"We all said Texas," junior forward Marcus Morris said, "so we're going to be ready."
KU got its wish after Texas beat the Aggies, 70-58, in the second
semifinal game on Friday. The Jayhawks and Longhorns will now battle
for the tournament title at 5 p.m. (CT) today on ESPN.
This will be a rematch between the No. 2 ranked Jayhawks (31-2) and No.
10 Longhorns (27-6) from their game in Lawrence on Jan. 22, when UT
beat KU, 74-63, and gave the ‘Hawks their first loss of the season
after opening the campaign 18-0 and ended their 69-game homecourt
"I'd say it's well-waited," Morris said. "We've been waiting for a
while to play against those guys."
KU was undergoing some severe hardships during the first meeting after
teammate Thomas Robinson's mother, Lisa, died the previous night on
Jan. 21. The Jayhawks, who grieved with Robinson until the late hours,
opened the game against Texas with a 10-0 lead and played on pure
emotion and energy the first 10 minutes.
KU, which led 35-23 at halftime, ran out of gas in the second half and
shot just 26.7 percent the final 20 minutes. UT, meanwhile, shot a
scorching 63.6 percent in the second half and dominated the glass for
the game, 42-33. Sophomore guard J'Covan Brown scored a game-high 23
points as the Longhorns upset Kansas.
"We can't make any excuses, but we had a lot of things going on,"
Morris said about Lisa Robinson's death. "We came out and played with a
lot of emotion early. In the second half, we were all drained out.
That's just what happened."
Expect both teams to play charged for 40 minutes today in what is
becoming a familiar Big 12 tournament championship game. The teams have
met in three of the last five tournament title games (2006-2008) with
KU winning each time. Kansas, which has won a league-best seven Big 12
tournament titles, has claimed four of the last five tournament
Texas, meanwhile, has never won the Big 12 tournament.
"I think it would mean a lot to us," Brown said. "If we just go out
there, just have fun, like coach (Rick Barnes) said, just playing for
each other, and just executing what we do, everything else will take
care of itself.
"It would mean a lot to us if we could win, but I know it's going to be
hard," Brown added. "Kansas is probably upset about what happened at
their place, so they're going to come out and just try to fight a whole
lot, try and outrebound us and everything."
This could be a classic battle of the two best teams in the conference
and two of the premier squads in the country. KU won the Big 12
regular-season crown at 14-2 while UT finished second at 13-3. Kansas
has won seven straight games, while Texas has won three straight after
dropping three of its previous four games.
UT advanced to the championship game today by first beating Oklahoma,
74-54, Thursday in the tournament quarterfinals and then beating
A&M Friday. Jordan Hamilton, the star sophomore swingman and
first-team All-Big 12 pick (team-leading scorer at 18.6 ppg), paced
four Longhorns in double figures versus the Aggies with 17 points.
Forward Tristan Thompson, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, also came up
big with 14 points and 13 rebounds. He's averaging 17.5 points,
11.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over the last six games.
KU knows it will have to play one of its best games of the year to beat
Texas, the top rebounding team in the Big 12.
"It's going to be a big game," senior guard Tyrel Reed said. "We got to
rebound. They obviously got a good frontcourt with Tristan Thompson and
all those guys. And also they got good guards. We got to keep them (in)
front and keep them from penetrating and creating for those bigs and
contest their shots. Just play good defense is the key."
While KU has secured a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Jayhawks
insist there's a lot at stake today.
"It's definitely a pride thing," Reed said. "We won the Big 12
(regular-season championship) and we want to show we are the best and
try to win the Big 12 tournament. Any time there is a game, you got to
step out there and compete and play, and that's what we need to do."
And KU will also be looking for some sweet revenge from its loss to
Texas in January at Allen Fieldhouse.
"I feel it's like a payback game," Morris said.
BARNES PRAISES JAYHAWKS
Texas coach Rick Barnes has high praise for Self and KU.
"We have to play a great basketball game against a great team," Barnes
said. "I'm not sure anybody's got any harder job than Bill Self. I
think he's done a great job. He's in a program, great tradition, great
history, great fans, fans that expect to win every game and be pretty
"I have great respect for him. I have great respect for their players,
the fact that, again, when you're as good as they are and the tradition
of their program, you've got to be ready to play every night."
MCMORRIS ON THE GLASS
Marcus Morris, who is averaging 7.3 rebounds this season, is hitting
the boards hard lately. He's averaging 11.3 rebounds in his last three
games. Morris had nine offensive rebounds against Oklahoma State on
Thursday and six offensive boards versus Colorado Friday.
"I'm just trying to get in open spots," Morris said after KU's victory
over the Buffaloes. "Early in the season, I wasn't really a big
offensive rebounder. I feel like now teams are starting to fall asleep
on me a little bit, so I think I'm getting open and picking my spots."
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