The Day After: Texas
It may be Super Bowl Sunday, but there certainly was nothing super about the Jayhawks' 81-69 loss at Texas on Saturday.
Although the Longhorns holding a double-digit lead for the majority of the game came as a bit of a surprise, the fact that Kansas lost was not all that shocking. For one, it was on the road. For two, Texas has been playing solid ball lately. And, for three, as hot as KU had been it definitely was no shock to see them cool off.
The loss certainly makes the Big 12 race much more interesting as the Longhorns now sit just one game back with 10 to play. As you probably know, Saturday was not a total loss for the Jayhawks, though, as Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both lost, giving them three and four Big 12 losses, respectively.
With Texas still having to return to Allen Fieldhouse (Feb. 22) and still staring at games at Iowa State, at Kansas State and home against Baylor and Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks remain in the driver's seat for a 10th consecutive Big 12 title. But Saturday's result definitely added some drama back into the race.
As has been the case for decades, Kansas takes everyone's best shot every time they step on the floor. That becomes particularly true for road games, where the opponent's home fans often are as fired up as the players, if not more. To me, that was a big a reason for Saturday's outcome as any. You could just see the Longhorns really wanted this one and then went out and got it. No shame in losing a game to a team that played as well or as inspired as Texas did.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – I thought you could really see KU's competitiveness come out in this one. They did not play well and they shot the ball terribly, but it did not appear to me that anybody was willing to accept defeat. When trailing by double digits throughout the end of the first half and entire second half, I thought KU really dug in defensively and tried to do everything it could to get back into it. There were breakdowns and there were plenty of times were Texas did not care about KU's intensity or effort, but I thought it was there. It really showed in Wiggins, who has been solid defensively all year but really appeared to try to elevate his game there against UT to help KU get back into it. Maybe that had a little to do with the off night offensively.
2 – In the first half, when KU could not hit an outside shot, the Jayhawks kept attacking the rim. Guards, bigs, whoever, KU refused to just settle for bad jumpers. It didn't really work out, as Texas' defense in the paint was fantastic, but it's better to struggle offensively while staying in attack mode than to struggle offensively because you're taking bad shots. There were a few of those in this one, but for the most part, KU remained aggressive offensively.
3 – Senior forward Tarik Black returned from injury and showed that his time off did not hit him with a case of amnesia and cause him to forget what to do and when to do it when in the game.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – Flat out, I thought the charge call on Wayne Selden with seven minutes left to play was atrocious. Sure the potential three-point play would've only cut the UT lead to 14 and far from guaranteed a different outcome, but it would've given KU some momentum with plenty of time left. Beyond that, it was just a bad, bad call.
2 – I love that Brannen Greene has the ability to come in cold and knock down a shot at almost any time. Says a lot about his game, his preparation and his mentality. But he's in danger of becoming a one-trick pony and no one proved that better than Jonathan Holmes, who had a monster block of a Greene three-pointer in Saturday's loss. A pump fake there would've given Greene a wide open 16-footer. I know the guy likes the three ball, but he's getting enough minutes now to warrant him becoming a little more than a spot-up shooter.
3 – Perry Ellis continued to struggle to finish shots against bigger bodies. It wasn't for a lack of effort, but over the past few weeks, Ellis has been physically bumped into missed shots far too often. The one that stood out in this game the most was off the beautiful dime from Naadir Tharpe across the lane in the first half. Should've been an easy deuce.
One thought for the road:
The Jayhawks' first loss in Big 12 play:
• Made Kansas 7-1 in Big 12 play, keeping the 2002 Jayhawks the only team to have gone undefeated in a Big 12 season (16-0)
• Made KU 7-1 in conference play for the first time since the 2010-11 season
• Ended the Jayhawks’ longest winning streak of the season at seven
• Made the Kansas-Texas series 22-8 in favor of KU, including 6-6 mark in the Frank Erwin Center
• Ended KU’s win streak over Texas at five-straight
• Made Bill Self 12-8 all-time against UT (12-6 while at KU), 316-64 while at Kansas and 523-169 overall
• Made KU 2,117-817 all-time
The Jayhawks will face another tough opponent and another road crowd on Tuesday, when they travel to Waco, Texas, to take on Baylor at 6 p.m.