"We're right there," Rick Barnes said. "I told the team we're not gonna be happy losing any basketball game (but) we're close because we've got an extremely tough-minded team."
"I've gotta congratulate Texas," KU head coach Roy Williams said. "That was a heckuva college basketball game. I'd hate to play Texas with Chris Owens."
Even without Owens, UT's all-America candidate before a late December injury sidelined him for the season, the Horns hung with Kansas and its all-America candidate Drew Gooden.
Texas showed its mettle by overcoming a six-point deficit over the final five minutes of regulation. The Jayhawks led 93-87 after a Nick Collison bucket with 4:35 to play, but two free throws from T.J. Ford and a three-pointer from Brandon Mouton pulled the Horns within one at 93-92. Gooden then knocked down a hook shot with just over three-and-a-half to play to stretch the lead back to three, but, after three unsuccessful possessions by each team, Ford found James Thomas open underneath for a slam that trimmed the lead back to one at 95-94 at the 1:26 mark.
After Jeff Boschee made one of his two free throw attempts with 47.4 seconds left, Royal Ivey drove from the right free throw line extended and after a jump stop, laid the ball in to tie the game at 96 with 31 seconds to play. The Jayhawks had a chance to win it in regulation but Aaron Miles' open 12 footer rolled off the rim to send the game to OT.
On UT's first OT possession, Thomas -- just as he did against the Sooners 10 days ago -- gave Texas the early OT lead at 98-96, the Horns' last advantage of the contest. Boschee bombed a three on KU's first touch in extra time, and after a 100-100 tie, Collison's hook gave the Jayhawks the lead for good. Boschee hit another three on the next Kansas possession and Texas never came closer than four the rest of the way.
The Jayhawks biggest lead of the night came with just over 12 minutes to play in the first half at 26-17, but the Horns battled back. Texas grabbed a few first half leads, pulling ahead 38-37, then 40-39 and finally at 42-41 before the Jayhawks converted on three of their final four first half possessions to go to the break up 48-44.
Gooden picked up his third foul with 3:12 left in the first, but the Horns couldn't take advantage, turning the ball over three times and missing a final second shot while Gooden sat the bench. Despite what could have been over-the-back calls on consecutive possessions early in the second half and what looked to be an obvious charge later in the game, the refs did not whistle the Kansas junior for another foul through the game's final 25 minutes.
Gooden finished with a game-high 28 points. Boschee added 21 for the Jayhawks. Mouton led all Longhorn scorers with 25 points. Brian Boddicker broke out of his near-season-long shooting slump, hitting seven-of-15 from the field and four-of-nine from beyond the arc to total 19 points. Thomas, Ford and Ivey all finished with 16 points.
"We're close, but that's not good enough," Boddicker said.
Barnes uttered that same "we're close" phrase at least four times during his postgame remarks. Unfortunately for the Horns, there's no 'Close' column in the record book, only 'Wins' and 'Losses'. And close losses, even to every member of the top five, won't help UT land a manageable NCAA Tourney seed, particularly following losses, albeit close ones, to RPI dogs A&M and K-State over the last three weeks. And in the approaching post-season, close will do nothing but get the Horns another early tournament exit.
The Texas coach's post-game refrain may have been a different one had the Horns figured out how to defend KU's under-the-basket inbounds passes. The Jayhawks converted the inbounds pass alley oop dunk five times during the game. "I told the team that if I could take back anything it was way we executed on the inbounds plays," Barnes said. "We gave 'em 11 points."
The game resembled a track meet as much as a basketball game early on. Both teams pushed the ball up the court for transition buckets and both teams knocked down their outside shots. By the first TV timeout, at the 13:48 mark, Texas had made six of its 10 attempts, including all three from long range, and Kansas had hit seven of 11 from the field, including three-of-four from the arc.
After the hot start, the teams cooled substantially before the break, with UT finishing the half at 41.7-percent and KU finishing at 47.6-percent, but, for the Horns at least, the torrid long range shooting resumed in the second half. Texas hit 5 of 10 from three-point land and 19 of 40 overall after the break. The Jayhawks shot 54.1-percent from the field in the second. Kansas, though, nailed all five of its OT shot attempts while the Horns made just two-of-seven.
Texas turned the ball over just four times in the game's final 25 minutes, partially offsetting KU's shooting percentage advantage. Surprisingly, UT almost matched Kansas, which out-talents the Owens-less Horns in the paint, on the boards, finishing with 45 rebounds to the Jayhawks' 46. Both Thomas and Collison totaled a game-high 12 rebounds.
KU freshman Miles bettered his UT counterpart Ford statistically at the point, dishing out 13 assists to Ford's 11 and turning the ball over only three times to Ford's five. Roy Williams, though, gushed over the Longhorn freshman. "T.J. breaks you down so much," he said. "Most of their threes came after his dribble penetration. He is really good."
The 11 assists represented Ford's 12th double-digit assist game of the season, breaking Johnny Moore's old school mark of 11. T.J. did win the scoring battle 16-10 over Miles, but Miles' team, of course, won the war.
"Eventually, one of these days when we get in this situation, we'll come out with a win," Ford said. Perhaps, but for Texas (16-8, 7-4), those opportunities are quickly evaporating.