The Longhorns had No. 3 Kansas right where they wanted it — Texas started off hot, sank eight of its first 12 shots and took a 35-30 lead into the half.
The Jayhawks, who had dropped two of their last three games, awoke from their 20-minute slumber by shooting 43.3 percent in the second half. Kansas handed the Longhorns a 76-67 loss Saturday afternoon in Lawrence, snapping Texas’s three-game winning streak.
“It’s a combination: great coaching, great players, great atmosphere and it’s not easy,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They had more energy in the second half than they did in the first and we had a little bit less.”
The Longhorns began the game strong, riding the momentum of their win over No. 6 West Virginia. Senior forward Connor Lammert drilled back-to-back 3-pointers as Texas took a 17-5 lead over six minutes into the contest.
Kansas responded with an 18-6 run to tie the game at 23; however, the Longhorns finished the half hitting five of their last nine shots to take a five-point lead going into the break.
Smart said their aggressiveness and energy helped them jump out to the early lead.
“I think in games like this, you have to be the more aggressive team if you want any chance of winning,” Smart said.
But the second half was all Jayhawks.
After Texas pushed the lead to seven three minutes in the half, Kansas played like its No. 3 ranking indicates. The Jayhawks hit 43.3 percent of their shots, including going 6-of-12 from beyond the arc, en route to a 30-10 run to take a 63-50 lead with under seven minutes to play.
Meanwhile, Texas’ hot shooting cooled off. The Longhorns knocked down just two threes in the second half and couldn’t control the glass, allowing Kansas to grab 13 offensive rebounds and 19 second-chance points.
Texas also found itself buried in foul trouble with Lammert and senior center Prince Ibeh playing with at least three fouls for most of the final minutes. Kansas senior forward Perry Ellis took full advantage, scoring 17 of his 26 points in the second half.
Smart said trying to keep the rest of the Jayhawks off the scoreboard made it difficult to keep tabs on Ellis.
“The guards are good so you have to give them attention and if you don’t they’ll turn the corner and lay it up,” Smart said. “But when you do, they throw it back to [Ellis] and now he has some space and no matter how we guarded it, Kansas had an answer.”
The Longhorns managed to cut the deficit to five with less than a minute to play, but the Jayhawks closed out the game with four free throws to seal the win.
The loss overshadows Lammert’s career day from beyond the arc. He finished with 15 points on a career-high five 3-pointers, but fouled out in the game’s waning moments. Senior guard Javan Felix, junior guard Isaiah Taylor and freshman guard Eric Davis Jr. each finished in double-digits.
Despite his strong offensive performance, Lammert wasn’t happy with how he played all-around.
“I didn’t rebound well and gave up a lot of rebounds and got into foul trouble,” Lammert said. “The offense was there but I think I should have done a lot more to help the team win.”
The Longhorns have yet to win in Lawrence since 2011, where the Jayhawks have just nine losses at home under head coach Bill Self. Texas now sits fifth in the Big 12 with a 4-3 conference record.
The Longhorns return home this week to face TCU on Tuesday and Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Texas will get a chance a chance to avenge the loss when Kansas visits Austin on Feb. 29. Lammert said they’ll be ready when they come.
“We’ve obviously got to watch the tape, but it’s our last Big 12 game so we’re definitely going to get a lot better between then and now,” Lammert said.