Heading into Saturday’s game against No. 3 Kansas, there were a lot of questions for an upstart Texas basketball team. Could the Longhorns generate reliable offense against top defenses? Did Texas really deserve its No. 8 ranking, the highest in head coach Shaka Smart’s tenure, despite almost falling to unranked Oklahoma State and Davidson?
And the biggest question of them all: Was this year just another fluky hot start to the season for 7–1 Texas, or was this a team built for sustained success through Big 12 play?
Texas answered all those questions and more in an 84-59 drubbing of the Jayhawks on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, only the second time in school history a Longhorn team has won in the iconic Lawrence, Kansas arena.
“We talked about it as a team that we’ve never won here,” junior guard Courtney Ramey said. “We came close my freshman year, and last year we let one slip away. We had a lead in the first half of every game, so the biggest thing was just keeping the lead and putting our feet on their necks.”
The Longhorns did exactly that. After Texas took a 37-29 lead into halftime, Kansas cut the lead to 41-37 after two 3-point plays to threaten a comeback.
But, undeterred, redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones drilled a three. Then, senior guard Matt Coleman would drain one of his own. Ramey took his turn, sinking two more 3-pointers as the Longhorns made six straight to begin a 29-10 run and ice the game away.
“Our guards really controlled the game,” Smart said. “But (senior forward) Jericho (Sims) was our defensive anchor. There’s not a lot of guys that can bang with (Kansas center) Dave McCormick, and then, when Kansas goes small, be out on the perimeter and switching on the guards.”
Sims had struggled throughout the first eight games, but had his finest performance and his first double-double of the season at the right time. The senior finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting.
A prolific 3-point shooting team, Kansas shot just 3-for-23 from 3-point range after making 16-of-37 in a win over West Virginia on Dec. 22. The poor shooting was a testament to Texas’s defense, which led the nation heading into Saturday’s game, holding opposing teams to only 27.9% from 3-point range.
“We’re only two games into conference play, and you play everybody twice,” Coleman said. “We will see (Kansas) again, and they’re going to remember this.”
The record books will remember this game as well. The 25-point loss tied the largest margin of defeat for Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. Texas will surely vault up the rankings and potentially earn its first top-5 ranking since the 2010-2011 season.
The win was arguably one of Smart’s best wins as a head coach at Texas. But after the game, he emphasized that his team needed to look to the future.
“I asked the guys in the locker room if this is all they wanted,” Smart said. “Obviously, that’s a rhetorical question. They want more.”
After only playing two games since Dec. 9 before Saturday, Texas will be tested quickly, with a matchup against Iowa State on Jan. 5 before facing two tough teams in No. 9 West Virginia and No. 13 Texas Tech on Jan. 9 and Jan. 13, respectively.
But no matter how those games go, these Longhorns have made history in this win over Kansas, and they’ve shown they’re capable of making more.
“The best team, they cut down the nets at the end of the year, so there’s always room to get better,” Coleman said. “I don’t want to get so high off of this win when we still have 16 more conference games to play. Anything can happen, but going in, I just love my chances of winning with this team.”