Alexander, No. 11 Kansas dump No. 17 Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Kansas found a solution for Texas’ size and muscle: pinpoint passing and nearly flawless handling of the basketball.
Ruthlessly efficient on offense and willing to match Texas’ physical effort under the basket, the No. 11 Jayhawks snagged a key 75-62 Big 12 road win Saturday.
Freshman Cliff Alexander had 15 points and nine rebounds, and three other Jayhawks scored in double figures. Kansas (16-3, 5-1) had just three turnovers — none in the second half — tying a school record set back in 1966.
"This is a huge road win for us. It was big," said Brannen Greene, who scored 14 points and made four of Kansas’ six 3-pointers.
Kansas coach Bill Self compared Texas’ size to top-ranked Kentucky, a team that blew out the Jayhawks by 32 back in November.
"Against Kentucky, we shied away from it. Today we didn’t," Self said.
Isaiah Taylor scored 23 for Texas in his best game since returning from a long layoff with a broken wrist. But Texas (14-5, 3-3) showed little offensive flair beyond Taylor’s scoring. Taylor had just one assist as Texas’ big frontcourt all but disappeared for long stretches.
Cam Ridley, a 6-foot-9, 285-pound center who averaged nearly 15 points the previous two games, took just one shot in the second half, and had just four overall. Freshman Myles Turner, who is 6-11 and came in as Texas’ leading scorer, scored eight on 4-of-11 shooting, but the Big 12’s best free-throw shooter didn’t get to the line.
"We’re one of the biggest teams in the country and we don’t take advantage of it," senior forward Jonathan Holmes said. "I don’t understand it."
The loss is a tough blow for Texas’ conference title hopes, which could all but end if the Longhorns lose at No. 9 Iowa State on Monday night.
Texas did what it could to energize its best home crowd of the season. The Longhorns’ mascot "Hook’Em" dropped about five stories down to the middle of the court and thousands of balloons were released from the rafters just before tipoff.
The Longhorns fed off the energy for a quick 11-2 lead but a Kansas program that has won 10 consecutive Big 12 titles isn’t one to be rattled by a little showmanship.
The Jayhawks slowly broke down Texas’ zone defense with 3-pointers before picking it apart from the inside. Perry Ellis scored eight points and Alexander had consecutive dunks to help the Jayhawks to a 32-30 halftime lead.
The teams traded the lead seven times in the opening minutes of the second half before Holmes’ 3-pointer put Texas up 42-38. The Jayhawks responded with an 8-0 run behind consecutive 3-pointers from Wayne Selden Jr., and Greene.
Greene’s last 3-pointer pushed the Kansas lead to six with just under seven minutes to play and the Jayhawks steadily pulled away.
Kansas: The Jayhawks not only silenced the Texas frontcourt offensively, they also handled themselves well on the boards. The Jayhawks outrebounded Texas 37-36 and grabbed 24 offensive boards.
Texas: Home hasn’t been friendly for the Longhorns over the last month. The Longhorns have lost three of their last five at the Erwin Center.
Texas is lauded for its shot-blocking and the Longhorns had nine more against Kansas, five by Turner. But coach Rick Barnes sees a flaw in all those swats.
"We’re one of the best shot-blocking teams in the country. That also tells you our perimeter guys are getting beaten a lot. Our guard play has got to be better," Barnes said.
Alexander had no trouble establishing his territory among Texas’ big men under the basket. Five of his six baskets came on dunks. He didn’t sound impressed by Texas’ Turner, who came into the season hyped as one of the top recruits in the country.
"He’s kind of thin," Alexander said. "I played against Turner all the time in high school. I played against Ridley too … It was nothing to it."
Kansas visits TCU on Wednesday.
Texas visits Iowa State on Monday.