Chapman plays best game of season, emerges as senior leader

Sameer Bhuchar

Clint Chapman had his best game of the season against one of the best teams in the conference Saturday afternoon, but even that wasn’t enough to help the Longhorns pull out the upset. And don’t tell him that his performance is worthy of a moral victory.

“It’s hard to take any positives out of something like this because this is a program built on winning,” Chapman said.

“Losing by three points is still a loss in the win-loss column. If you base your program on moral victories, you can’t grow.”

Still, Chapman’s stat line was impressive. He notched 15 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and one assist in 34 minutes, numbers way above his season averages. On the glass, Chapman had the tough task of keeping Kansas’ seven-footer away from the ball, but found the grit to keep Jeff Withey in check.

“Playing 19 minutes in the second half is something I’ve never done before. We wanted to be physical with [Withey], and we hit him early. That was my mentality, especially when it came to rebounding. If I wasn’t going to get the rebound then he definitely wasn’t going to get it.”

It was just the kind of game he needed after being called out by the media on a few occasions for his lack of physicality.

But it wasn’t just his newly-displayed tough guy mentality that helped fuel Texas’ furious comeback. Chapman was the emotional leader of team Saturday, a role that has been vacant much of the season.

After making a pair of free throws to give Texas its only lead of the game, Chapman made his way to center court and pumped his fists to urge the Frank Erwin Center, and its biggest basketball crowd of the year, to get even louder.

Rick Barnes was pleased with Chapman’s work in the paint, and was even frustrated that the team didn’t look for him and the other bigs inside early in the game.

“Early in the game, we wanted to run and run hard and post up, and I’m telling you early in the game, [Texas’ big men] were there,” Barnes said. “And we never even looked at them. So that’s the plays you’ve got to make.”

With a game like Saturday’s behind him, Chapman will likely see more playing time as the daunting Big 12 schedule roars on. It’s a position he hasn’t been in before, but is happy to fill because he only cares about one thing — wins.

“Confidence can always help you, but we want to win games,” he said. “That is the most important thing right now.