Despite loss, Allen and Jones provide hope

Shane Lewis

Texas and Kansas sit at opposite ends of the Big 12 hierarchy this season, with the Jayhawks hovering in the rafters and the Longhorns dwelling in the cellar.

 Kansas clinched its 13th consecutive conference title this past week and has been the definition of sustained excellence. Texas has just three Big 12 titles in its history.

 But after Saturday’s 77-67 loss to the Jayhawks, freshman guard Andrew Jones remained adamant that there’s not much of a gap between the two programs.

 “They’re not unbeatable,” Jones said. “They’re a beatable team. If we would’ve been smarter and made more plays, we could’ve hung with them.”

 Jones and freshman forward Jarrett Allen gave Texas a reason to believe it will be competing with Kansas for titles soon. The duo combined for 38 points in Saturday’s loss on an ultra-efficient 16–29 shooting performance.

 Allen continued his recent string of highlight-reel plays, electrifying the Frank Erwin Center with several dunks. Jones’ evolution into a more complete player was also on display, and the guard showcased his midrange game.

 Head coach Shaka Smart praised the players’ performances.

 “Jarrett played really well against (Kansas) last time and was active again tonight­­—our guys realize that he’s our best option,” Smart said. “Andrew made some really big plays. He’s really gotten better with his ability to attack and make plays. His mid-range jumper was going.”

 The play of the freshmen was spoiled by a lackluster shooting performance from the rest of the team. Outside of Allen and Jones, Texas shot just 10–26 from the field.

 Despite these struggles, the Longhorns were able to hang with the Jayhawks for much of the game.

 Kansas came out of the gate hot, jumping out to a 9-2 lead. But the Longhorns battled back and eventually took a 20-19 advantage.

 This proved to be Texas’ only lead of the game. The Jayhawks responded with a 12-0 run and remained a step ahead of the burnt orange for the remainder of the contest. The Longhorns went into halftime trailing 40-31.

 In the second frame, the Longhorns remained within striking distance. The team got within six points on several occasions and pulled as close as five points with just over 10 minutes remaining.

 But every time Texas appeared poised to rally, the Jayhawks responded with a key offensive possession or a defensive stop that kept the game out of reach.

 Smart said the team’s inability to break through reflected a lack of resolve.

 “To be honest, you got to have a group of guys that really stick their chest out and believe in themselves and each other in that situation,” Smart said. “I don’t think our spirit was
good enough.”

 The Jayhawks feasted down low. The team finished with 40 points in the paint, outscoring the Longhorns by 10 in that department.  Kansas’ junior forward Dwight Coleby scored 12 points and controlled the painted area, wreaking havoc with several punishing dunks.

 “Whenever my number is called, I’m ready to contribute,” Coleby said, who came into the contest averaging just over a point per game.

 Only two games remain on Texas’ regular season schedule. The Longhorns travel to Texas Tech on Wednesday with their last chance to seize a road victory this year.