The Kansas Jayhawks (21-6, 11-2) thoroughly dominated the Texas Longhorns (20-7, 9-5), beating them 85-54, avenging a 12-point loss earlier this month. The Jayhawks are now three games ahead on the rest of the Big 12 with just 4 games to go.
Jayhawk Head Coach Bill Self needs to convince his charges that is the way to play defense every single game. Kansas looked like a vintage Bill Self team, creating offense with their defense. The Jayhawks scored 26 fast break points on the night compared to 0 for the Longhorns.
Much of those fast break points were sparked by the defense. Kansas had 9 blocked shots, including 6 by Joel Embiid, and 7 steals. They were helped along by some poor judgement and shot selection by Texas, but the Jayhawks energy level and intensity was as good as it has been in any single game this season.
Kansas had some terrific individual performances. Embiid had 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists to go with his 6 blocks. He also passed Eric Chenowith as the all-time freshman shot blocker at Kansas.
As a team, Kansas shot 51.7% (31-60) from the field but two major cogs for the Jayhawks, Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis struggled in general. Tharpe went just 1 for 9 from the field, including 0 for 5 from behind the arc. He added 2 boards, 5 assists, and 2 turnovers. Ellis was just 2 for 6, with 8 points and just 2 rebounds.
That Kansas was able to win so decisively with these two not having good games is encouraging, but the Jayhawks need these two veterans to play better in the post season.
Talented freshman Isaiah Taylor, who pretty much had his way the Jayhawks in Austin, was just awful on Saturday. He went 1-14 from the field for 5 points, and took bad shot after bad shot. This will be a learning experience for the youngster.
Another good sign for Bill Self’s squad was that they committed just 7 turnovers in the contest, despite Naadir Tharpe throwing the ball out of bounds 7 seconds into the contest. This better ball management is a key to continued success for the Jayhawks.
Kansas now has to win just one game out of their last four to secure at least a tie for their 10th consecutive regular season Big 12 championship. If they win two of their remaining games, they will win the conference outright.
The Kansas Jayhawks will host the Oklahoma Sooners on ESPN’s Big Monday. The Sooners are in a 3-way tie with Texas and Iowa State for 2nd place in the league at 9-5.
We shall see if the Jayhawks can play with this kind of energy two full games in a row.