Saturday, January 19, 2013
Same old story for Kansas and Texas
By Carter Strickland
AUSTIN, Texas -- For Kansas, it is supposed to be easier than this.
At least it has been a lot easier for much of the season. The Jayhawks, riding a 14-game win streak, a No. 4 ranking, one of the top freshmen in the country in Ben McLemore and a scoring margin of 17.4, are supposed to walk over and away with a win against a team that has lost three straight and was beaten by Chaminade.
It didn't quite play out that way Saturday in Austin.
"It was muddy track all day, and there was no rhythm," said Kansas coach Bill Self.
Sometimes thoroughbreds have issues getting dirty. Kansas (16-1, 4-0 Big 12) finally found its footing, overcoming an 11-point second-half deficit and pulled ahead at the wire for a 64-59 win in front of 11,537 fans at the Frank Erwin Center.
Saturday at Texas was frustrating for Bill Self and Kansas, but the Jayhawks found a way to win.
"We looked like a bunch of inexperienced kids off the playground playing through that bad stretch," Self said. "We turned the ball over just by kicking it to them."
Eventually, it was Texas (8-9, 0-4) kicking itself. It's a familiar action for the Longhorns, as they have twice lost in overtime in the Big 12 and blew an eight-point lead in the final minutes against UCLA this season.
"We get relaxed a lot when we have the lead," said Texas' Sheldon McClellan. "We feel like we can do things we are not supposed to do and it won't hurt us, but in the end it does."
"It's the same old record," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We do a lot of things well, but we don't win because we don't consistently do it when the game is on the line."
So the line on Texas remains the same: No matter the lead, the youthful Longhorns will do what it takes to let an opponent take over the game. As for the line on Kansas, it also remains the same: No matter what happens, KU has the poise, confidence and maturity to overcome adversity.
Since the Michigan State loss on Nov. 13, Kansas has outscored its opponents 48-24 in the final five minutes of games that are within five points.
"We know what to expect, and we are a mature team," said KU center Jeff Withey. "We took the blows and punched back."
The counterpunching was primarily done by McLemore. The freshman was held to three shot attempts in the first half. He turned it on in the second and finished with a team-high 16 points.
"I was trying to get myself more involved in the game," McLemore said of the second half.
That didn't really happen until the final 10 minutes. For the first 10 minutes of the second half, Kansas was, well, "miserable," Self said.
The Jayhawks turned the ball over four straight times, allowing Texas to go on a 12-0 run and take a 42-31 lead with 15:21 remaining.
"They started pressuring a little bit, and we got a little nervous. And we had to play through it, and that is what we did," McLemore said. "Coach told us to be more aggressive, and that is what we did. We started getting stops and making our run."
As for the run Texas is on, this is the worst start to the conference in Barnes' 15 years. The team littered with only freshman and sophomore scholarship players is in all likelihood about to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in the Barnes era.
"I know this -- that my job is continue to coach, test guys to get them better," Barnes said. "I expect them to get better. There is too much time left for this [season to be] disappointing. I could say we are five possessions from being 13-4, but the fact is we're not. We are who we are."
That is a team that cannot handle the maturity or skill of Kansas, no matter how easy the Jayhawks try to make it.