By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - There are those who dislike conference tournaments, particularly at the "Big Six" level. Those critics will say that events like the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship are nothing more than meaningless extra games for profit.
Kansas and Texas disagree. And they made sure to disprove that theory Saturday.
There were confetti cannons, t-shirts and caps and trophy No. 8 for the Jayhawks after their 85-73 victory over the second-seeded Longhorns in Saturday's championship game. The Kansas players, on a mid-court stage in the Sprint Center, basked in the adulation of their fans who dominated the 18,940 in attendance.
Both teams are assured of high NCAA Tournament bids when the bracket is announced at 5 p.m. Sunday. The Jayhawks likely will be a No. 1 seed while the Longhorns should be a No. 2 seed.
So, what did this game mean? Anything? Bueller? ... Bueller?
The Jayhawks came into the game with a score to settle - specifically, the 74-63 loss to the Longhorns in Lawrence on Jan. 22. Plus, it prevented Texas from winning its first Big 12 Championship with Kansas goring the Longhorns for the fourth consecutive time.
"Since the loss we've been talking about that we really wanted another shot at them, because a lot of people have been saying that they were the best team in the Big 12," said KU's Marcus Morris, selected the most outstanding player. "It just happened in a
perfect way for us to get them in the Big 12 Championship and for all the marbles."
The Longhorns, despite their history victory in Allen Field House, also sought redemption. Texas lost a two-game lead in the standings over the last three weeks of the season as Kansas rallied to become Big 12 Conference regular-season champs for the seventh consecutive year.
"Am I disappointed, absolutely," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "From now on there are no re-dos. I'd rather lose now and win the rest of the way."
There were several factors that contributed to Kansas improving its record to 32-2.
* The Jayhawks had six players score in double figures led by Tyshawn Taylor with 20. Sophomore reserve Thomas Robinson had 10 points to join the five starters.
* Jordan Hamilton had 21 for Texas, which shot 40.9 percent. Starters Gary Johnson and Tristan Thompson - two of the Longhorns' top producers in front court - combined for 11 points. Thompson played just 21 minutes because of foul trouble. In three games here, Johnson was 5-of-23.
* Kansas shot 56.9 percent against a Texas team that led the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense (38.3). The Jayhawks lead the NCAA in field goal percentage accuracy.
* Part of that accuracy involved attacking the basket. Kansas had a 38-18 scoring edge in the paint.
* In the first half, Kansas had 35 possessions and scored on 21 of those. And 48 points in the first 20 minutes is above the average for points per possession.
"We came out from the beginning with the intensity we needed," Taylor said. "Texas is a good team. We knew we needed to play well ... from the jump."
A 10-0 Kansas run fueled by a dunk and three layups gave the Jayhawks a 27-15 lead and forced a Texas timeout with 11:15 remaining in the first half.
"Their transition game was a lack of good offense on our part," said Barnes, whose team takes a 27-7 record into the NCAA Tournament. "We had no floor balance, we didn't let our offensive develop."
Kansas built its first half lead to 16 points and held a 48-33 edge at halftime.
In the second half, the Longhorns twice cut the deficit to eight on 3-pointers by J'Covan Brown. But with Thompson limited and Johnson ineffective, Texas didn't have the weapons to counter Kansas.
"They came out and put a terrific first half on us," Barnes said. "Every time we gave ourselves a chance, we took a quick shot or made a poor decision on the defensive end. But Kansas makes you do those kinds of things."
Twice in the last three minutes the Morris twins dunked, with each assisting on the other's basket.
"The last game, Tristan did a great job on the Morris twins," Hamilton said. "Not having him was hard for us. Honestly, every game is big for me, every game means something to me. For us to come in here and not win is pretty disappointing."
Self called it a "big boy" game played at a high level.
"This validates what happened during the regular season," Self said. "This was the two best teams playing and we wanted to play Texas. If they had won, they could said, 'Well, Kansas won the league but we beat 'em twice.'
"This was pretty sweet. It was a game for pride."
And that is why they play the game.
Marcus Morris, Kansas (Most Outstanding Player)
Markieff Morris, Kansas
Jordan Hamilton, Texas
Tristan Thompson, Texas
Alec Burks, Colorado