In consecutive wins, the Kansas Jayhawks have shown what can happen when they just relax and play the game. It’s a mentality of feeling free and playing to their abilities and not letting too much get to them mentally.
In Saturday night’s 73-47 blowout of Texas at Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas (21-4, 9-3) kept pace in the Big 12 title chase by using suffocating defense to trigger momentum, which led to loose play in the second half that took a slim 28-15 advantage and push it to as much as 30.
The win was the second straight for the team since dropping three straight and turning the once assumed conference championship into a dogfight. The Jayhawks regrouped and have turned it around, thanks to getting back to the basics that the team showed in early part of the season.
“At one point in time, we were playing for everybody but ourselves,” senior guard Elijah Johnson said. “As time was passing, it was passing fast and we realize we were having fun, but we weren’t having the kind of fun we wanted to have.”
On the night in which Jayhawk hero Mario Chalmers saw his number raised into the Allen Fieldhouse rafters, the current group of Jayhawks perform admirably behind Chalmers and many other former players.
Kansas started things with their defense, which held Texas (11-14, 3-9) to a dreadful 22% from the field on just 12 of 55 shooting. The Longhorns didn’t even break the 40-point barrier until there was 1:41 remaining.
They completed the demolition with balance, as four players topped in double figures, led by Travis Releford and Jeff Withey, who each finished with 15 points. Withey also added 11 rebounds and two blocks, which set the Big 12 record for career blocks.
Ben McLemore added 13 points and six rebounds and added to his building lore with a showstopping 360 dunk late in the game. Johnson also scored 12 points on a night where team defense was the name of the game.
“We defended them great in the first half. Of course, they missed shots, but we still defended them,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “In the second half, the lid came off a little bit, but it was a balanced performance, not anything exceptional offensively, but defensively, we were terrific.”
With Kansas in a tie for the league lead, the attention now shifts to a big rematch in Stillwater, Wednesday night with Oklahoma State, the team that handed the Jayhawks a rare home loss two weeks ago that started their losing streak.
“I’m sure it will be a packed house. That place (Gallagher-Iba Arena) deserves to have packed crowds,” Self said. “Hopefully, we will get a lot of Jayhawks down there watching, but they are good and we certainly screwed it up when we lost to them and then went down to TCU and didn’t play well and lost and put ourselves behind the eight ball. We still control it and we still have to go down and play probably as good as we have.”