LAWRENCE, Kan. — To beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse, it requires perfection. And for several minutes late Monday, the Longhorns were dang near it.
Jaxson Hayes climbed into the rafters and rejected a shot. Kerwin Roach II hit a 3-pointer, snapping the team’s 0-for-8 second-half drought from long range. Then, Jase Febres hit one from downtown after a key adjustment.
“Probably should have taken my ponytail out earlier,” Febres said.
Matt Coleman III dove into Marcus Garrett’s midsection and forced a steal. Then came another Febres 3-pointer. Febres again from 3-point range — bang! — and suddenly it was all tied up with 2:26 remaining.
But to cut through the Phog, “You have to dominate the details,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said.
On the game’s final play, Texas’ execution was off. The design was for Coleman to dribble in or kick it back to Febres. Kerwin Roach II admitted he was supposed to be lined up in the corner as a secondary option.
Instead, Roach thought Kansas was going to press, so he came up the floor to help Coleman, and the spacing was all jammed up. Febres forced an off-target 3-pointer with 2 seconds left and No. 7 Kansas escaped with an 80-78 win.
“Close one. Just got to finish it off. No moral victories,” Roach said. “For what we want to accomplish, there can’t be any moral victories.”
Texas (10-7, 2-3 Big 12) has now lost three straight after starting 2-0 in league play. This was the third straight winnable game, too.
Instead, add Roach and Dylan Osetkowski’s name to a lengthy list of seniors that will end their UT careers without experiencing a win in Lawrence. It’s a rather voluminous one, to be sure. Texas hasn’t won here since 2011. Heck, nobody wins here, especially on Monday nights. Kansas coach Bill Self is now 27-0 whenever the Jayhawks play at home on ESPN’s “Big Monday.”
Five Longhorns finished in double figures, they committed only six turnovers and had an eye-popping 19 assists on 29 field goals. Texas even won the battle on the glass by seven, too.
“It was one on my bucket list I’m never going to get, but it was real big to me,” Roach said. “I just wanted to come out here my senior year and get it done.”
Once again, the Jayhawks (15-2, 4-1) showed why they’ve won 14 consecutive Big 12 titles. They throw haymakers early and sweat the details late.
Texas opened the game by missing two 3-pointers. Kansas opened by swishing two 3-pointers. Tack on Dedric Lawson’s 16-footer and the Jayhawks were up 8-0 like it was nothing. Timeout Texas, and the sold-out crowd of 16,300 was lathered up. Then, Garrett, a sophomore from Dallas Skyline, scored 13 consecutive points as part of his career-high 20 and the place was rocking.
“No disrespect to Marcus Garrett or anything,” Coleman said, “but he came out stroking it and we weren’t ready.”
The Horns steadied the ship well before halftime, though. Coleman had a nice mid-range jumper in the lane en route to his team-high 16 points. Roach hit a 3-pointer, Hayes had a solid dunk and Osetkowski scored on a pick-and-roll. Texas actually had a 40-38 lead at the break.
“They came out the beginning of the first half, and for two rounds, they were punching,” Roach said. “The rest of the half, we were punching, counter-punching. That’s it. We stayed together.”
But the Horns got walloped when the bell rang again. The Jayhawks opened the second half with long-range bombs from Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes and another from Lagerald Vick. Kansas ran up a 10-point lead midway through the final period as Texas peered over the edge into the abyss.
“The way Kansas started the second half was big for them,” Smart said. “I told the guys at one point during the timeout, we’ve got to make them miss. They’re not going to miss on their own.”
Said Febres: “We have these mid-game droughts. We can’t have that playing against good teams like Kansas. We have Oklahoma next, who is also a really good team.”
Lawson had a nice layup over Hayes with 5:01 remaining to give Kansas a 69-59 lead. Then, Courtney Ramey threw a lob to Hayes for a dunk, and Texas caught fire. Febres’ offensive blitz helped tie things up, turning it into a make-or-miss affair down the home stretch.
On the final play, maybe Roach should have stayed on the corner. Maybe Coleman should have just driven himself. Maybe Febres should have collected himself before forcing up a final shot.
Maybe the Longhorns now realize they are a team capable of playing with anyone if they give a complete effort for 40 electrifying minutes.
“Dang, we could play with the best of them,” Coleman said. “It’s about feeding off of this, not taking steps back and taking steps forward and learning from it. Having a growth and positive mindset. We can be here and we can do what we do tonight so we can win these games.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.