Texas Travels to Kansas Looking for a First

The Texas Longhorns face a daunting task on Saturday afternoon at 3pm in Lawrence against the #9 Kansas Jayhawks. Not only will the Longhorns be in search of earning a first round Big 12 Tournament bye, but also look to win for the first time ever at Kansas.

The Texas Longhorns face a daunting task to end the regular season on Saturday in Lawrence against the #9 Kansas Jayhawks. Not only are the Longhorns facing a must win to secure a Big 12 Tournament first round bye as well as making a big statement to the NCAA Tournament selection committee, but they have to do so in a place they are 0-8 all-time.

The Longhorns (20-9, 9-6) face a Jayhawk team that will be breathing fire coming off of an embarrassing 84-65 loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock earlier in the week.

The Jayhawks (24-6, 13-2) have clinched the top seed in the big 12 Tournament and a share of their fifth straight Big 12 title, but can win the title outright with a victory.

Leading the way for Kansas is junior bowling ball point guard Sherron Collins and sophomore center Cole Aldrich.

Collins is one of the toughest players to defend off the dribble in the country and is averaging 18.2 points and 4.9 assists. He is coming off of a 3-19 game in the loss in Lubbock, so he will have some extra motivation on Saturday. The game could also be his last at Allen Fieldhouse as the NBA is in his future.

For Texas, the improved play of the bench has been key in recent games. Sophomore Clint Chapman has averaged 5.7 points per game the last three contests, while junior guard Harrison Smith is averaging 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in the last two games.

Kansas leads the all-time series 15-6, including a perfect 8-0 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Saturday's tip is set for 3pm central time and will be televised nationally on CBS.

A Look at the Coaches

Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 469-236, including 267-101 at Texas. Barnes is 16-10 in NCAA Tournament games at Texas.

Bill Self is in his sixth year as the coach in Lawrence. Self has career record of 373-143, including 166-38 at Kansas. He has a record of 22-9 in the NCAA Tournament.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 44.0% from the field, 32.0% from three and 66.4% from the free throw line.

The Jayhawks convert 48.1% overall, 37.9% from the three-point line and 72.4% from the foul line.

The Longhorns surrender 40.7% shooting and own a +5.2 rebound advantage.

Kansas gives up 38.4% defensively and checks in with a +7.6 rebounding margin.

The Longhorns are committing 12.3 turnovers per game, while Kansas is turning the ball over 14.9 times per contest.

The Longhorn Starters

G Dogus Balbay 6-0 So. (3.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (16.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists)

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.6 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists)

C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (9.0 points, 4.7 rebounds)

Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (11.3 points, 5.8 rebounds), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.8 points and 1.7 rebounds) and 6-2 junior Harrison Smith (2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds)

The Jayhawk Starters

G Sherron Collins 5-11 Jr. (18.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists)

G Tyshawn Taylor 6-2 Fr. (9.9 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists)

G Brady Morningstar 6-3 So. (6.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists)

F Marcus Morris 6-7 Fr. (7.5 points and 5.6 rebounds)

C Cole Aldrich 6-10 So. (14.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks)

Key reserves are 6-3 sophomore Tyrel Reed (6.8 points and 18 rebounds), 6-9 freshman Markieff Morris (4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds) and 6-5 junior Mario Little (4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds).

What to Watch For

Numbers 1A and 1B on the list Saturday afternoon will be transition defense and rebounding the ball.

Kansas will force turnovers through steals and quick handed plays, block shots and change ends and push the ball in general when the situation dictates. The Longhorns have to be at their very best in transition defense. This is not a game for Balbay to chase offensive rebounds inside of twelve feet unless it is Abrams' responsibility to rotate back.

Kansas is one of the top rebounding teams in the country and the Longhorns must put a body on Aldrich. He is a perfect player for Pittman to be able to move with and block out. Pittman struggles against quicker players and that isn't Aldrich. Aldrich, also, will not step out to the three-point line very often, but Kansas will likely look to run screen/roll with Aldrich and dive him to the block just to make Pittman work.

Balbay has the tough job of containing Collins. Balbay is the lone Longhorn with any hope to stop the ball, but that also means that Balbay can't get into foul trouble. If Kansas is smart, they will let Collins go at the chest of Balbay early and often to try and get the Longhorns point guard on the bench.

On the flip side, Balbay has to push the ball and get his teammates some looks in transition. Texas will not make a living scoring against Kansas in the half court, so they have to maximize their ability to score points in other ways.

If Taylor is guarding Justin Mason, Mason must attack off the dribble early to test the leg of Taylor, who was injured late in the Texas Tech game. The ‘Horns must force Taylor to guard the ball and react laterally to put pressure on the leg.

A.J. Abrams has to take smart shots. One pass, quick looks resulting in long rebounds will spell disaster for Texas.

Damion James can't settle for jump shots. He must put the ball on the floor against the Morris twins and test their ability to defend laterally and for Kansas to rotate.


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