With hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth hanging in the balance, Texas men’s basketball came close to pulling off an improbable victory in college basketball’s toughest road venue Saturday.
But, as it almost always seems to do, No. 8 Kansas once again found a way to win in front of its home crowd.
The Longhorns led well into the second half in the 69-64 loss to the Jayhawks, leading by as many as six points with under 10 minutes remaining. But Kansas got hot from the field and the free throw line late, closing the game out on a 16-10 run to ice the victory.
Junior forward Perry Ellis was at the forefront of that late surge, scoring 12 points in the final 9:30 of the second half. He finished the game with 28 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. It marked the third consecutive 20-point game for Ellis, who has emerged as a front-runner for Big 12 Player of the Year.
Texas missed out on a couple of opportunities to tie the game late. With Texas trailing 66-64 and 48.3 seconds remaining, sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one. Then, with the same score and 6.1 seconds remaining, Taylor missed an off-balance lay-up attempt on a play where he appeared to be fouled, but the referees didn’t call it.
Taylor led the Longhorns with 17 points and eight assists to go along with six rebounds, but he wasn't able to finish the game the way he hoped.
Despite Ellis’ impressive game, the Longhorns turned in one of their better defensive performances of the season. They held Kansas to just 36.2 percent shooting from the field and surprisingly limited the sweet-shooting Jayhawks to just one made three-pointer in eight attempts.
Texas’ interior defense was especially impressive. Freshman forward Myles Turner racked up five blocks in the game, while junior center Prince Ibeh had four. Texas as a whole had 14 blocks in the game.
The Jayhawks managed to overcome their struggles from the field with a strong day at the free throw line. They finished the game 26-of-32 from the line, where the Longhorns went just 12-of-18.
With the victory, Kansas improved to a perfect 15-0 at home this season. The Jayhawks have now won 24 consecutive road games, and they improved to a remarkable 189-9 at Allen Fieldhouse under head coach Bill Self.
The Longhorns dropped to 17-12 on the season and 6-10 in conference play with the loss. A victory would’ve greatly improved their resume as they try to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but now, with just two games remaining, they’re very much on the bubble to make the Big Dance.
They appeared close to finally earning a season-changing signature victory, but once again, they learned why many refer to Allen Fieldhouse as “the best home field advantage in sports.”