Kansas coach Bill Self has said repeatedly in the past couple of weeks that in order to win the Jayhawks were going to have to play games in the 60s.
On Tuesday night in Austin, Texas, No. 14 Texas needed overtime to climb above the 70-point mark and that was enough for the Longhorns to knock off 17th-ranked Kansas 75-72 at Frank Erwin Center.
The loss snapped KU’s five-game winning streak and made Shaka Smart’s Longhorns just the second team in Bill Self’s 18 seasons at Kansas to sweep a home-and-home regular season series with the Jayhawks.
"It's tough," Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji said after the setback. "We got it to overtime and had momentum going into overtime, but it's tough falling short."
It also came after Kansas (17-8 overall, 11-6 Big 12) built a lead of as big as 14 points in the first half, looking like a completely different team than the one that was rocked by Texas by 25 points at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 2.
The plan for the Jayhawks entering the rematch was to keep Texas from torching the nets like they did in that one.
That part of the game plan was a success.
But what the Longhorns missed from behind the arc while going 5-of-26 from 3-point range, including 1-of-13 in the first half, they got at the rim, dropping in 14 dunks while using their size, speed and athleticism to put serious pressure on the Jayhawks.
Even with that, Kansas had plenty of opportunities to win this one.
But KU shot just 29% in the second half (8-of-27) and finished just 12-of-21 at the free throw line.
"That was the difference," Kansas coach Bill Self said of KU's 57% showing at the line, compared to 77% (24 of 31) by Texas.
Agbaji led the Jayhawks with 17 points, after hitting a career-high 5-of-11 shots from 3-point range, but he was just 1-of-5 from the floor in the second half.
After a sloppy start that saw David McCormack pick up two fouls in the first three minutes of the game, the junior big man finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including the final two KU buckets of regulation, the second of which tied the game at 66 with less than 10 seconds to play to force overtime.
Jalen Wilson, who picked up his sixth double-double in the past seven games — and his ninth of the season — finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds but lost the ball out of bounds while flying in for what would’ve been a game-tying layup late in overtime.
That miscue, one of 12 KU turnovers (compared to 17 by Texas) allowed the Longhorns to ice the game at the free throw line.
"God, we were turned up," Self said of the Jayhawks' effort and intensity in the first half. "We certainly had the opportunity to close it out but just didn't make enough plays."
The Jayhawks got off to the exact start they wanted, opening up leads of 7-1 and 9-3 in the game’s first few minutes.
But the dream start quickly turned south when big man McCormack picked up his second foul on a Jericho Sims bucket inside with 16:48 to play in the first half.
That sent McCormack to the bench and was merely a glimpse at the success the Longhorns found inside throughout Tuesday’s game.
Ten of the Longhorns’ first 11 points came on uncontested layups, and UT ripped off an 8-3 run to take its first lead at 12-11 six minutes into the game.
Texas continued to pressure the Jayhawks inside throughout the first half, which inspired Self to go with a five-guard lineup out of the under-12 timeout. The move quickly paid off. After trailing 16-11 following a 13-2 Texas run, the Jayhawks went on an 15-2 run of their own to claim a 26-18 lead.
Agbaji scored five of the eight, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner and hitting two of three free throws after being fouled a couple of possessions later on a shot from the same corner.
It wasn’t just the Jayhawks’ ability to put points on the board that sparked the run. Kansas also looked like a much more confident team during the middle portion of the first half.
Never was that more evident than on the breakaway dunk by Bryce Thompson that forced Texas to call a timeout with 5:01 to play in the half.
Thompson’s dunk pushed KU’s run to 17-2 and gave the freshman nine points in nine minutes. Out of the timeout, Thompson buttered his own bread, scoring another breakaway dunk to give him 11 points and push Kansas’ lead to 34-20.
"The first half, we got anything we wanted," Self said. "In the second half, we reverted to the way we run offense when we're not very good."
While Kansas found its flow in transition and picked up some easy points off of its defense, the Longhorns continued to throw up bricks on shots outside of two feet.
After hitting 46% of their 3-point tries in a 25-point win in Lawrence in January, Texas missed their first TEN 3-point attempts on Tuesday night, and Kansas limited the Longhorns to one shot and out on most of those misses.
The Longhorns did not hit their first 3-pointer of the night until 34 seconds remained in the first half. A triple by Donovan Williams cut KU’s double-digit lead to 41-32, but two free throws by Wilson and one more defensive stop by the Jayhawks sent Kansas into the locker room at halftime with a 43-32 lead.
It took the Longhorns just 9:25 into the second half to erase that deficit.
After shooting 49% from the floor in the first half, KU opened the second half by hitting just four of its first 16 attempts and UT tied the game at 52 on a pair of free throws by Andrew Jones with 10:35 to play.
After another miss by Kansas on the next possession, Texas claimed its first lead since 18-15 on a 3-point rope by Jones with 9:10 to play.
The Jayhawks responded by tying the game at 57 on a Wilson 3-pointer and that set the stage for a back-and-forth rumble to the finish.
One of the best illustrations of the biggest philosophical change this team has undergone in the past few weeks came midway through the second half, when Wilson got hammered on a drive to the rim. As he slid and sprawled out below the baseline, all four Jayhawks on the floor sprinted to help him up.
“You’ve got quite a few guys on their team that are playing really well,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “And you've got a group that understands that they need each other.”
Both teams went cold in the game’s final few minutes, which set up a dramatic finish.
Texas had equaled its first-half point output with five minutes still to play, but managed just two points the rest of the regulation, which allowed Kansas to overcome its sluggish second half to force overtime.
McCormack’s rebound and put-back of a Marcus Garrett miss in the final 10 seconds gave KU life and tied the game at 66 at the end of 40 minutes.
Next up, the Jayhawks will return to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday to take on No. 2 Baylor at 7 p.m. The Bears, after three weeks off, resumed play with a hard-fought home win over Iowa State on Tuesday.
"I don't know that (Tuesday's loss) is anything that we need to hang our head on," Self said. "We don't need to be depressed about this. We need to be pissed that we didn't close. All we've got to do is come back, keep working and grinding and put ourselves in a position to beat Baylor on Saturday."