Kansas City, Mo. (AP) – Dylan Disu overcame early fouls to score 18 points, Marcus Carr and Sir Jabari Rice added 17 each, and seventh-ranked Texas romped a pro-Kansas crowd with a 76-56 romp pacified. The third-ranked Jayhawks head into the Big 12 Tournament title game on Saturday night.
After going more than two decades without a Big 12 tourney championship, the Longhorns (26-8) have won two of the last three, and could potentially enter next week’s NCAA tournament seeded No. 2 with their performance in Kansas City. got priority.
Led by interim coach Rodney Terry, the Longhorns held a 39–33 lead at halftime, extended it to 20 down the stretch, and proceeded to a shower of confetti during a net-cutting celebration.
Jalen Wilson scored 24 points and Joseph Yesufu, pressed into the starting lineup due to injury, finished with 11 for the Jayhawks (27-7), who have won 13 of their last 16 trips to the Big 12 Finals.
The question now is whether the defending national champions did enough before Saturday night to earn the overall No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, and with it a favorable road through Kansas City in the regional round.
Kansas was once again without Hall of Fame coach Bill Self, who went to the emergency room on the eve of their quarterfinal for an undisclosed medical procedure. Self’s longtime assistant and acting coach, Norm Roberts, once again called the shots from the sideline for the championship game.
On the other side stood Terry, who certainly didn’t expect Texas to pull the strings. But when Chris Beard was ejected for an off-the-court incident early in the season, the former Fresno State and UTEP coach not only put together his talented team but guided it to a second-place finish in the regular season. Did.
Right behind the Jayhawks, who also happened to be the defending Big 12 Tournament champs.
Both teams were missing early Saturday night due to injuries – Kevin McCullers Jr. for the Jayhawks, Timmy Allen for the Longhorns – yet there was plenty of star power on display inside the T-Mobile Center.
The league’s Player of the Year Wilson kept the Jayhawks afloat during a poor first half. He scored 17 points, more than half of his total, while he pounded the glass and even had a steal.
Meanwhile, Texas relied on depth and balance to build a 39–33 halftime lead. After losing Disu to a pair of fouls less than eight minutes into the game, Joe had already been a revelation in the previous two rounds.
When the older man returned, he went straight to work. Disu had few baskets in the opening minutes, and a nearly five-minute drought by Kansas allowed the Longhorns to pull out to a 53–41 lead with 12 minutes to go.
To that point, Texas’ roughly 500 fans seemed like 15,000. And the roughly 15,000 Kansas fans were dead silent.
The knockout blow came moments later, when Disu’s baskets were booked by Rice, and Arterio Morris threw down an Ally-oop dunk. This cut the Longhorns’ lead to 70–50 with 4 1/2 minutes to go, and Roberts finally called a timeout to slow down the attack, too late to make a difference.
McCullers, the Jayhawks’ defensive dynamo, is dealing with back spasms that flared up again during the semifinal win over Iowa State; He watched from the bench covered in sweat. The Longhorns were without Allen throughout the tournament while the veteran leader rested a foot injury prior to the NCAA Tournament.
Texas shot 50% from the field but was especially good inside the arc – the Longhorns were just 4 of 17 on 3s. And he rarely went more than a few minutes without a basket, preventing Kansas from bringing its rush to the game.
Kansas was forced to use a slightly different lineup, with McCullers out, with freshman MJ Rice playing extended minutes. The Jayhawks rarely seemed to be in sync, and it was clear that DaJuan Harris Jr. turned the ball over four times during his point run.
The Longhorns and Jayhawks are headed to the NCAA Tournament. They’ll know on Sunday night who, when and where will play in the first round.