tough layup halfway through the first half and then turning a steal into a breakaway dunk as Texas finally started to find some rhythm.
And Ramey was excellent defending Agbaji, who entered the game averaging 20.2 points per game, leading the Big 12, but only managed 11 points on seven shot attempts with three turnovers as Ramey consistently denied him the ball. It was Agbaji’s second-lowest scoring output in conference play.
“Courtney Ramey deserves the game ball. We knew he was capable of that,” Allen said. “I’m just glad he could show the world what he could do.
With Ramey spending so much of his energy on defense, he only scored seven points, but all seven came during a critical stretch in a physical, back-and-forth second half — a fadeaway jumper, a finish through contact for a traditional three-point play, and a scoop layup on a drive.
Several critical stretches during the first half allowed Texas a chance to win the game late despite 3-of-20 shooting from three-point range and allowing Kansas to make 58.3 percent of their shot attempts.
Just after the under-12 timeout in the first half, the Longhorns were trailing 17-11 and in the midst of five minutes without a field goal, a streak finally ended on penetration from Marcus Carr, who found a cutting Courtney Ramey for a layup. Then Timmy Allen hit a shot in the paint in transition, Andrew Jones turned a steal into a dunk, and Christian Bishop took a charge.
The eventual 10-0 run by Texas gave the Longhorns a 21-18 lead and forced a timeout by Jayhawks head coach Bill Self as Kansas went through a scoring drought of their own.
Late in the half, Jones hit a driving layup on what looked like it would be the final possession for Texas, but junior guard Brock Cunningham came up with a steal and Carr hit a leaning three at the buzzer to give the Longhorns a 40-35 lead and finish the half with momentum.
The halftime lead helped Texas withstand a hot shooting start to the second half by Kansas — the Jayhawks hit nine of their first 12 shot attempts after halftime and only turned the ball over once in the first 12-plus minutes.
“We didn’t play Texas defense tonight in terms of their percentages and what they scored, but I thought we had poise and made some timely stops,” Beard said.
Winning the rebounding battle 33-31 and the turnover battle 15-7 were both keys for Texas, especially in the first half when the Horns scored 17 points off 10 turnovers by the Jayhawks. Texas also attempted 23 free throws, making 20, including 15 attempts in the first half.
The difficult stretch of games for Texas continues with a trip to Waco to face No. 10 Baylor on Saturday. The good news? The Longhorns have won five out of the last six games and now have four Quadrant 1 wins on the season. And Beard thinks this team has more in it, too.
“I just think we have a higher ceiling,” he said. “I think we could’ve made six or seven threes tonight.”