No. 4/5 Kansas Survives in Final Meeting at Texas A&M, 66-58

Feb. 22, 2012

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Clutch plays in the final minutes offset a heroic effort from the home team to seal No. 4/5 Kansas’ perfect record on Texas A&M’s floor with the 66-58 victory at Reed Arena Wednesday night.

In the pair’s last meeting as members of the Big 12 Conference, Texas A&M (13-14, 4-11) never surrendered in its final opportunity to chalk up a league win on their home floor against the Jayhawks. After Kansas (23-5, 13-2) raced to a 21-point lead seven minutes into the second half, the Aggies fought back with a 30-13 run to cut the lead to four before Taylor stepped in to secure Kansas’ 7-0 record in College Station. A pair of free throws from junior forward Khris Middleton found the Aggies trailing 57-53 with 2:08 showing on the clock. Middleton’s made shots from the charity stripe nearly eradicated the 47-26 lead the Jayhawks had held just 11 minutes prior. Seconds later, however, Taylor drilled the jumper that would all but save the game for the Jayhawks. Getting fouled in the process, Taylor hit the free throw after the made bucket provided the protection Kansas would need to seal the win. Although TAMU’s Dash Harris knocked down a three-pointer 10 seconds later, Taylor’s three-point play backed by four late points from junior center Jeff Withey locked up the victory. Taylor and junior forward Thomas Robinson would finish with a combined 22 points – 19 of which came in the second half – to fuel the offense in the final frame. Taylor added four assists to his 12 points, while Robinson notched his 19th double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. In the first half, junior guard Elijah Johnson was the catalyst that wouldn’t quit, chalking up 18 of the Jayhawks’ 31 first-half points and finally calling it a night with a team-best 21. For the Aggies, Middleton led the floor with 23 point, while junior Elston Turner and senior David Loubeau chipped in 10 points apiece. Just as it had been in Lawrence, Wednesday night’s matchup pitted the league’s top two defenses against one another. The Jayhawks held the Aggies to a single field goal through the first four minutes, as the Aggies hit just one of their first 10 attempts from the floor, giving Kansas room to build a slight 7-2 run. Turner knocked down a three-pointer to hand the home team the 8-7 edge, the lead lasted just eight seconds before Taylor swung the lead back to Kansas. Thus, the table was set for appeared to be a repeat of the back and forth grind that took place in Lawrence. The second meeting between the teams took a much different turn as Kansas broke out to a 10-point lead by halftime and a 20-point advantage just seven minutes into the second half before the Aggies mounted their furious 30-13 run in the closing minutes of the game. In the first half, the Aggies didn’t have an answer for Johnson. The junior guard went 5-for-7 in the first 10 minutes of the opening frame. His second three-pointer during that span gave Johnson 15 of the Jayhawks’ first 21 points. By the time Withey dunked an easy bucket in the next possession, KU had answered a 14-13 deficit with a 10-0 run. Johnson struck again in the final minute of the first frame when his third three-pointer of the half handed Kansas its’ fourth-straight double-digit halftime lead, 31-21. Less than five minutes into the second half, the Jayhawks looked as if they would run away with it. A free throw by Taylor stretched the lead to 39-26 -and it only grew from there. Robinson’s drive to the bucket resulted in the three-point play that pushed the Jayhawks over the 20-point lead margin, 47-26. Unwilling to surrender its home floor, the Aggies took action. A three-pointer from Turner followed by a converted and-one opportunity by Loubeau cut the KU lead to 14, 51-37, by the eight-minute media mark. Senior guard Dash Harris, who had not seen the floor since an injury sidelined him during his last encounter with Kansas, came up with a clutch three-point play to spark a run that nearly erased the once 21-point KU lead. After hitting the free throw that completed the three-point play, Harris had his team facing a 12-point deficit with 6:16 remaining. The next three the senior guard hit was from behind the arc – dropping the once 21-point Kansas lead to four – with 1:46 on the clock. Taylor and company took over for the final minute and a half to seal the win, 66-58. UP NEXT No. 4/5 Kansas returns home to host Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 3 p.m. on CBS. The Jayhawks will then play at Oklahoma State on ESPN’s Big Monday, Feb. 27 at 8 p.m.