Texas Manhandles Kansas in Big 12 Tournament Championship Game


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — From late December through mid-March, they rammed each other in the hot barns of the Midwest plus West Virginia plus Texas until everyone in the country’s top league had lost at least five conference games and only one scramble remained.

That also clouded all assumptions.

In lieu of tight wrestling, Saturday night’s Big 12 tournament championship game produced a whopping 76-56, and it favored No. 7 Texas over No. 3 Kansas, bringing a climax to the Longhorns’ troubled season. It looked odd even though Texas had beaten Kansas 75-59 in Austin just a week earlier, and even though Kansas was playing its third straight game without hospital coach Bill Self, and even though Kansas were missing top-flight defenseman Kevin McCullar Jr. after his back started on Moaning again in Friday night’s semifinals against Iowa State.

All sorts of telltale numbers gushed out, from Kansas’ measly eight assists (compared to 16.8 in the previous 33 games) to Texas’ bank advantage of 20-3 to Kansas point guard Dajuan Harris Jr.’s four often hopeless turnovers. against Kansas’ commendable defense of 15 total turnovers to prove the ball moved beautifully for the Longhorns (26-8): 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting for senior forward Dylan Disu, 17 points for guards Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice, eight points each for freshman guard Arterio Morris and graduating forward Brock Cunningham.

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“I felt like we all just flow,” Carr said.

“A team award,” Disu called his most outstanding player nod of the tournament.

“They wanted to be champions,” said caretaker coach Rodney Terry. “They really did it and they made it possible.”

The Longhorns executed their two-man games with beauty, and they hit more layups than the veteran fans in the stands would like to see when the Jayhawks relent. “What separated us,” said 6-foot-8 Herculean star Jalen Wilson from Kansas, “was the easy points they got. That’s one of the things we try to hang our hat on – not easy points – and they have a lot of those today.”

Harris’ formidable defense, played by Tyrese Hunter and Morris, fueled praise from Cunningham, who said, “Dajuan Harris is famous for opening his offense and if another player has to open his offense and get the ball up, they can don’t get into a rhythm. And it makes them start their offense closer to 18-20 seconds [on the shot clock]which is a win for us.”

It became a second Big 12 tournament title in three years for Texas as it prepares to move to the SEC in 2024, and it was Kansas’ biggest-ever loss at the tournament since its inception in 1997 won twelve times.

Terry, a former head coach at Fresno State and UTEP who came to Texas as an assistant just last season, took over in December when Chris Beard was accused of domestic violence and carried on in January when the university fired Beard. He’s gone 19-7 with one directive: ‘Man, it’s a great day to be alive; That’s what I tell my boys every day,” although his own voice broke and broke as he said, “I’m really trying to dedicate this season to my dad. I lost my dad in August and’ – he paused here – ‘he’d be really excited right now.’

It left defending champion Kansas 27-7, perhaps leaving its putative No. 1 for the NCAA tournament a little in doubt. Norm Roberts, the longtime Kansas assistant who has filled in for Self since the 20-year-old Kansas coach was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness on Wednesday, said he expects Self to coach the big tournament. “He’s fine,” Roberts said. “We plan on him training next week.”

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If so, Self will be coaching a program that just won its 17th regular-season title under him, but ended with a thud here — not a harbinger of doom, considering seven of the last 10 national champions are at their conference tournaments have lost. “I thought we did a pretty good job early in the game,” Roberts said, “and then we missed some bunnies, easy shots, putbacks and things that could have kept us in the game. And then, I think, the tiredness took over.”

While guard Joseph Yesufu said of McCullar’s absence, “We really missed him today,” Roberts later said, “We’re in Kansas. We don’t apologize. You just keep playing. We just didn’t wake up as much as we needed to. We won’t find any excuses. They played the same crowd [tournament] games we played. No excuses.”

He concluded about Texas, “They’ve probably been the most talented team in the league all year.”

With teams tied at 28-28 in the first half, Texas’ impending dominance didn’t seem to figure in the forecast. Then Carr made a 3:34 pre-half layup for 30-28, Morris made a 3:06 pre-half layup for 32-28, and Morris made a 2:44 three-point shot before half for 35 -28

At 2:01, Morris’ three narrowly rattled out, after which Wilson charged onto the court with a quick break to take a three-pointer play to limit matters. That gave hope to the Jayhawks-leaners, and the 39-33 halftime deficit wasn’t bad, but soon after halftime, Texas top-ranked forward Christian Bishop kicked one back at Carr, and Carr slammed in a breakneck three-point shot and made it 52-41 — and from there it took flight as the Big 12 season’s grind found its way to a final sharp turn.

Pretty soon it was 70-50, and fairly soon after that Terry was exchanging emphatic hugs with Carr and Morris as he removed them from the game to give the subs some light. Pretty soon, the Longhorns walked out cheering as the last victors in a very, very tough league.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/03/11/kansas-texas-big-12-title-game/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage Texas Manhandles Kansas in Big 12 Tournament Championship Game

Ian Walker

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