In the movie "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray wakes up every day forced to relive the same day he did before. Texas basketball, which let another second-half lead slip away in falling 64-59 to No. 4 Kansas, can probably relate.
"[It's getting] pretty old," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "It's the same record. We do a lot of things well, but we don't win because we don't consistently do it when the game's on the line."
The Longhorns did plenty well in ripping off a 12-0 run in the second half, forcing turnovers on four consecutive possessions while scoring on four straight of their own. Trailing 31-30, Jonathan Holmes drilled a three-pointer, then stole the ball and hit another jumper. He stole the ball again on Kansas's next possession and DeMarcus Holland found Julien Lewis for a layup in transition. Then Lewis hit another three, Holmes stole the ball yet again — he had three steals in four possessions — and hit another jumper.
Just like that, Texas led 42-31, the crowd at the Frank Erwin Center was hopping and Kansas coach Bill Self had to call timeout.
While Kansas chipped away at the lead, Texas still led by six points with under six minutes left. And though the Jayhawks briefly took a lead of their own, when Sheldon McClellan hit a jumper with 2:40 left, the Longhorns led by a point with time dwindling.
But the Jayhawks, who struggled to find any semblance of a halfcourt offense, didn't panic.
"It was tough, but we had a pretty mature team," said Kansas center Jeff Withey. "Our defense at the end was really good.
"We've been in those situations before, so we knew we could come back," Withey said.
"It definitely crosses our mind, us being there before," McClellan said. "Just like the past couple of games, we've been having the lead and been losing the lead. That's just being relaxed and we just have to do a better job of taking care of the ball.
"We get relaxed a lot when we have the lead, and we feel like we can do things that we're not supposed to do and it won't hurt us in the end," McClellan said. "But in the end, it does."
Self pointed out afterward that the Longhorns were the youngest team in the country. And the final few minutes played out the way one would expect with a senior-laden team making the plays necessary against a younger team that hasn't succeeded in what Barnes called "winning time."
Kansas backup point guard Naadir Tharpe drove to the basket and hit a tough lay-up to retake the lead. Then Holmes, attempting to drive on Jeff Withey, picked up a charging foul and fouled out of the game. On the other end, Connor Lammert bumped Travis Releford, and the Kansas wing hit both free throws for a three-point lead.
On the next possession down, Javan Felix went up into the air to try and float the ball over Withey, arguably the nation's top shot-blocker, and lost control of the ball. Withey scooped up the loose ball and shoveled it ahead to Ben McLemore for a dunk and a 62-57 advantage. McClellan quickly erased that bucket with a jumper and Texas earned a stop when Ioannis Papapetrou corralled Tharpe's errant shot with 27 seconds left. The Longhorns went for the quick look and were able to get a clean corner three for Lewis, but his shot missed, Withey grabbed the rebound and passed ahead to Releford. Releford hit both free throws to seal the win.
"I felt comfortable taking that look," Lewis said. "Got to make that next one."
Texas led for pretty much the entirety of the first half, thanks to a terrific effort from behind the arc. The Longhorns entered the game shooting just 30.2 percent from three-point range, a mark that set Texas 307th in the country. But Texas found space early and exploited it, hitting 5-of-12 attempts from long range.
That, coupled with a defense that held the usually efficient Jayhawks to 28.0 percent shooting, helped the Longhorns take a 28-26 halftime advantage. Kansas's saving grace was that Texas made just 6-of-18 two-point attempts and that the Jayhawks had a huge advantage at the free throw line. Kansas made 11-of-14 freebies to Texas's 1-of-3 in the first half.
The Jayhawks shot 50 percent in the second half, thanks in large part to transition buckets. The Longhorns also had a hot second stanza, making 53.8 percent of their shots, though they committed nine second-half turnovers and didn't augment that shooting with points at the line. In fact, that was arguably the story of the game. Kansas shot 10-for-11 in the second half from the free throw line, while Texas was just 1-for-5 over that same period. For the game, Kansas made 21-of-25 free throws (84.0 percent), while Texas made 2-of-8 (25 percent).
McLemore had 16 points — 11 in the second half — and six boards for the Jayhawks. Withey had 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Travis Releford was the only other Jayhawk in double figures with 12.
McClellan led all scorers with 18 points and played much better defensively, though Barnes was quick to point out that he had just one rebound, and to chastise the guard for his attitude in thinking about past failures.
"That's mental toughness," Barnes said. "If that's what's going through your mind ... he shouldn't be on the floor."
Lewis scored 11 points and had seven rebounds. Holmes spent the entire game in foul trouble, playing just one minute in the first half and 14 minutes total, but he made the most of his time on the court, scoring 10.
Kansas (16-1, 4-0) continued its 15-game winning streak with the victory. Texas (8-9, 0-4) meanwhile, lost a chance to try and pull itself out of a hole that keeps getting deeper. The Longhorns have lost four-straight conference games, despite holding a lead inside of three minutes in three of those contests. On the season, Texas has lost five games in which it led with less than three minutes remaining.
The Longhorns now have to travel to Norman to take on the rival Oklahoma Sooners on Monday. That tip is set for 8:30 p.m. CT.