Longhorns and Jayhawks meet in Big 12 Title game
Oklahoma City, OK (Sports Network) – A rematch of the Big 12 Conference
Tournament title game from a year ago takes center stage this afternoon
as the second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks settle into the Ford Center in
Oklahoma City to battle the 15th-ranked Texas Longhorns with an automatic
berth in the upcoming NCAA Tournament on the line. Certainly both teams will
make the postseason regardless of the outcome of this game.
Kansas, which is the top seed this season, ran away with the 80-68 decision
over Texas a year ago, giving the Jayhawks their fourth championship, with
the Longhorns coming up empty yet again having played in their third title
game in six years. The ride for Kansas to this point has taken the squad
to a 64-47 win against Oklahoma in the quarterfinals and a 67-61 triumph
against Kansas State yesterday, marking the team’s 35th win in the last 36
outings against the Wildcats.
Meanwhile, Texas began with a tough 74-69 matchup versus 11th-seeded Baylor
on Friday and followed that with a another tight win in a 69-64 decision
against Oklahoma State yesterday.
These two squads closed out the regular season last weekend with Kansas
pulling out a 90-86 victory in Lawrence. With the win the Jayhawks now lead
the all-time series with Texas by a count of 13-5.
A candidate for National Player of the Year honors, freshman Kevin Durant
showed once again why he is one of the most well-rounded performers in college
basketball, as he tallied the first 13 points of the game for Texas in the
narrow victory on Saturday. Durant, who finished with 19 points in the first
half and 26 for the game, also connected on a crucial three-pointer with under
a minute to play in regulation to give control of the contest to the
Longhorns. Also scoring in double figures in the outing for Texas were A.J.
Abrams and D.J. Augustin with 20 and 15 points, respectively, with the latter
handing out six assists and posting three steals. Abrams converted four three-
point baskets on the day, giving him 111 for the year, which means he is now
tied for second place on the Big 12 single-season list with Kareem Rush from
Missouri, with Missouri’s Clarence Gilbert holding the top spot with 118 from
the 2001-02 campaign. Durant is now the second player in Big 12 history to
have at least 800 points in a single season, now showing 809 which is 35
behind Iowa State’s Marcus Fizer from 1999-2000. Demonstrating his superior
play for the long haul, Durant has now reached double-digit scoring in all 32
games for the Longhorns this season and has breached the 20-point plateau 27
times in what might be his only college basketball season.
The Jayhawks trailed by three points midway through the first half versus
Kansas State on Saturday, but a quick 8-0 run over two minutes put Kansas
ahead to stay as it pushed the lead to as many as 14 points in the second half
before holding on for the six-point triumph. Mario Chalmers recorded a team-
best 16 points for KU, followed by Julian Wright with 12 and a team-high eight
boards, although he also accounted for a third of the unit’s 15 turnovers on
the afternoon. Off the bench, Sherron Collins contributed 10 points and handed
out six assists for a squad that shot 47.9 percent from the field, but a mere
5-of-15 behind the three-point line. Surprisingly, top scorer Brandon Rush
(13.6 ppg) was easily contained by the Wildcats as he tallied just eight
points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field, including 1-of-6 beyond the arc.
Now a remarkable 44-6 over the last 50 games, the Jayhawks lost their four
outings this season by a combined 22 points. Chalmers, who has scored in
double figures in six of the last seven games, is second on the unit with 12.2
ppg and 102 assists, but it is his defense that has been the most impressive,
resulting in 82 steals over 33 games. Wright accounts for 11.8 ppg and is
first on the glass with an even eight boards per contest, which is nearly the
difference between Kansas (40.2 rpg) and the competition (32.5 rpg) on the
average this season.