No. 7 Kansas Edges Texas in Dramatic Final Minutes, 69-66
AUSTIN, Texas – No. 7 Kansas held off 20 second-half points from the Big 12’s leading scorer J’Covan Brown to defeat Texas, Saturday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center, 69-66.
Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor didn’t rush his offense, never looked rattled and calmly found Thomas Robinson down low. With less than a minute remaining and trailing by one, Robinson dished the ball to junior center Jeff Withey, who drew the foul while making the layup and converted the three-point play in the clutch. One last Robinson free throw sealed the Jayhawks’ closest victory of the season, 69-66.
Out to defend their 11-0 record at the Frank Erwin Center, Texas (12-7, 2-4) became the second Big 12 foe that Kansas (16-3, 6-0) disrupted its perfect home season after taking down an Oklahoma squad that was also undefeated at home before the Jayhawks visited (1/7/12).
Three of the league’s top-five scorers clashed on Saturday as Robinson and Taylor, second and fifth in the Big 12, respectively, battled UT’s Brown, who entered the matchup with the league’s top scoring average – and the only player in the Big 12 other than KU’s Taylor who cranked out 56 points in his last two games.
With several supporting characters, that trio put forth a tremendous effort on Saturday as Brown led all scorers with 24 points after Kansas held him to just four in the first half. Taylor recorded his third-straight 20-point effort and led the Jayhawks with 22 points. Robinson was right behind him with 17 points, just missing his 14th double-double with nine rebounds.
For the first time in conference play, the Jayhawks were outrebounded, but negated that with only six turnovers – the Jayhawks’ fewest in conference play this season.
Not 20 seconds into the game, junior guard Elijah Johnsondrilled his team-best 32nd three-pointer of the season, to help Kansas jumpstart a 7-2 lead, while shooting at a 50 percent clip to open the game. Taylor added to the guard attack, knocking down a three and a fastbreak layup to highlight a 9-0 KU run and hand Kansas the 16-7 lead by the second media timeout.
Midway through the first half, the Kansas offense was firing above 60 percent from the floor, while Texas hovered around 20 percent efficiency as Brown awaited his first bucket of the game. Kansas’ defense kept forced the league’s leading scorer to miss his first five shots, and kept him off the scoreboard until the 6:27-minute mark.
Meanwhile, Robinson’s drive to the basket extended the Jayhawk lead to 15, until back-to-back Longhorn buckets broke up a nearly seven-minute UT scoring drought. The five-straight points from senior Clint Chapman and freshman Sheldon McClellan sparked a 16-6 Texas rally, including two more three-pointers from McClellan. Reclaiming momentum, Taylor and Withey went on an 8-0 run of their own to return the lead to double digits. In their final possession of the first half, senior guard Conner Teahanset up in the corner and fired off a three as soon as he caught the dish from Johnson, sending the Jayhawks to the locker room with the 39-27 halftime lead.
Brown and Taylor went at it to open the second half as the only scorers for either team through nearly the first four minutes. The Jayhawks could not match the hot start they opened the afternoon with, however, hitting just two of their first 10 shots in the final frame.
Brown and McClellan kept the pressure on, but it was freshman forward Jaylen Bond’s first baskets of the game that provided the supporting role. Bond, who scored all six of his points in the second half, joined Brown to relentlessly chip away at the Kansas lead and not three minutes later, the duo had the Longhorns within five.
Brown struck again with six minutes remaining. His second three-pointer of the game cut the Kansas lead one. Less than a minute later, Chapman made both on his one-and-one trip the free throw line to give Texas its first lead of the game, 59-58. After shooting a red hot 61 percent in the first half, Kansas was hitting less than 28 percent of its second-half shots when Brown sunk another three to put the home team ahead, 64-60.
As he has for much of Big 12 play, Taylor stepped up when called upon. The senior converted the three-point play after being fouled on the made jumper to give KU the one-point lead and set the tone for a dramatic final two minutes that ended with Taylor working the ball inside to Robinson and Withey for the final bucket of the game.
The Jayhawks return home for a second-straight ESPN Big Monday appearance when they host Texas A&M on Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. KU will then play Iowa State on Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1 p.m.