With 7:19 second remaining, it was anybody's game. Coming out of the eight minute media time out, Texas and Kansas were in a dogfight. Myles Turner had just tipped in a missed Isaiah Taylor layup to cut Kansas' lead to three. Now the Longhorns simply needed to execute down the stretch, and get a few stops.
But the next two and a half minutes would end up being a disaster for Rick Barnes' team, which made a series of mistakes that allowed Kansas to pull away. Here is how it happened.
7:19 -- Kansas 53, Texas 50
Texas set up to defend in 2-3 zone. After moving the ball from side to side, Jayhawk guard Frank Mason drove left from the left wing, with Kansas sharpshooter Brandon Greene in the near corner. Mason drew in the zone defender, and kicked to Greene, who nailed a three.
6:53 -- Kansas 56, Texas 50
Texas brought the ball up the floor, and Kansas committed a quick foul. This set Texas up with a baseline out of bounds play. Texas executed the play well, with Cameron Ridley setting a strong screen that freed Myles Turner for an open three point shot. Turner missed the shot.
Sometimes shots don't go in. It happens. But the real problem is that the play left Texas vulnerable to the Kansas fast break. Jonathan Holmes was the furthest man back when Turner took his shot, but rather than covering the back court, Holmes went after the offensive rebound. Texas guards Isaiah Taylor (the inbounder on the play) and Demarcus Holland (underneath the basket) were in no position to get back on defense quickly.
The result gave Kansas an easy run out. After rushing down the floor, Cliff Alexander was fouled, and hit one of two free throws.
6:38 -- Kansas 57, Texas 50
Desperately needing a bucket, Rick Barnes went to one of his most reliable plays, a pin down screen on the weakside block for Jonathan Holmes. My colleague Peter Bean described this play earlier in the season, and it has been a staple of the Texas attack both this season and last. If Holmes reads the screen correctly, he typically gets a chance to score deep inside the paint. And Holmes almost always reads this play correctly.
Ridley was in position to set a weakside pin down screen for Holmes. Kansas obviously has the play scouted, and the Jayhawk defense was cheating to prevent Holmes from curling off the pin down. Holmes read that the defense was heating, and instead quickly flashed across the paint, where he was wide open on the low block.
Holmes had been killing Kansas on the block for the last few minutes, overpowering both Kelly Oubre and Greene. And now he was again wide open, with Greene pinned on his back.
For whatever reason Holland -- who had a nice angle to enter the ball into the post -- didn't throw the ball into Holmes. When this entry pass failed to happen, the rest of the possession quickly went downhill.
The ball reversed, and Ridley set a ball screen for Taylor. Unfortunately, the spacing was messed up, with Turner too high, bringing a third defender to help with the ball screen defense. After this, Taylor backed the ball out and attacked off the dribble. Again, Turner was too close, and his defender was ready to help prevent deep penetration.
The ball was passed a few times before returning to Taylor. At this point, with the shot clock winding down, Taylor drove baseline off of a Ridley ball screen, and tried to throw a pass all the way across the court while he was flying out of bounds. Not a good choice.
Predictably, this led to a Kansas steal and fast break. Cliff Alexander earned another trip to the foul line, and hit one of two.
6:00 -- Kansas 58, Texas 50
Ridley set a ball screen for Taylor, who reversed the ball to Turner. Ridley posted up, and Turner entered the ball into the post. Ridley gathered himself and found Holland cutting to the hoop. Holland hit the layup.
5:38 -- Kansas 58, Texas 52
After scoring, Texas was able to get back into a set half court defense. Likely tired of watching Greene kill his team from long range, Rick Barnes switched into man-to-man defense.
Perry Ellis set a ball screen for Devonte' Graham. Taylor and Myles Turner (who is guarding Ellis) attempted to execute an "ice" ball screen defense. In this defense, Taylor stepped out to force Graham to dribble away from the ball screen, and Turner prepared to help slow down Graham after dribbling in the direction Taylor was forcing him to. But Graham maked a nice move, faked out Taylor, and instead went past Taylor, where there was no help.
But Turner recovered, helping Taylor, and contained Graham. Ellis, the screener, popped out beyond the arc, and received the pass. Turner closed out on Ellis, who started to dribble. What transpired for the next few dribbles can only be described as some real Perry Ellis old man YMCA shit. Ellis eventually worked his way into the paint and hit a hook shot over Turner.
5:18 -- Kansas 60, Texas 52
Texas ran a high ball screen for Taylor, and Taylor got into the paint. He missed a shot from about 12 feet away (it wasn't the greatest shot in the world), and again Texas left the backcourt relatively unprotected. This is partly a consequence of how the floor was spaced, with Holmes and Turner the players most likely to have backcourt responsibility.
Whenever a point guard drives, there is always a potential for a transition chance by the opponent, as it removes one of the regular backcourt defenders.
However, in this case it didn't lead to an immediate transition opportunity for Kansas. After looking for a second like they would push the ball, the Jayhawks slowed things down, and Frank Mason dribbled up the floor.
And then, I am not sure what the hell happened. Texas matched up in man-to-man, with the following match-up assignments:
Taylor was guarding Graham. This is perfectly sensible.
Holmes was guarding Ellis. In isolation, this is a plausible match up, although in the context of who was on the floor, Holmes picking up Ellis was likely the biggest source of trouble.
Holland was on Greene, after picking him up when it looked like Kansas might go in transition. At this point in the game, Greene seems like the most dangerous man on the floor, so locating him quickly was a reasonable priority.
Turner was guarding Alexander. No problem here.
And Cameron Ridley was guarding Kansas guard Frank Mason. This is bad. This is very bad.
Mason immediately attacked, driving the basket, and hit a layup.
4:49 -- Kansas 62, Texas 52
Rick Barnes called a timeout, but the Jayhawks had pulled ahead, and would protect the lead for the rest of the game.
During this sequence, Kansas scored on every possession, while Texas only came away with points in one trip down the floor.
Kansas had to work against a set defense twice in the series, scoring five points on a nice drive and kick, and a one-on-one driveway move by Ellis. Kansas also got four points by taking advantage of transition chances and a Texas defensive mix up.
As for Texas, the Longhorns committed a series of errors, many of which led to immediate trouble.
- Holmes failed to cover the backcourt after Turner's missed jump shot.
- Holland failed to enter the ball to Holmes when he was open in the post.
- Turner messed up the offensive spacing on consecutive attempts by Taylor to drive to the middle of the floor.
- Taylor made a poor decision when he tried to throw the ball all the way across the floor after driving baseline.
- Taylor allowed Graham to beat a pick and roll coverage in a direction that should not be allowed.
- Texas somehow ended up starting a possession with Cameron Ridley matched up man-to-man with Frank Mason. It was a short possession.
It was a frustrating sequence for Texas. Kansas took advantage of most of the mistakes Texas made, punishing the Horns for their missteps.