Jayhawks earn tough victory at Texas

AUSTIN, Texas - Though they saw a 15-point second-half lead evaporate into thin air Saturday afternoon, the Kansas Jayhawks rode clutch play late and the third outstanding performance in a row from senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor to a tough 69-66 victory over the Texas Longhorns.

As Thomas Robinson stepped to the foul line with eight seconds left on the clock, the Kansas Jayhawks leading the Texas Longhorns by three, the entire arena knew what their defensive game plan would be on the ensuing possession.

Do not, under any circumstances, let J'Covan Brown shoot the basketball.

"Trap him, switch it, whatever you have to do to keep the ball out of his hands," said Tyshawn Taylor afterward.

That's impractical, of course. There's little a team can do to keep a player from taking the in-bounds pass, which Brown did. What they can do, however, is make life miserable for him, so to speak, once the basketball is in his hands.

And that's what the Kansas Jayhawks did. With Travis Releford shadowing him as he did all day long, Brown took a tough, contested three-point shot with one-second remaining that clanged off the far edge of the iron and sealed a 69-66 road victory that Kansas head coach Bill Self called "the best win we have had all year."

With the a sellout crowd on hand at the Frank Erwin center and a young Texas squad playing with some serious adrenaline, Kansas saw a lead that at one point in the second half grew to as large as 15 points evaporate into the wind. A Clint Chapman free throw gave the Longhorns the lead, 59-58, with 5:39 left in the game, and the fight was on.

The lead changed hands five times in the final five minutes of play, with both teams hitting big shots and making clutch plays.

It's impossible to simulate toughness when the game is on the line in practice, Self said, which is what made this victory so big.

"Coach was saying how good this was for us in the timeout (at the 3:16 mark) when we were down four points," Taylor explained. "Because games like this are always learning experiences and this is how teams get better, having close games and fighting on the road. So I think we handled it well."

Self was effusive in his praise of his senior point guard, placing the bulk of the responsibility for the victory on his shoulders. And he deserved it, too, with his third brilliant game in a row, as he scored 22 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists and committed zero turnovers in 34 minutes of play.

For long stretches, the native of Hoboken, N.J. controlled the game on both ends of the floor. In the first half, with the Texas defense centered around stopping All-American candidate Thomas Robinson in the paint, he took advantage of one-on-one match-ups and knifed into the lane for buckets, fouls or assists.

In the second, when Head Coach Rick Barnes adjusted and aimed to slow Taylor down, he showed patience and good judgment in both the half court and on the fast break.

There's no great secret to the changed, Self said - no magic word that was spoken in practice that kick-started his recent surge.

"He's good," he said, simply. "He's a good player. I don't know if there's any one thing, but he's comfortable and confident."

To Taylor, staying aggressive - as Self has implored him to do - has been one of the major keys.

"My shots are falling," he said. "I've been shooting a good percentage from the three point line and I think that helps expand my game a little bit. I've always felt if I could start knocking those down on a consistent basis, that's going to open up my game a little bit more and that's what I've been doing lately."

But, as always, the victory was a team effort. Though he was slow out of the gate, grabbing just a single rebound in the first half, Robinson finished with his usual excellent stat line - 17 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Jeff Withey added 12 points and six rebounds of his own, to go along with a pair of blocked shots, though he altered far more.

And even though Travis Releford only scored four points, he showed why he is quickly ascending to the ranks of the elite defenders in the country. Tasked with shutting down Brown, he was in the Longhorns star's shirt all game long, flustering him into a 1-of-8 shooting performance at halftime, and 7-of-26 for the game.

In an off-the-court note, Saturday marked the one year anniversary of the tragic death of Robinson's mother, Lisa. Self was understandably proud of how Robinson handled himself - and of how he played.

When asked about his emotions in the post game press conference, however, the 6-foot-9, 240-point junior downplayed the importance.

"No disrespect or anything, but I mean (her death is) something I have to live with every day," Robinson said. "For the media, it's the anniversary."

Seated alongside him, Taylor was supportive of his friend and teammate's mentality.

"it's a regular day," he said, nodding. "We're coming out here and doing work. That's it."

Next up, the Jayhawks have another quick turnaround, heading back home to Allen Fieldhouse for a Monday night tilt with Texas A&M. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN.

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