KU Completes Three-peat

Kansas was forced to share the Big 12 regular season title with Texas but Sunday the Jayhawks claimed a title to call their own by beating the Longhorns, 84-74.

There may be better rivalries in college basketball but few teams have played the high-caliber games that Kansas and Texas have during the last three seasons.

Two of the countries top eight teams battled it out for 40 breath-taking minutes at the Sprint Center on Sunday and this one had it all. There were big plays by big-time players, game-changing hustle plays, and a college basketball environment that would be tough to top. In fact, if you weren’t rooting for one team or another, it was the type of game where you would just sit back and ooh and ahh.

Instead this one had 16,300 on the edge of their seats for a full 40 minutes. The final margin of victory reads ten points but that doesn’t represent how close this game was.

“I thought we played great. I thought Texas played great. It was a game of runs and there were some players out there making plays,” said KU head coach Bill Self.  

Saturday it was Brandon Rush’s career-high that helped defeat the Aggies, on Sunday it was Mario Chalmers who rang up a career-high 30. The Aggies played a 2-3 zone for most of the day and it was Chalmers and Rush who exploited it. Together Rush and Chalmers combined to go 14-21 from behind the arc, and scored 49 of KU’s 84 points. Chalmers' 30 points tied the Kansas individual record for most points in a tournament game as he matched the 30 points scored by Paul Pierce vs. Missouri in 1997 and Wayne Simien vs. Oklahoma State in 2005.

Both teams put up incomprehensible numbers in the first half as the Jayhawks and Longhorns each shot 58 percent from the floor. Check out these numbers - Texas went eight for eleven from three while Kansas was successful on nine of fifteen attempts from long range in the first half. But it was Texas who went to the locker room with a one-point lead (46-45) and Kansas spent a bulk of the intermission talking about the defensive end of the floor.

“I told the team we got to make a conscious effort to guard better because in a horse contest, I don't know if you want to get in one of those with (A.J.)Abrams and (D.J.)Augustin the way they shot it the first half and the way that obviously (Damion) James and (Justin) Mason played,” said Self.

“I mean, Mario and Brandon carried us but you just wonder, can you keep doing it?
We defended and rebounded the ball much better the second half and played about as complete a game as we’ve played to be honest with you.”

 “We wanted to slow them down and not let them get the open looks and make them work for their points. We beat them on rebounding and that was a key for our win,” said Rush with a smile.

In the first half Augustin torched Kansas for 18 points but part of the plan in the second half was to make the talented sophomore take more difficult shots. After going 7-9 in the first half, D.J. went 0-9 from the floor in the second stanza. That makes Augustin 1-22 from the floor against Kansas in three of four halves played this season.

It wasn’t just Augustin who struggled in half number two for Rick Barnes club. Texas went 8-33 from the floor and shot just 24 percent as KU tightened the screws on the defensive end. The Jayhawks hedged ball screens harder and contested extremely well. The other real reason the field goal percentage was kept down was KU’s first shot defense. It was again excellent and unlike the matchup back in February in Austin – KU pulled down the boards after forcing misses. At the end of this one the rebounding statistics were skewed heavily in favor of Kansas – 43-29.  

Now if you didn’t see the game, don’t be fooled into thinking that the poor offensive showing by Texas in half number two equaled a runaway. After the torrid pace of the first half both teams combined to miss 16 of their first 17 shots.

With a little over ten minutes left, Kansas had built an eight-point lead, but in a game of key runs Texas answered with an 11-0 run of its own and reclaimed the lead, 67-64. Then during a critical stretch of the game Sherron Collins nailed a three - one of 15 for KU on the day – that put Kansas back on top 70-69. It was Darrell Arthur’s jumper with 1:52 remaining that gave the Jayhawks a 72-71 lead that they would never relinquish. Kansas ended the game on a 14-3 run to claim its third straight Big 12 title.  

Rush and Chalmers will get most of the accolades for this win but this was truly a team victory. As a testament to how well this one was played Kansas had 25 assists on 26 field goals, and the man who had seven of those assists played a big part in this win – Collins got off to a rough start in this one but ended up making several key passes and hustle plays down the stretch. The league’s sixth man of the year finished with nine points, seven assists, five rebounds, and he went 4-4 from the free throw line in crunch time.

“He's tough and he has been a big difference in our team,” added Self. “He adds a different element to our team. We're going to play those four guards about the same amount of minutes, but it was hard to take Mario and Brandon out today. They were on a roll. To be honest with you, Sherron got off to a rough start, didn't play that well early, but really made some key plays down the stretch.”

Another good sign heading into tourney play? Darrell Arthur ended up with 16 points on 6-9 shooting, grabbed several big-time rebounds (9 rebounds), and played 36 minutes. KU is simply a better team when Shady gets that many minutes.
And one last point…Those who were wondering if KU’s outside shooting was good enough to make a deep run in the tourney?

Any questions?

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