Texas takes care of Kansas, wins Big 12 Championship game 76-56
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - As Texas guard Arterio Morris slammed home an alley-oop pass with just under five minutes remaining in the Big 12 Championship Game, Kansas’ interim head coach Norm Roberts called for his first timeout of the second half with the Jayhawks trailing 70-50.
With 4:33 seconds on the game clock, fans in crimson and blue began to climb the steps and exit the T-Mobile Center early, missing out on the closing moments of the Longhorns’ 76-56 Big 12 Championship win.
“We didn’t defend the way we needed to,” interim head coach Norm Roberts said after the Longhorns shot 50 percent from the floor. “We know we needed to defend better. Got beat on back-cuts way too much and they hurt us on the glass.”
Much of Saturday night’s contest followed the same script as last week’s blowout Kansas loss in Austin when Texas beat KU, 75-59. The Longhorns allowed senior forward Jalen Wilson to be aggressive and limited the others around him.
“We’ve played them a few times and they gave us trouble,” Wilson said after scoring a team-high 24 points in the loss. “What separated us was the easy points they got. That’s one of the things we try to hang our hat on is no easy points, and they got a lot of them today.”
For the second night in a row, Wilson provided the bulk of Kansas’ early scoring. The fourth-year forward knocked down two 3-pointers in the game’s first 10 minutes and had 17 of the Jayhawks’ first 31 points. Wilson made a long 2-point jump shot with 6:09 remaining in the first half to give KU a 28-25 advantage. From there on, KU was outscored 51-28 in the game.
On a night where the Jayhawks were missing do-it-all senior wing Kevin McCullar, who did not play as he dealt with back spasms, junior guard Joe Yesufu helped the Jayhawks push some pace early and scored nine first-half points. Yesufu and Wilson did the bulk of the KU scoring in the first half, totaling 26 of Kansas’ 33 points.
By night’s end, Wilson and Yesufu (11) were the only two Jayhawks that scored in double figures, but the junior guard said McCullar’s absence was most felt on the defensive end.
“You guys know Kevin is a great defender. He’s the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year (candidate),” Yesufu said, with Roberts adding that McCullar needed to rest tonight to be available next week. “He was missed today not only on the defensive end, but on the rebounding end. We just really missed him today.”
Redshirt junior guard Dajuan Harris was not his usual self, throwing passes away and operating hesitantly in the pick-and-roll against Texas’ defense. Harris finished with six points and four assists, but had a KU-high four turnovers as well.
The Longhorns also did a great job face-guarding Kansas freshman guard Gradey Dick throughout the contest, and when Dick was open he failed to take advantage of many of his scoring opportunities. The Jayhawks’ five-star freshman was 3-for-11 shooting from the floor and he missed all five of his 3-point attempts. In total, KU was 4-for-17 shooting the ball from beyond the arc.
“We didn’t do a good job of moving the ball,” Roberts said. “We talked about ball and body movement. I think we stood and watched (Wilson), and he scored the ball well. We’re a better team when the ball is moving, and it didn’t move very much today. We know that, so we gotta get back to doing what we do best.”
With the loss, Kansas falls to 27-7 ahead of Selection Sunday. The Jayhawks will enter the NCAA Tournament with 17 Quad 1 wins, four more than Texas, with the Longhorns ranking second nationally in that statistical department.
There remains intrigue in whether or not the Jayhawks will be the No. 1 overall seed -- or ahead of the AP No. 1 ranked Houston Cougars -- and get priority assignment of the Midwest region and a second-weekend destination of Kansas City.
Saturday night was the first loss in a Big 12 Championship game for the Jayhawks since KU lost by 12 in the 2019 title game to Iowa State. Now, the Jayhawks will get set to defend their NCAA Tournament crown. KU interim head coach Norm Roberts said head coach Bill Self is expected to coach the team next week in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s all win or go home now. You can’t really stand on one game too long,” Wilson said. “Even if you do win, you got another game coming up soon. Gotta learn from it, get better, and understand this is the most important basketball that we need to play, the best basketball we need to play.
“Today wasn’t the best, but the overall goal is still here.”
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