Despite being ranked 14th in the country and already having several quality wins on their resume, Tuesday's game against Kansas represented a fork in the road for Texas. The Longhorns were ranked in the top 5 in the country not long ago and were poised for a deep run in the NCAA tournament, but a rough stretch over the last month reached its potential breaking point on Saturday when Texas blew a huge lead against West Virginia. Shaka Smart's team took the first step in getting back on track against the Jayhawks, overcoming a large deficit of their own en route to a 75-72 overtime victory over Kansas.
Overall, it was not a pretty game for Texas. The Longhorns shot 37.7% from the field and struggled mightily from deep (19.2%), but rose to the occasion defensively to hold a Kansas team in check that has been playing very good basketball the last few weeks. The Jayhawks raced out to a big lead in the first half on the backs of strong performances from Jalen Wilson and Ochai Agbaji. Agbaji finished with a game high 17 points and Wilson added 16 points to go along with 13 rebounds.
After a dominating first half by the Jayhawks, the second half was controlled by Texas. The Longhorns quickly cut into the deficit with 2 quick three pointers from Greg Brown and steady guard play. Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Matt Coleman had a rough night shooting the basketball as they combined to go 9 for 36 from the field, but the trio was excellent from the free throw line (19 for 22). Ramey connected on a pair of free throws to give Texas a 73-72 lead with a minute left in overtime, a lead the Longhorns never gave back.
The win improves the Longhorns to 14-6 on the season and 8-5 in Big 12 play. Texas currently sits in 5th place in the Big 12 standings, but are just a 1 game out of second place with 4 regular season games remaining.
Obviously, this was a huge win for Texas. From a confidence and momentum standpoint, the Longhorns needed to pull out this victory. The way the game on Saturday ended after Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones were seen in a heated exchange during a timeout had to leave a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. The win over Kansas shows again the capabilities this Texas team has. The final 4 games of conference play will not be easy, and the Longhorns needed to add another quality win to their resume with the NCAA Tournament quickly approaching.
In the game itself, the biggest takeaway was how Shaka Smart turned to Kai Jones down the stretch to pair with Jericho Sims. Greg Brown had a good game, but Jones, who finished the game with 10 points and 8 rebounds, is beginning to show better feel offensively to go along with his elite defense. The Longhorns will need all 3 players playing at a high level if they hope to do damage in March.
Texas will travel to Lubbock on Saturday to face Texas Tech. Following the matchup with the Red Raiders, Texas will play 3 makeup games next week, all of which will also be on the road. The Longhorns will face Iowa State on Tuesday, Oklahoma on Thursday and TCU on Sunday.