AUSTIN, Texas — No matter how many championship banners Bill Self hangs up in Allen Fieldhouse, nights like Monday will stick with people just as much as those magical ones in March and April. Spring sure can be fun, but Self will get you through the winter every time.
During all of Self’s Big 12 reign of terror — five straight Big 12 regular season titles and 97 wins in six-and-a-half seasons entering Monday’s game against Texas — he had never won at the Frank Erwin Center. Rick Barnes’ Longhorns have been the only consistent challengers to Self’s Jayhawks with their swaggering talent and athleticism, and this winter, there was going to be another tango in the ring with that big ol’ burnt orange bull.
On Monday night, in an 80-68 mastery of the Longhorns, top-ranked Kansas said no to the usual Austin song and dance. The Jayhawks didn’t dodge the charging bull; they tackled him, lassoed him in the first 15 minutes and didn’t let go until the “Rock Chalk” chant filled the building affectionately known as “The Drum.” Only KU did the beating this time, outrebounding the Longhorns 45-34 and hounding them into 17 turnovers that turned into 27 points.
“It feels pretty good,” Self said. “Kind of a weird game, though. Didn’t have any rhythm either way, which probably helped us. It also feels good to win a muddy game. This was definitely a muddy game. We haven’t done anything yet, but this certainly puts us in a favorable position moving forward.”
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After this emphatic whipping of a Texas team that once wore the No. 1 badge, the Jayhawks, now 23-1 and 9-0 in the Big 12, would have to forget how to play basketball to even share their sixth league title in a row. The Longhorns, now 19-5 and 5-4, left their own building wondering why they even showed up. If they meet KU again in the Big 12 Tournament, they certainly won’t expect an offer to tango.
“It happened so fast,” Texas’ Damion James said. “They showed why they’re the No. 1 team in the country.”
Three weeks ago, this game felt destined to determine the Big 12 title with Kansas and Texas both ranked in the top 5. But the Longhorns were hooked before they even knew it. Trailing 14-8, KU, which is 0-3 in Austin during the Self era, played its best basketball of the season — so good that the Jayhawks can only hope they didn’t peak on Feb. 8.
What follows is the abridged anatomy of a run that should have sealed up KU’s sixth straight Big 12 regular season title:
Brady Morningstar swished a three (14-11 UT). Markieff Morris drew a charge and then nailed a three (14-14). Morningstar made a clean steal and finished for a layup (16-14 KU). Sherron Collins found Marcus Morris for a layup (18-14). Timeout Texas. Xavier Henry came off a pick and hit a jumper (20-14). Collins threw a perfect pick-and-roll pass to Cole Aldrich, who was fouled. Media timeout.
Aldrich made two free throws (22-14). Morningstar ripped away another steal. The ball swung from Collins to Henry to Tyshawn Taylor, who made a three (25-14). Texas timeout. Collins swiped the ball from James, and on the other end, Marcus picked up a loose ball and laid it in (27-14). Markieff stole an errant pass by Texas, threw it ahead to Collins, and what happened next was no shock. Collins sized up his defender and unfurled a three, which inevitably swished (30-14). Timeout Texas.
Collins kneeled down and ran low to the ground with his arms out like wings. In 10 spectacular minutes, the Jayhawks had shown the whole country all it needed to see.
“My staff told me it was a 22-0 run,” Self said. “On the road against a team like this, that doesn’t happen very often. Granted, they missed shots. But we did guard them very well.”
When play resumed after the timeout, UT’s fans tried a halfhearted “TEXAS . . . FIGHT!” chant, but how could the Longhorns have any fight left? Texas would cut it to 8 late, but that was as close as it would get.
The Jayhawks were so dominant, they overcame a 3-of-13 shooting night from Collins and a 2-of-10 night from Aldrich. Marcus Morris, who left the game in the first half with an injury, led KU with 18 points and 8 rebounds. Collins and Henry each had 15.
“That’s a main part of our team,” Marcus said. “We’ve got a lot of guys you can go to.”