In a remarkable performance that sparked an emotional outpouring from the No. 7 Texas Longhorns in honoring interim head coach Rodney Terry, the Longhorns won the second Big 12 Tournament title in school history with a 76-56 win over the No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday in Kansas City at the T-Mobile Center.
The Longhorns outscored the Jayhawks by 15 points in a dominant second half to cap a remarkable regular season that hit a low point with the suspension of former head coach. Chris Beard following his arrest for felony domestic assault back in December. Beard was ultimately terminated in January, but Terry held the team together and the group’s camaraderie was on full display on Saturday in a complete effort.
Star Kansas forward Jalen Wilson scored 24 points, but his teammates were stifled by a willing and energetic Texas defense that held the Jayhawks to 23.5-percent shooting from three and forced 15 giveaways that produced a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers for the Longhorns. Even with guard Sir’Jabari Rice starting with the absence of forward Timmy Allen for a third straight game, the Texas bench made a huge difference by scoring 20 points to only three for the Kansas non-starters.
For the Longhorns, forward Dylan Disu continued his late-season surge with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting with six rebounds and two assists. Recovering from a recent slump, guard Marcus Carr regained his form from earlier in the conference season by dropping 17 points and three assists with multiple key plays.
Disu was a factor for Texas once again in the early going attacking a Kansas defense that likes to switch screens, scoring the team’s first basket on a long push shot and totaling six points before the under-16 timeout, at which point the Horns led 10-7, but faced a burgeoning problem with forward Dillon Mitchell struggling to defend Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson, the Big 12 Player of the Year. Wilson hit a three when Mitchell helped off on a drive, then struggled to hold up one on one with Wilson on another early score.
With Wilson scoring, the Horns brought in guard Brock Cunningham to defend Wilson in a move that created offense, too, as Cunningham hit a three and then used his shot credibility to create a layup for forward Christian Bishop on a shot fake. On a hustle play that nearly produced a turnover, Bishop dribbled from the backcourt to the rim to cap a 9-0 run for Texas ahead of the under-12 timeout.
But Texas then went through a scoreless drought of nearly four minutes heading into the next media break as Kansas made three straight shots, including two by Wilson, who continued to frustrated Longhorn defenders.
A 10-0 run by Texas around the under-four timeout featured another three by Cunningham, a driving finish by Carr through contact, and five big points by guard Arterio Morris finishing a steal at the rim with remarkable balance and then hitting an open three.
Wilson and the Jayhawks responded with five quick points to cut into the margin, but the Longhorns finished the half better as Rice cut well off the ball for an open layup to salvage a poor offensive possession and Terry opted to use his second timeout of the half on a possession that ended with Carr making an extremely difficult shot over Wilson to take a 39-33 lead into halftime.
Texas started the second half with three crisp offensive sets that produced two jumpers for Carr and a nice one-on-one play from Disu, who also had a tip in working the offensive glass and one of his increasingly frequent push shots. A three by Carr extended the lead into double digits at the 14:33 mark, ultimately producing a 10-point advantage at the under-12 timeout.
The momentum continued with two layups from Rice, including a three-point play, and one from Carr, who missed two opportunities to really put the game away, failing to knock down an open three an in transition and then throwing away a lop attempt to Disu when he had a chance to take it himself.
But it didn’t matter — the Horns went on a defining 10-2 run featuring two more layups by Rice, two more jumpers from Disu, and a rim-rattling lob drunk by Morris from Rice that made it a 20-point game and forced the Jayhawks to call one of two remaining timeouts.
the one to put the Horns up 2️⃣0️⃣‼️ pic.twitter.com/4GD6f4EZ6W— Texas Men’s Basketball (@TexasMBB) March 12, 2023
From there, Texas simply had to cruise to the program’s second Big 12 Tournament victory, game dominating performance that made the case for the Horns as a No. 1 seed. Given the NET ranking of No. 9 entering Saturday’s game, that’s an unlikely move for the committee, but Texas did everything they could in the final game before the NCAA Tournament.