The crowd was working to get their Jayhawks back into it but the outlook was bleak late in the first half. Texas jumped all over KU early and you had to wonder if Kevin Durant left behind his superman cape in the Texas locker room. Longhorn forward Damion James put on a Durant-like first half shooting percentage torching KU for 20 points. James netted eight field goals in the half, the most since Durant converted on ten field goal attempts back in 2007.
"It was just a bad half and they took advantage of it, just like they
did two years ago when (Kevin) Durant came to town," said KU head coach
Bill Self referring to the 2007 game in the Fieldhouse. "The only
difference was that it was (Damion) James that had 20 points at
halftime instead of Durant that had 25 at halftime. They had us down by
17 that game, I think, and today it was 14."
This wasn't the way things were SUPPOSED to go for KU. The Jayhawks
were coming off a frustrating loss against Texas Tech, playing for an
outright title, it was senior day, a frenzied crowd in attendance, and
the Hawks had a chance to extend the nation's longest home court
winning streak – all plenty of reasons to expect KU to win this one.
A double-digit first half deficit to Rick Barnes squad was not in the
script but once again Kansas found a way with under two minutes left in
On Monday during the Big 12 teleconference, KU head coach Bill Self was
asked about his team's efficiency at the end of first halves this
season. Self proclaimed that his team works on it, but not enough to
equal the efficiency they've had this season. KU's 6th year head coach
attributed most of the success to having a guy that can make a play in
Sherron Collins. Saturday, Collins again came through with a key steal
and another critical assist. Against Missouri a 19-point game became a
26-point bulge at the half, and less than a week later, KU sliced a
14-point Longhorn advantage in half.
"I told our guys at halftime; the first thing I said to them was that
the last minute of the half won the game for us because it went from 14
to seven," Self recalled. "That's a great lesson for our team to learn,
how important it is to finish the half. We went on a 7-0 run to get it
back to where we didn't have momentum, but at least we could see the
light at the end of the tunnel."
"He told us we did a good job of competing late in the half.
We needed to come out in the second half and do the same. I think we
responded well. He was really positive and happy that we brought it
from 14 to seven points. Tyrel (Reed) hit a big three at the end (of
the half) and we were able to build off of that," said Collins
referring to a three by Reed with eight seconds left in the half.
"I told the team at halftime that we lost a few possessions in the
first half because we got away from what we wanted to do," said Texas
head coach Rick Barnes. "We turned it over and allowed them to make
"He (Coach Self) told us our 7-0 run before halftime just won us the
game," said Brady Morningstar. "After the game he mentioned that again.
I think getting a lot of momentum going in to halftime helps you out
coming into the second half and I think it showed today."
It gave KU life and much-needed momentum. The second half was a much
different story. James was plagued by foul trouble and was blanked from
the floor in the second half (6 points). Kansas outscored the Longhorns
46-29 in the final 20 minutes.
"In the second half they came out and went at us," said Barnes. "We
knew that (Kansas) was going to make a run. They are a good basketball
team. All I wanted to do was to be in the position we were in with four
minutes to go. But we could have been in a better position if we had
made some shots."
"Our guys played great in the second half. We defended, we rebounded,
we didn't turn it over. Sherron (Collins) missed shots and still we
played great," Self continued. "That was a really tough team in the
second half. The crowd was unbelievable. They gave us energy."
While Barnes was left to lament some Texas misses from close range
Kansas also locked up the sharp-shooting A.J. Abrams. Abrams finished
with 2-11 from the floor with most of the staunch defense coming from
Morningstar. Brady had been struggling on both ends of the court in
recent games but put the wraps on Abrams. Morningstar also found his
stroke and connected on 3-4 from long range including a critical one
that pushed KU's lead from 73-71 to 76-71 with 3:25 to go.
"I told my teammates that if we were going to win this game we were
going to have to play a solid game defensively and offensively," stated
Morningstar. "I wanted the challenge of trying to shut down
A.J. It's a tough challenge and he's a great player, but I
just chased him around."
In the end KU was able to remain composed, complete another comeback,
and win by 10 (83-73). Kansas becomes the first team in the Big 8/Big
12 era to win five straight conference titles.
"The other times that I've been here, it would've been a poor year if
we didn't win the league. This year I wouldn't have thought that," said
Self. "I do think, not only to win the league, but to win it outright
and match our team from a couple years ago with the 14-2 record speaks
volumes for these guys and shows their maturity."
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