Kansas was able to dish out a little payback for one of its two losses during a 32-2 season meaning the Jayhawks have now beaten every team on their schedule.
This game wasn't for a one seed, it likely had little effect on either
teams seeding – it was simply for pride and momentum heading to the Big
Dance. And yes, a little revenge.
Kansas-Texas has become a Big 12 Championship tradition and though the
games have been highly entertaining the results have been fairly
one-sided. Four of KU's last five conference tourney titles have come
against the Longhorns.
This 84-71 victory likely one of the more meaningful wins because the
Jayhawks WANTED to play Texas and ASKED to play Texas and made no
secret about it even telling the Texas players to beat A&M because
they wanted a "piece". After all the pre-game chatter, KU also managed
to deliver against Rick Barnes' squad.
"Since the loss we've been talking about that we really wanted another
shot at them, because a lot of people have been saying that they were
the best team in the Big 12," said Marcus Morris who earned the Big 12
Tournament's Most Oustanding Player Award.
You had to think maybe KU head coach Bill Self cringed a little when he
found out how much his players had been asking for and talking about
payback matchups with Kansas State and Texas. But maybe it wasn't such
a bad thing.
"We had to come out and play," said junior Markieff Morris who was
named to the All-Tournament team. "We had to back our talk up. We were
saying we wanted Texas, they beat us, and we definitely came out ready
to play and we kept the energy the whole game."
Looking a bit flat in its first two games at the Sprint Center and
likely deflated to be playing Colorado instead of K-State in the
semifinals, you had to know IF KU did find its way to the title game
and a rematch against Texas, the Hawks would be ready.
And this time, with a title on the line, they were.
"This is what we wanted," Taylor said. "We got them in the best
situation, like Big 12 Championship game. And, I mean, we came out
fully focused and with high intensity from the beginning. And, I mean,
we showed what we could do if we play how we play."
The circumstances were much different this time around against the
Horns. Back in January Texas made its way to Lawrence looking to end
KU's 69-game home winning streak and hand Kansas its first loss of the
season. But KU was hurting. The Hawks were spiraling after hearing the
news of the passing of Thomas Robinson's mother Lisa just over 12 hours
The Jayhawks never made excuses. They began that January 22nd game
inspired and took a large halftime lead but couldn't sustain it after
finally succumbing to the Longhorns, 74-63. In Kansas City, this Kansas
team was ready from the opening tip and again took a large halftime
lead, but this time sustained championship-caliber intensity for 40
"I think the last game our attention span was kind of like it was
somewhere else," said Taylor who scored a season-high 20 points. "I
mean, we knew we had a game the next day, but there was so much more
important stuff going on. So our focus for that game kind of dropped a
little bit. We were fully focused for this game. We were ready."
"I think since last night and leading up to this we've been so excited
to get out there and play against them and show everybody. I'm not
saying that the first game was a fluke, but we weren't at full
strength. And I think that today we were playing our best and we were
at full strength and we showed everybody," said Marcus Morris.
The post game press conference featured talk of aggressiveness and
intensity – a couple of qualities KU has proven if it can implement
makes the Hawks toughest matchup in the country.
It starts at the point guard position. Kansas has looked its best when
Taylor has been engaged and his return to the starting lineup for the
first time in nearly month spurred him on to a 20-point performance and
a game that Self labeled the best the junior has played in his
The dimension Taylor adds when he can penetrate, finish, and/or get his
teammates involved is tough for any opponent to combat. Kansas State
couldn't handle it in Lawrence and Texas couldn't on Saturday either.
"I just wanted to win," said Taylor who scored 13 of his 20 points in
the first half. "Texas played good against us the last time we played
against them, and they got us. We knew we had to be aggressive. Coach
gave me a green light to come out and be aggressive and told me to
attack. That's exactly what I did. I just was looking to score and
looking to create for my teammates."
"Tonight he was fabulous," said Self praising Taylor. "He played like a
point guard should play. He initiated. He finished when he needed to.
And, you know, he had a couple of mental defensive lapses. But those
are good players. And guys score when they're good. So I thought his
play was exceptional tonight."
Elijah Johnson stepped in and played well during Taylor's suspension
and had been the starter up until this game, but Self called Taylor's
number for the title contest. Johnson played just 4 minutes and had 2
fouls vs. Texas.
"When one guy is playing that well he needs to be in there," Self
explained. "And Tyshawn just put so much pressure on their defense by
being able to drive it and get to the paint. And he helped himself
score by getting in there, but he also created for others and put
pressure on them the entire 40 minutes for the most part."
Johnson will have a critical role going forward but Taylor could
ultimately be the key to how far this team goes.
"I knew what was best for our team, and what's best for our team is to
have him in the game," said Self when asked about his decision to start
Taylor. "But there's a place for Elijah, too. There's a place for both
of our guys."
"There were some times where if Tyshawn wasn't playing well,
statistically he can still impact the game in a lot of ways. And I
think that's something that he kind of got away from a little bit when
things weren't going well. But what's best for our team is to have
everybody's head right and thinking positive, moving forward, and I
think this did wonders for that"
The aggressiveness permeated through the entire roster and into every
facet of the game. With Taylor looking so sharp at the controls KU
looked like the fast, athletic team Self hyped in the preseason.
"We look fast," Self stated. "We're a pretty athletic and fast team,
but we haven't played that way of late. So I think a big part of that
we talked about before the game is I want you to play a lot faster and
I want you to play with a free mind, and I thought we did that for the
It was a classic Kansas win in the Self era – one that featured
balanced scoring with six players in double-figures, precision offense
(56.9 percent shooting for the game), and a stingy, repellent defense
that allowed just 40.9 percent shooting against a terrific offensive
Self spoke about how his team was "much more aggressive protecting the
rim in this one," and though the 8th year coach doesn't think this KU
team is quite as good as some of his best defensive teams at Kansas
they are getting better at the right time.
"If we play like that every game, it's definitely going to be hard to
stop us," said Marcus Morris. "We had great ball movement and we had
great help defense with everybody and we out-rebounded them by five. I
mean, it's a tough team to definitely get a lot of offensive rebounds.
If we play like that, we can compete against anybody in the country."
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