Chalk It Up: UT In Big 12 Final With Win Over KU

DALLAS -- Nobody has started more games in Texas history than senior G <B>Royal Ivey</B>. Fittingly, with his record-tying 122nd career start Saturday, the senior calmly sank a pair of free throws to sink No. 18 Kansas, 64-60, in the Big 12 Conference semifinals at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The win puts Texas in the Tournament final against league champ Oklahoma State, 2 p.m. (CST) Sunday in an ESPN national telecast.

It was Texas' first encounter with the storied Jayhawk program in the Big 12 Tournament, resulting in consecutive wins over Kansas for the first time in school history. Texas disposed of KSU, 82-67, in Austin on February 23 -- a manhandling that did not require Ivey's clutch performance down the stretch.

Sidelined with foul trouble for much of the second half, Ivey had his hand in the outcome prior to his clutch shots from the charity stripe. With Texas nursing a 60-58 lead with less than 90 seconds left, Ivey pushed the ball into the paint when he made the kind of dazzling dish to C Jason Klotz that even T.J. Ford would admire.

"We made eye contact at the top of the key," said Klotz, after making just his third start of the season but his second in as many days. "I knew he was going to drive it. He does a good job of wrapping the ball around the defense. We made eye contact and I made sure I caught the ball and finished the basket."

Klotz finished with 14 points (5-of-10 FG) and eight boards in 23 minutes. His lay-up made it a 62-58 Longhorn lead but, after a Kansas F Jeff Graves bucket forced Ivey to win it at the free throw, Ivey then sealed the deal by doing what he does best: coming up with a defensive stop. Ivey pressured G Aaron Miles into a turnover as Texas ran out the clock in front of 19,100 (mainly Jayhawk) fans.

"Coach told us to slow Miles down because he was gonna come at us with a full head of steam," Ivey said. "He tried to split the defense but he lost the ball."

Ivey's late heroics overshadowed senior G Brandon Mouton's game high 18 points (7-of-17 FG), five boards, one block and one steal in 30 minutes of play. Most of Mouton's buckets were clutch, including back-to-back treys when Texas led by just 51-49 with 5:44 remaining. Head coach Rick Barnes, while praising his senior guards, attributed the win to a total team effort. The sixth-year head coach was particularly proud of his team's defense, particularly in the low post. He also reluctantly praised his squad for their effective deployment of zone defense.

"I've got to give my assistant coaches credit for that because if it was up to me we wouldn't be playing zone," said Barnes, a staunch aficionado of man defense. "But this time of year, you do what you have to do to win."

For the second day in a row, what the Horns had to do to win was overcome a double-digit deficit.

Miles' jumper gave the Jayhawks a 13-2 lead at the 14:33 mark after Texas misfired on nine of its first 10 FG attempts. A Klotz slam followed a F Brian Boddicker trey as Texas narrowed the deficit, 15-9. Mouton's trey narrowed the Jayhawk lead, 22-18, with 8:07 remaining. A Klotz offensive board and putback brought the Horns within two at 26-24.

Barnes strategy was to tag-team KSU's post players inside (sophomore F Brad Buckman was back in the starting lineup and contributed a season high four FG) but quickly went to a three-guard rotation. However, guards Edgar Moreno, Kenton Paulino and Kenny Taylor combined for an 0-10 start.

"Paulino asked me, 'Coach, do you think I'm shooting too much?' Barnes recalled. "I told him, 'If you have to ask me, you probably are.'"

A Taylor trey (his first bucket in five attempts) knotted the contest at 28 with 2:20 remaining until the break. Mouton's three-point play gave Texas its first lead, 31-29, nearly one minute later. A Keith Langford jam tied it up at 33 but a pair of Klotz free throws gave Texas a 35-33 lead at the break.

"We played as a unit," said Ivey, now tied with DeJuan 'Chico' Vazquez as the school record holder in career starts. "We stayed together, played hard, and took care of the ball. We do what we have to do. That's Texas basketball: take care of the ball and play good defense."

Indeed, Texas took much better care of the ball than the 18-turnover showing it had against Oklahoma Friday. The Horns committed just seven turnovers while forcing 16. It was also one of the rare moments of the Barnes era when Texas won despite being outrebounded, 42-40.

A Buckman FG opened the second half but Longhorn guards quickly got into foul trouble. Ivey was whistled for his third personal at the 18:21 mark while Mouton picked up his third less than three minutes later. The Jayhawks briefly regained the lead when Graves scored on the inbounds pass, 39-37, with 16:37 left. Taylor's three-ball put the Horns up for good at 42-40 while Moreno's leaner made it 45-40 with 11:59 to go. Mouton followed with a runner in the lane, but he was just getting started.

Leading 49-46 with 7:39 left, Mouton converted a Moreno steal into fastbreak points. After Miles answered with a trey, Mouton responded with a pair from beyond the arc to ignite the Longhorn contingent and to give Texas some breathing room, 57-49.

Texas shot only 35.8 percent (24-of-67 FG) but, incredibly, took 19 more shots than the Jayhawks. Kansas was 20-of-48 (41.7 percent) from the floor but had 13 more FT attempts (16-of-28, 57.1 percent) than Texas (10-of-15, 66.7 percent). The day after Texas attempted a season low five attempts from beyond the arc, it went 6-of-21 from three-point range against KSU.

The win, in all probability, clenched a No. 3 seed for Texas when the NCAA Tournament field is announced Sunday evening. It may also mean the selection committee will send Texas to the Midwest Regional, Barnes speculated.

"I would imagine they would send two Big 12 teams to Kansas City," Barnes said. "The pod system being what it is, it's meant to fill up a building. Whether today's game meant that, I'm not sure. You go where you gotta go. It doesn't matter to our guys. You've got to beat a good basketball team when you get to the NCAA Tournament."

What matters now is Texas has a chance to win its first Big 12 Tournament title. It will be Texas' second appearance in the conference finals since 2001 and allows a chance to avenge two regular season losses to Oklahoma State.

"They're gonna play hard and we're going to play hard", Barnes said. "These teams know each other really well. It's going to come down to taking care of ball. The last couple of games, we have turned the ball over at bad times. We have to do a better job of protecting the ball and guarding their post players."

With Saturday's win, Texas improved its record to 23-6 while Kansas fell to 21-8.

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