AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nobody is safe in the Big 12 Conference this season.
The No. 9 Texas Longhorns took out No. 3 Kansas in front of a fever-pitch Moody Center crowd 75-59 Saturday behind a tremendous defensive effort.
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Texas held the Jayhawks to 36% shooting, 10 percentage points below their season average, and heralded Kansas freshman Gradey Dick didn’t score until the 9:00 mark in the second half.
“Texas was turned up and made us play outside our comfort zone,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “We got what we deserved today.”
The Jayhawks came into the game averaging 76.1 points per game and had just one player score in double figures. Jalen Wilson, a favorite for Big 12 player of the year, led the way with 23 points on 7-for-18 shooting. KJ Adams had nine points and Kevin McCuller Jr. scored eight. Dick, the Jayhawks’ second-leading scorer at 14.5 points per game this season, ended with six points on 2-for-5 shooting.
Longhorns interim head coach Rodney Terry said the loss to TCU previously was disappointing since it knocked them out of contention to win the conference regular season title. He said there “wasn’t a dry eye in the locker room,” after that game and the team came to the following practice hungry.
“We had a great practice on Friday,” Terry said. “You’re going to experience adversity all year long, and March is about playing through the game and win through adversity. We addressed having the rebound better and defend in transition better, and we buckled down today.”
Jabari Rice led the way for Texas with 23 points and Tyrese Hunter poured in 20. Rice also had seven rebounds to lead the Longhorns and Marcus Carr dished out six assists. Self called Rice, “the best sixth man in the country,” during the postgame press conference.
The Longhorns led 32-24 at halftime and then ran away with the win, outscoring the Jayhawks 43-35 in the second half. Kansas cut the Texas lead to seven points, 51-44, on Dick’s first 3-pointer, but the Longhorns countered with a 4-0 flurry before Dick hit his second shot of the game with 7:46 left. Hunter and Christian Bishop led a 6-0 run following that bucket and stretched the Longhorns’ lead to 61-47 with 5:01 left.
Hunter doubled his season scoring average with his performance and said he’s been playing with more confidence — and it certainly showed against the Jayhawks.
“I’m just being myself and my teammates picked up me all year when I’ve struggled,” Hunter said. “I have confidence in myself with the work I’ve put in.”
Dylan Disu put the exclamation point on the big night with 2:03 left. Hunter worked his way into the paint and lofted a shot near the rim, and once it bounced out of the cylinder, Disu came flying in with a vicious one-handed putback slam over the top of Kansas forward Zuby Ejiofor. The sell-out crowd at Moody Center went bonkers and then started the celebration.
“The atmosphere here (at Moody Center) is really good,” Self said. “It was loud in there. I don’t think we responded to that really well.” Texas ended the season 17-1 in the Moody Center.
Texas (23-8 overall) picked up its 11th quadrant one win, tied for second-most in the country. The only team that has more such wins is Kansas with 15. The Jayhawks topped Texas 88-80 on Feb. 6 in Lawrence behind 21 points from Dick.
Even with the loss, Kansas still won the Big 12 regular season title with a 13-5 record in the most competitive conference in college basketball. Texas finished the regular season 12-6 and will enter the Big 12 tournament with the No. 2 seed and play its first game March 9 against the No. 7/No. 10 winner. Oklahoma State and West Virginia are fighting for the No. 7 seed while Oklahoma is the No. 10 seed at 5-13.
“We have a hungry team that’s as good as anybody that has a chance to win the big prize,” Terry said. “We’ve to continue to guard how we guarded today at an elite level and it was to travel with us on the road.”