The cards were undeniably stacked against the Texas Longhorns today. The No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks knew that was the case, and used it to their advantage. Already without Andrew Jones, the Longhorns suffered several additional personnel deficits.
Eric Davis Jr. has been held out of action out as Texas investigates his alleged involvement pertaining to impermissible benefits. Furthermore, Mohamed Bamba, Texas’ coveted five-star recruit and likely NBA lottery-pick didn’t make the trip to Lawrence due to a left toe injury.
On top of a paper-thin roster, Shaka Smart was and the ‘Horns were pitted against a fire-hired Jayhawks crowd on Kansas’ senior night. And just to add the icing to the cake, Kansas needed to win tonight, on their home floor, on senior night, against a depleted Texas team, to own the sole rights to a record-setting fourteenth straight Big 12 regular season title under Coach Bill Self.
The Jayhawks did just that, fending off late Texas pushes for an 80-70 victory over the Longhorns.
Texas opened the game in a zone defensive look, and the zone was working early against Kansas’ high-paced offense. Devonte Graham, who finished with a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists, began to find holes in the Texas frontcourt, and Udoka Azubuike became too much for fill-in center Dylan Osetkowski.
Osetkowski hasn’t had much experience guarding a big of Azubuike’s stature this season, and it sorely showed. Azubuike’s final line reads 20 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks — but, perhaps the most telling stat of the night was Azubuike’s field goal totals. He shot 10-11 from the field, and nearly every shot he took was an uncontested dunk.
One can’t help but to wonder what those uncontested “gimmes” would’ve looked like if Bamba were healthy.
About midway through the first half, Texas abandoned its zone defense for a man-to-man scheme, but that’s where Kansas was able to feast approaching halftime. A few Graham and Mykhailiyuk three-point buckets later, and the Jayhawks had a comfortable 13-point lead going into the half.
Without Kerwin Roach II’s gritty toughness in the early-going, Texas may have seen themselves fall into an even deeper hole in the opening period. Roach finished with 18 points on 7-15 from the field, along with five rebounds and two steals.
The second half of this game is when things began to get interesting.
Kansas held a commanding lead from nearly buzzer-to-buzzer, but Texas never went away. The final 20 minutes of play, even until the final few seconds, seemed like Texas could make a run. Going along with the theme of the day, Texas faced additional adversity when three of their five starters got into foul trouble with plenty of time left to play.
Texas finished the game 29-68 from the field, and 9-28 from three-point range — numbers that, more or less, align with their weak-to-mediocre shooting percentages thus far. However, going against such trends, Texas allowed the Jayhawks to shoot 60.3 percent overall, and 43.8 percent from deep. Kansas also finished with nearly twice as many assists as Texas; 23-to-12.
Texas turned the ball over 12 times and committed 19 fouls during the game.
This game was certainly interesting, and one that many Texas fans won’t give much credit towards since the ‘Horns were such short-handed before the game even began. Texas is hoping to pick up a much-needed win at home on this coming Saturday, March 3 at 11:00 a.m. CT in its last game of the regular season before heading onto Big 12 tournament play.