Monday’s blowout loss to No. 1 Kansas was every bit the epic flop the final score indicates.
The Jayhawks are this season’s undisputed Big 12 champions after an 86-56 win over the 23rd-ranked Longhorns before a capacity crowd at the Erwin Center.
All of the glitterati — Tony Romo, Jason Witten and Colt McCoy — bolted their courtside seats ASAP. Students, many who lined up outside mid-afternoon, took off with more than 13 minutes remaining.
“We didn’t come out and guard tonight,” Texas guard Javan Felix said. “Just plain and simple.”
But Texas has a far bigger problem than falling to 0-9 all-time against a No. 1-ranked opponent. As the calendar turns to March, UT coach Shaka Smart simply has no idea which team will show up on any given night, a problem that confounds most coaches battling inconsistency.
Will it be the feisty bunch that blew away Oklahoma with a 22-0 run? Or, will it be the same group that showed up flat in an embarrassing loss Baylor and missed its first 14 shots en route to a Rock Chalk beatdown?
And perhaps most troubling, how can this team thrive if point guard Isaiah Taylor is hobbled?
The junior spent Sunday and most of Monday in a walking boot while dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right heel. Smart isn’t sure if Taylor suffered the injury against OU or whether it was a cumulative thing.
“It was very disappointing,” Smart said after watching his Horns fall six points shy of tying the worst home loss in school history. UT lost to Arkansas by 36 points in January 1945.
Let’s not shortchange Kansas. Coach Bill Self’s club was wonderful, hitting 11 of 16 3-point shots just two days after clinching a share of the league crown with a win over Texas Tech.
The Jayhawks (26-4, 14-3 Big 12) could’ve cruised through Austin and headed back home looking to close things out against Iowa State. Instead, Kansas ruined Texas’ senior night by taking a 15-0 lead and storming to a 24-point halftime margin.
Kansas senior Perry Ellis had a game-high 20 points and was 9 for 11 shooting. Frank Mason III was 3 for 3 from downtown and finished with 14 points. Jamari Traylor threw down two vicious dunks; one alley-oop from Devonte’ Graham was so hard, Traylor cut his elbow and almost lost a tooth.
“I do think our guys had a lot of fun tonight,” said Self, winner of 12 straight league titles at Kansas. “They played like a team that was proud of getting a piece of the Big 12 championship and wanted to validate that to everybody by going out and playing well tonight.”
The Horns (19-11, 10-7) had a perfect chance to validate themselves to a degree in front of 16,540 screaming-then-silent fans.
Smart has said numerous times this team cannot handle success. He worried about the volume of text messages, attaboys and well wishes the Horns received after knocking off the Sooners on Saturday.
“How do you address it?,” Smart said. “You could call it out. That doesn’t necessarily fix it. From our end, the Texas end, that was one of our biggest issues. We did not handle Saturday well.”
Felix and other seniors struck the right tone afterward. They were promising changes before Friday’s regular-season finale at Oklahoma State. “We’re going to come in with some energy tomorrow. I know that,” Connor Lammert said. “Get this taste out of our mouth and take things up to Stillwater.”
Tuesday’s film session could be devastating. Felix (13 points) was the only UT player with a decent stat line. Lammert was 1 for 7 from 3-point range. Freshmen Eric Davis and Tevin Mack were a combined 2 for 9. Prince Ibeh grabbed 12 rebounds but scored just six points.
Taylor’s the real question mark. He started the game 0 for 6, finished 1 for 10 and had only five points. He’s the dynamo engine that drives this whole thing. Now, Taylor’s right heel is the second most-watched foot injury on this team behind Cam Ridley’s.
If Taylor can’t go full speed ahead, the Horns could sputter to a halt.
“Our team tonight bore no resemblance to the way we’ve been when we played at a high level,” Smart said. “I’m not just talking about defense. I’m talking about everything, all around. It starts with me. We have to figure out how to be how we want to be.”