The first five minutes were a nightmare.
A struggling, desperate Texas team entered “The Phog” on Saturday afternoon only to be quickly reminded of a glaring issue that has plagued the team all season: turnovers.
Six early giveaways gave way to an embarrassing start to the game that put the Longhorns in a hole they could never climb out of. It all amounted to a 79-67 loss to No. 2 Kansas. Texas (7–12, 1–6 Big 12) has dropped seven of its last eight games.
“Really, if you take away that first stretch, we played even,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “When you’re playing good teams, you have to be more consistent.”
Four Longhorns finished in double figures. Freshman forward Jarrett Allen turned in another monster performance, finishing with 22 points and 19 rebounds — each career highs. Freshman guard Andrew Jones added 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. Texas totaled 19 turnovers and never led once.
Kansas took an early 14-2 lead, and it looked as if the Jayhawks were going to run Texas right out of Allen Fieldhouse. But slowly the Longhorns crept back in it.
“I told them to respond,” Smart said. “Our guys didn’t seem shaken or rattled even though we were down 14-2. We just settled in and once we started getting good shots, we made a decent percentage of them.”
Down 24-12 with 11:24 to play in the first half, Texas chipped away at the deficit thanks to some timely buckets from Allen and senior forward Shaquille Cleare. Some six minutes later and the Longhorns only trailed 26-23 after a much-needed 12-2 run.
“We just need to start taking off at the beginning,” Cleare said. “That was a game for grabs.”
But Kansas’ three-point shooting halted the Texas momentum. Two three-pointers from junior guard Devonte’ Graham and another one from junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk put the Jayhawks back in the driver’s seat. Kansas hit 11-of-23 threes on the afternoon.
A buzzer-beating jumper from Allen gave Texas a manageable 41-33 deficit heading into the half. Texas hung around throughout the second half before ultimately being overwhelmed late.
Two free throws from sophomore guard Eric Davis Jr. cut Kansas’ lead to 53-49 with 13:43 left. But the Longhorns could never gather themselves enough offensively to make a serious run at the Jayhawks.
“We had some times today when we cut the lead down to a number (of points) where we thought we could get even or get ahead, but Kansas had an answer every time,” Smart said. “That’s what great teams do.”
Jones slammed home a dunk with 3:27 to play and Texas trailed only 71-64. A few more bad Texas offensive possessions and a couple Kansas threes helped seal the Jayhawk victory.
The Longhorns can breathe a sigh of a relief as their toughest stretch of the schedule is now over. Next up for Texas is a home Red River Showdown with Oklahoma (8–10, 2–5 Big 12) on Monday night.
Senior guard Jordan Woodard and sophomore guard Rashard Odomes lead the Sooners offensively. Woodard averages 17.9 points and Odomes averages 10.6 points.
The Longhorns tip off against the Sooners at 8 p.m.
“We just have to keep playing,” Cleare said. “We’ve got another game we can go ahead and win. We’ve just got to flush this one.”