Following Saturday’s 69-66 win over the then-No. 7 Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan, the No. 5 Texas Longhorns are staying in the Sunflower State for a Big Monday matchup against the No. 9 Kansas Jayhawks 85 miles east in Lawrence.
The game affords the Longhorns a chance to finish the difficult stretch of four games against top-25 opponents with a 3-1 record.
Winning for a third time in school history at Phog Allen Fieldhouse might require a faster start for Texas — Saturday’s win over Kansas State marked the third comeback from a double-digit deficit in Big 12 play as the Longhorns trailed by 14 points with 30 seconds remaining in the first half before starting the second half on a 14-4 run to cut the deficit to two points with 15:04 remaining.
Texas was able to keep the game within striking distance despite turnover issues and some missed easy baskets in the first half thanks to stifling defense played on Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell spearheaded by a tenacious effort from Tyrese Hunter. After Nowell scored a career-high 36 points with nine assists against the Longhorns last month, Hunter denied the ball to Nowell and made him a passer off the bounce. Harried by other Texas defenders as well, Nowell finished with 10 points and six turnovers while missing all five three-point attempts.
A strong second half by forward Christian Bishop helped, too — the Horns missed the super senior in Austin following a back injury in the first half. On Saturday, Bishop bounced back from a poor start to score 14 points with six rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in a tough, physical performance highlighted by the go-ahead layup with 39 seconds remaining.
Guard Sir’Jabari Rice once again contributed key minutes off the bench, matching Bishop’s 14 points, largely at the free-throw line, and notching 10 rebounds. Over the last three games, Rice is now 9-of-18 shooting from three, raising his season average to 34.9 percent, and 17-of-21 shooting from the free-throw line.
Acting head coach Rodney Terry believed that Hunter’s strong defensive effort helped him on offense. The 10 points from Hunter weren’t a massive contribution, but he came up with some important plays, including a three during the run to start the second half, an assist to Bishop for a dunk, and a driving layup with 4:49 remaining. With defensive effort much easier for Hunter to control than whether his three-point shot is landing, perhaps the Kansas State game will serve as a blueprint for him going forward.
Kansas head coach Bill Self is unlikely to see his team’s performance in Ames on Saturday in the same stratosphere following the 15-point loss. The poor effort featured 20 turnovers and 26.1-percent shooting from beyond the arc. Star forward Jalen Wilson was the only player to score in double digits as forward Gradey Dick was 2-of-6 shooting and turned the ball over five times in arguably the worst performance of his young career.
In the all-time series, the Jayhawks have won 17 of the 19 games played at Phog Allen.
How to watch
Time: 8 p.m. Central