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Smothering defense guides Texas to 73-63 upset win over No. 11 Kansas

The Longhorns overwhelmed Kansas defensively and hit key shots and free throws down the stretch to snag a resume-building win.

NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Texas Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — For the second time this season, the Texas Longhorns have toppled a college basketball blue blood, as Shaka Smart’s bunch smothered the Kansas Jayhawks to capture a monumental 73-63 home win over the perennial Big 12 power.

The double-digit victory came largely behind nothing short of a dominant defensive showing, quite unlike the Texas defense that traveled to Athens over the weekend. Just days after allowing a mediocre Georgia offense to amass 98 points, the Texas defense overwhelmed Kansas coming out of the gates and maintained that momentum for all but a few brief spurts.

A transition layup from Devon Dotson put the first Kansas points on the board in the opening moments, but the next Jayhawks shot — a three from fellow freshman guard Quentin Grimes — didn’t fall until nearly five minutes into the contest. In between those two Kansas connections, the Longhorns offense totaled just six points, but defensively, Jaxson Hayes notched a pair of blocks, Texas forced a shot clock violation, and a well-executed trap led to a Courtney Ramey steal.

Texas was unable to capitalize on the aforementioned opportunities, going on to take a 6-5 lead into the under-16 media timeout, but coming out of the break, the Horns found some footing.

More specifically, Kerwin Roach II found his range. The senior shot over Kansas’ 2-3 zone defense for his first three of the evening, then did much of the same over a man-to-man look less than a minute later, lifting the Longhorns lead to 12-5 and forcing a Bill Self timeout.

The Kansas execution wasn’t there coming out of the discussion, as the Jayhawks ensuing possession ended with yet another shot clock violation.

Meanwhile, as the minutes past and Texas continued to smother the Kansas offense, Jericho Sims joined the scoring column with a strong move around the rim, and after David McCormack responded with some points in the paint of his own, a Ramey three increased Texas edge to 17-8.

It wasn’t until the next Kansas possession, nearly 10 minutes into the contest, that the Jayhawks reached double figures in the scoring column.

“Absolutely,” Texas forward Dylan Osetkowski said when asked if Texas is getting back to what it wants to be. “We’ve been talking about our identity being defense for a long time now, and tonight we showed that.”

That bucket from Ochai Agbaji sparked a quick 4-0 Kansas spurt, but not to be outdone, Roach responded shortly thereafter with his third three-pointer of the half. Following a few scoreless minutes, which included another Kansas shot clock violation, Jase Febres connected from deep, as well, and suddenly, the Longhorns lead had ballooned to double digits, 23-12.

From that point forward, though, Kansas controlled the final minutes of the first half. An Agbaji three and then an Agbaji dunk headlined what became a 11-1 Kansas run, cutting the Horns lead to just 24-23 with 1:41 remaining before intermission.

That was as much as success as the Jayhawks would enjoy before the break, though, as the Longhorns took a 26-23 lead into the locker room.

The second half painted a similar picture, at least initially.

Ramey opened the action with his second three of the night, and after a Dotson layup got Kansas back on the board, Hayes responded with powerful post move over his right shoulder. In continuing with points coming in the paint, Matt Coleman made his way to the time for an easy layup, lifting the Longhorns lead to 35-27 and forcing a Kansas timeout with 16:23 to play.

An Agbaji three stopped the bleeding, but only until Osetkowski attacked the paint and reopened the wound with a couple impressive post moves, pushing Texas’ lead to 39-30, Then, in refusing to relent the momentum, Ramey responded to a Lagerald Vick three with one of his own, prompting yet another a Kansas timeout.

Vick then bounced back after the brief break with another triple to prevent the Longhorns lead from ballooning again. A pair of free throws from Sims, and then a Sims dunk to answer an Agbaji layup provided Texas with some breathing room and an eight-point cushion, 46-38.

That was, until Dedric Lawson finally go going, doing so at the expense of Hayes.

“Just trying to stay down and stay in front of him,” Hayes said of trying to defend Lawson in the paint. “He’s really crafty down low.”

The Jayhawks junior big man made a pair of free throws before following that up with an and-one opportunity, again at the expense of Hayes.

Within a matter of moments, the 46-38 Texas lead was cut to 46-43, but only until Osetkowski’s aggressive efforts around the paint earned him four free throws and Febres found the net on another pair of threes to give Texas a 56-47 cushion with 4:39 to play.

A little more than a minute later, Osetkowski went back to work from the charity stripe, sinking another pair of free throws as Texas lead grew to double digits.

“Osetkowski, I thought had a really good game, too,” Self said of the Longhorns senior forward, who finished with a team-high 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 mark from the free-throw line.

As expected from a team just on the brink of the top 10, though, Kansas pushed back. Dotson sank a pair of free throws just seconds after Osetkowski pushed the Texas lead to 11, and then Agbaji added two more free throws, though they required two trips, as he split the one-and-one opportunities.

The theme was essentially set down the stretch, as Hayes then hit two free throws of his own with 2:05 to play, keeping Kansas just out of reach with a 60-53 Longhorns lead. On the other end, Lawson answered with another and-one, this time against Osetkowski. Just seconds later, though, that 60-56 Longhorns lead was 63-56 following a Febres three, and even after Kansas answered with a air of Agbaji free throws, Texas broke the press and Hayes made Kansas pay with a dunk that sent the crowd Erwin Center crowd into a frenzy with their Longhorns leading, 65-58 with 1:17 to play.

Again, though, in refusing to lay down, Lawson connected from the perimeter, pulling Kansas within four with 1:02 to play, and the momentum appeared to be switching after Roach threw a pass to Osetkowski out of bounds. Lawson’s next three was no good, though, and even after Roach missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Longhorns guard secured his own rebound and sank each of his next two free throw attempts with 41.5 ticks to play.

Agbaji answered with his own pair of free throws, and then Roach connected on another pair from the charity strip to keep the Longhorns lead at two possessions, 69-63. A Vick three aimed to trim that lead in half, but it was off the mark and into the arms of Hayes, who nailed each of his two free throw attempts to essentially seal the win for the Longhorns.

“Feels great,” Smart said of his first win over Kansas and Texas’ first win over the Jayhawks since the 2013-14 season. “But it’s more about we needed to win this game for us, regardless of who the opponent was.”

“I don’t know that we were ever really good tonight, by any stretch,” Self said following Kansas third loss in four games. “So poor offensively. And then got off to such a bad start and played from behind.”

In addition to Osetkowski’s 16 points, Roach, Hayes, and Febres reached double figures in the scoring column with 15, 13, and 12 points, respectively. Roach was just 3-of-13 shooting from the field, but each of his connections were from deep, and the senior sank 6-of-7 from the free-throw line. Hayes, too, was nearly perfect from the charity stripe, cashing in on 7-of-8 looks. He snagged nine rebounds and notched two blocks, as well. Febres shot 4-of-8 from three off the bench.

Texas, as a team, made 10-of-28 looks from three and out rebounded Kansas 36 to 27.

Agbaji led all scorers with 24 points, and did so in a tremendous efficient manner, converting 8-of-10 field goal attempts.

“I thought Agbaji was terrific tonight,” Smart said. “Crazy to think that just two weeks ago he was redshirted.”

Next up, the 12-9 (4-4) Longhorns will hit the road for a Saturday (1 p.m. CT) showdown with No. 20 Iowa State.