It was as important to the mind as it was to the trophy case.
KU had some decent wins under its belt, but really hasn’t beaten that quality opponent away from home or on a neutral court. This was the perfect test heading into NCAA tournament play.
13 lead changes and ten ties later, Bill Self’s team finally passed with flying colors.
The Jayhawks got a chance to defeat a quality opponent in a one-and-done scenario. They were able to exercise the demons and any lingering doubts about being able to put together three quality performances in three days. They found out that they can indeed flourish under postseason pressure. More importantly, they will head to the big dance on a roll.
It was critical for the Jayhawks to stand up to Texas after the beat down they suffered back in February. We said Saturday there needed to be a 180 in several categories if the Jayhawks were to win this one – and there was.
In the first meeting, Texas turned 15 turnovers into 22 points, while the Kansas transition game was missing in action in Austin. In this one KU turned 16 Texas turnovers into 32 big points.
Big 12 Freshman of the Year Brandon Rush thankfully did not pick up where he left off last time out against Texas. He hit two quick three-pointers that were important for his psyche and his teammates.
Kansas was a frigid 4-15 from three on that dreadful February evening but on Sunday KU blistered the nets hitting 12-24 threes in this one, a Big 12 tournament record. Texas was hot from long distance in the first half shooting over 54 percent, but cooled off considerably in the second half (2-10 3-pt FG).
Remember how Texas manhandled the Jayhawks on the glass in meeting number one? The Longhorns still won the battle of the boards (40-35) but at least it was actually a “battle” this time. Julian Wright, blanked in the rebounding column back in February, pulled down seven in this one to go along with 12 points and four assists. Wright made a handful of big plays down the stretch and continues to wow Jayhawk fans with his athletic ability.
Strangely enough the Jayhawks did not have one of their best defensive days until the end. They managed to hold Texas without a field goal for over nine minutes – an amazing time span against the high-octane attack of the Longhorns. Early on KU had problems handling UT’s pick-and-roll and P.J. Tucker was having his way on offense early on. Tucker slowed down in the second half and Kansas found out the best way to neutralize LeMarcus Aldridge is to make sure he’s sitting next to Rick Barnes for most of the game. Aldridge played 28 minutes scored only five points on 1-5 shooting.
Once again its time to take a step forward, and Kansas is now well-aware it can compete with the best. This is a fun-loving, loose, group of guys who are just enjoying winning. They also happen to be one of the hottest teams in the country.
Now after sharing the regular season championship with Texas, KU has a championship to call their own. There won’t be any disputes about where this trophy is headed.
- Again we continue to see that Sunday’s championship games are not given much consideration by the committee. We had Texas as a two-seed and Kansas as a four-seed regardless of what happened in the game because we knew the committee would have most of the seeding set prior to tip – low and behold we were correct. Maybe it’s time to either end the games on Saturday or play them earlier on Sunday. Probably not going to happen thanks to TV but it seems every year someone from the Big 12 and Big 10 gets slighted just a bit.
- Maybe being a four-seed is good omen. Keep thinking 1997 national champs Arizona. They were also a four-seed that went to the Final Four in 1997, which was held in Indianapolis by the way, and Lute Olson started five underclassmen.