The Jayhawks (30-3) and Longhorns (28-5) meet today for the Big 12 Tournament Championship at 2 p.m. in the Sprint Center in Kansas City. KU has beaten Texas in the last two tournament championships, while the Longhorns defeated Kansas in Austin, 72-69, last month on Feb. 11.
The two teams shared the regular-season conference title, so this game
is especially meaningful for bragging rights. The winner also has a
possible chance at a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament; the Selection
Show will be announce the seedings and pairings shortly after the game.
Texas is coming of a big 77-49 win over Oklahoma in the semifinals on
Saturday, while Kansas nipped Texas A&M, 77-71. Guard A.J. Abrams led all scorers with 24 points versus the Sooners, including
hitting seven of 12 three-pointers.
This is Texas’ fifth Big 12 final, and the Longhorns have yet
to win the championship.
“They definitely feel like a rival,” said KU junior
forward Brandon Rush. “We beat them the last (two) years in
the tournament and they beat us (in Austin in February). ... We
definitely want a rematch with Texas because they got us down in
Two years ago, Texas also beat KU at home, 80-55, on Feb. 25, 2006. But
the Jayhawks got the last laugh with an 80-68 victory over the
Longhorns over two weeks later in the Big 12 Tournament Championship.
KU coach Bill Self will not address payback for today’s game.
Instead, he’ll emphasize how Texas beat Kansas in Austin a
month ago. The Longhorns dominated the boards during the second half
(23-12); forward Damion James was especially huge off the
glass with multiple offensive put-backs. He had all 13 of his rebounds
in the second half and also scored 12 of his 14 points after halftime.
Forward Connor Atchley had a big night as well with a team-high 16
points, including four of four from three-point range. Texas’
star point guard D.J. Augustin, though, shot just one of 13 from the
“We won’t talk about revenge,” Self said.
“Our guys will understand that it’s going to be one
of the more fun games they’ll play in their college career.
You’re playing for a championship, it will be a great crowd,
a partisan Kansas crowd, and the stakes are high. It will be a fun
Rush is certainly hyped.
“I think (the) game will decide who the best team is in the
Big 12,” he said. “We’re looking forward
Seniors Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun said a possible No. 1 seed is
not on the minds of the Jayhawks. They just want a championship. And
what else is on the line?
“Losing, that’s what’s on the
line,” Jackson replied. “Nobody wants to lose.
It’s not time to go home yet. I know Texas doesn’t
want to lose and we don’t want to lose. We just have to go
out there and play.”
Self said the “winner has a great chance of being a No. 1
seed. I really do. ... I don’t know if
that’s an ultimate goal of being a No. 1 seed, certainly
putting you in the best position is.”
KU and Texas both got a boost as a potential No. 1 seed after Arkansas
beat No. 4 Tennessee, 92-91, on Saturday night in the semifinals of the
Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Self, though, is obviously more concerned about his squad heading into
Sunday’s final with Texas.
“I love our team, but I still have some reservations about
energy level consistently,” he said. “Not that
it’s poor because I don’t want to sound like
they’re not trying. Energy is so important to us because it
creates offense for us. Even (against A&M) in the first half, I
did not feel the energy was there as much as it is at other times.
It’s not from a lack of effort. But that right there is the
reason we play well when we play well, it’s because we steal
some easy points. Today, we didn’t steal as many easy points.
We got a few, but not as many.”
Jackson also talked about the ‘E’ word regarding
Sunday’s championship game.
“We’re going to have to be ready to match their
energy,” he said. “It always comes down to the last
possession. Both teams are going to be executing and playing hard,
diving (for) loose balls. It’s going to be a physical game
because everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to get the
Texas coach Rick Barnes has great respect for the Jayhawks.
“I’ve said all along, I think they’re the
best team we played all year,” Barnes said.
Self thinks pretty highly of the Longhorns as well.
“I think it is pretty fitting that Texas and Kansas (are
playing for the championship),” Self said. “I think
these two programs have had the best seasons and I think it’s
great for our league to have the two best teams get a chance to hook up
and play on Sunday. You go back the last three years, there’s
been some unbelievable plays and some unbelievable performances by guys
on both teams. I would expect the same tomorrow.”
“That’s the best team we’ve
played,” Self added. “And I’ll say the
same thing (after the championship), regardless of outcome.”
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