The Longhorns fought back from a 15-point second-half deficit to take their first lead at 59-58 on a pair of Clint Chapman free throws with 5:39 left. Texas extended that to a four-point advantage with a three-pointer from J'Covan Brown with 3:21 remaining. Kansas called a 30-second timeout as the sellout Frank Erwin Center crowd of 16,734 howled for a signature win.
It didn't take long for Kansas to respond. Out of the timeout, Elijah Johnson hit a tough hanging jumper. Then Tyshawn Taylor aced a jumper while he was fouled, and the ensuing free throw put Kansas back up 65-64 exactly one minute after Texas had gained its biggest edge. Brown hit two free throws to retake a lead that Texas held going into the game's final 40 seconds.
But the Longhorns, who have struggled to close out close games in conference play, had another one slip away. Jayhawk star Thomas Robinson barreled across the lane, then dropped a pass, which was tipped, into Kansas center Jeff Withey. Withey corralled the ball and got it off the glass as he was fouled. The shot fell, as did the free throw afterward, and Kansas led 68-66.
Brown, who was the Longhorns leading scorer, attempted to tie it, but his difficult attempt, a two-point bank shot fading away from the basket, rimmed out. A mass of humanity fought for the ball, though Travis Releford, who provided the tough defense on Brown, came up with it. He shoveled it to Johnson, who flung it downcourt for Robinson. Robinson converted one of two free throws, setting up a last-ditch three-point attempt from Brown that went awry.
Taylor led the Jayhawks with 22 points and four assists. Robinson battled foul trouble — one of which was caused by an early double-technical with Alexis Wangmene — but managed 17 points and nine rebounds after putting up just six and one in the first half. Jeff Withey had 12 points, thanks to 8-of-9 shooting from the free-throw line, six rebounds and two blocks.
Brown had 24 points, six rebounds, seven assists and three steals, though he shot poorly, hitting just 7-of-26 attempts. Chapman continued his run of strong play with 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Sheldon McClellan helped the Longhorns with 11 points and five boards. Texas out-rebounded Kansas 42-35.
Texas actually twice made a game of it following 15-point deficits. The Longhorns struggled to get into their offense early as the Jayhawks turned a 7-5 lead into a 22-7 advantage. Texas trimmed that lead down to three points at 28-25 with 3:43 left in the half, thanks largely to three three-pointers from McClellan. Kansas was able to stretch it out late in the half, ending on an 11-2 run to take a 39-27 lead into the break.
Kansas (16-3, 6-0 Big 12) remains the Big 12's lone undefeated team in conference play. Texas (12-7, 2-4) lost its first home game of the season and enters Tuesday's contest with Iowa State in a must-win situation. The game, which could help or destroy the Longhorns' tournament hopes, will tip at 8 p.m.