Third Time No Charm: Kansas 80, Texas 68

DALLAS -- Texas is still looking for that elusive Big 12 Tournament title, following an 80-68 loss to Kansas Sunday at the American Airlines Center. It was the Horns' third trip to the Big 12 championship game without championship hardware, but UT (27-6) will open NCAA Tournament play as the No. 2 seed against Penn (20-8) in Dallas this Friday.

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For Texas, the rubber match between the regular season Big 12 co-champs was as physical as it was sloppy. There were 13 lead changes and 10 ties, but Texas went 9:15 without a FG down the stretch as a 57-55 Longhorn lead dwindled into a double-digit loss. It was a far cry from Texas' 25-point win against Kansas on February 25.

"I don't think that we displayed being the same team that we usually are," said forward P.J. Tucker. "They came out, played really hard, and we've got to give them credit. They didn't give up at any point in the game. We definitely just let down. We weren't the same team that we usually were."

Here's a stat that will send Texas to a premature exit in the Big Dance: five points on just one FG from LaMarcus Aldridge. He also managed just five rebounds. After opening tournament play with a 20-point, 16-rebound performance against Texas Tech's undersized lineup, the sophomore's subsequent two-day disappearing act was one that Houdini would envy. Aldridge was virtually unstoppable, hitting 9-of-10 FG, when Texas shellacked the Jayhawks in Austin. Texas coach Rick Barnes was at a loss to account for Aldridge's 4-of-10 showing since Friday.

"They came in and tried to be physical," Barnes said. "I'm sure they were thinking they had 20 fouls to give and they were being very, very physical to start with and getting him off the lane."

However, Aldridge joined teammate P.J. Tucker on the five-member All-Tournament team. Tucker finished with 16 points (5-of-13 FG), eight rebounds and two steals. Kansas' Mario Chalmers was named the Most Outstanding Player after posting a team-best 15 points against the Horns.

For Barnes, the most telling stat was that Kansas notched 32 points off of 16 Longhorn turnovers. Tucker would be guilty of six.

"We made a lot of mistakes with the ball and they turned them into opportunities and scored," Barnes said, "and that was the difference in the game. A number of those were unforced, and that's the most frustrating thing."

Senior G Kenton Paulino led all scorers with 19 points (5-of-13 FG) and turned in three solid days in Dallas. Sophomore G Daniel Gibson was an erratic 3-of-12 FG for eight points and four assists. F Brad Buckman overcame both a two-day slump and a shot to the left eye in the early going Sunday with a strong second half. He finished with 12 points (5-of-11 FG), nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Buckman was just 1-of-7 FG during wins over Tech and Texas A&M.

"I felt like a no-show the first couple of games," Buckman said. "This team deserves a lot more out of me. We can't have that now. I'm a senior."

Texas shot 40 percent (22-of-55) from the field and connected on 16-of-22 FTs (72.7 percent). Kansas hit 27-of-61 FGs (44.3 percent) but was torrid from three-point range (12-of-24 for 50 percent). The Jayhawks also hit 14-of-19 FTs.

Buckman was walloped in the left eye and was sidelined just 47 seconds into the contest. Consecutive slams from C Sasha Kaun gave Kansas an early 12-5 lead. Aldridge's putback launched an 8-0 Texas run as Buckman checked back in at the 14:49 mark. Kaun's slam on the inbound alley-oop trimmed the Longhorn lead, 15-14. But then Texas caught fire from outside the line. Three Kenton Paulino treys, as well as a three-ball from freshman A.J. Abrams, gave the Horns a 27-23 advantage.

Paulino took a seat after he was whistled for two quick fouls as C.J. Giles' traditional three-point play tied the game at 29. Mario Chalmers' straightaway trey was part of a 10-2 uprising that saw Kansas take a 33-29 lead. Tucker hit back-to-back jumpers to knot things at 33, but the Jayhawk frontcourt found room to roam -- and slam -- in the paint with Aldridge riding the bench with two personals. Now trailing 37-33, Gibson maneuvered for his second trey of the opening frame. Tucker sank two FTs and KU could not get an uncontested shot during the final 26 seconds as the Horns took a 38-37 lead into the lockerroom. With Buckman and Aldridge combining for 1-of-7 FG during the first 20 minutes, the Horns held the slim lead because Tucker is a warrior and because its three guards drained 6-of-10 from three-point range.

But it was Chalmers who put on a three-point clinic to open to the second period, dropping a pair of treys to give KU a 43-38 lead. Paulino answered with a pair of FGs outside the arc to regain the Texas lead, 49-47. Tucker's steal and layup spotted the Horns a short-lived four-point advantage. Russell Robinson's three-pointer gave Kansas the upper hand, 53-51, before Buckman's jumper knotted the affair at 55. Aldridge was whistled for his fourth with 11:43 but Buckman followed his layup with a baby hook to make it 57-55, Texas.

It would be Texas' last FG until Buckman's slam with one minute remaining

For Barnes, the bottom line is this: "Even if you win this (Big 12) tournament, it doesn't matter. Starting next week, it's a whole new basketball season for 65 teams. If we do what we have done in the past, we will bounce back. We'll learn from it. And better now than later because we definitely can do things better than we did today. We're going to have to. It's single elimination; this is not a series here. We have to get ready to play. I think our guys will."


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