Kansas Big 12 Tourney Champs, Get #1 Seed

Kansas got a little payback Sunday afternoon, defeating the Texas Longhorns, 84-74, in a classic at Kansas City's Sprint Center. The Jayhawks avenged a 72-69 regular season loss by winning the conference postseason tournament in front of a very pro-Kansas crowd of 19,047.

Mario Chalmers poured in 30 points and dealt six assists. Brandon Rush had 19 points, six assists and  six rebounds. Darrell Arthur rebounded from a comatose performance against Texas A&M with 16 points and nine boards. Sasha Kaun grabbed eight rebounds on a day when the Jayhawks outrebounded a very athletic Texas team, 42-29.

Chalmers and Rush were both named to the all-tournament team, along with Texas' A.J. Augustin, A.J. Abrams and Damion James. Rush was named tournament most outstanding player.

“Guys just kept making plays,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I thought it was just a well-played, classy game with guys on both sides making unbelievable plays.”

It's tough to argue with Self's assessment.

Both teams opened up with three-point shots – Mario Chalmers for Kansas and Damion James for Texas. Justin Mason hit two more buckets for Texas, including another three, to make it 8-3.

Darrell Arthur started a 10-0 KU run with a short baseline jumper. Sasha Kaun added a free throw and  Arthur another jumper. Mario Chalmers grabbed a steal and hit a streaking Arthur for a dunk. Following a media timeout, Chalmers knocked down a three and the Jayhawks led 13-8.

Texas all-conference guard D.J. Augustin, who was nearly perfect in the first half (7-of-9 shooting, 4-for-4 from three), drove the lane and scored to end KU's run.

Sasha Kaun dunked KU back to a 15-10 lead, and Brandon Rush added three more.

Augustin made a three with a Jayhawk in his face, but Rush answered with one of his own, and the score stood at 21-13. .J. Abrams scored on a stickback after a missed layup to get the Horns back to within six, 21-15. Justin Mason hit from behind the arc, and Connor Atchley scored on a running hook to make it a one-point game.

Augustin scored on a drive to give Texas a 22-21 lead. Damion made a 15-footer and Augustin made a three to make the score 27-21 and cap a 14-3 Texas run. A Kaun three-point play and a Chalmers bucket got KU to within one, 27-26, with 7:33 left.

The rest of the half was Ali-Frazier: two heavyweights seeing who could hit the other harder. Augustin would hit a three, Chalmers would hit one. Rush would hit a jumper, Damion James would score. The teams headed into the locker room at 46-45.

At the intermission, Kansas had hit on 58.6 percent of their shots, including 60 percent from behind the arc. Texas made 58.1 percent of their field goal attempts and made an amazing 72.7 percent of their threes. KU had outrebounded Texas 16-9. Augustin's 18 first-half points were nearly off-set by Chalmers' 17.

The first half was so good, it evoked memories of another great game played in Kansas City almost exactly 20 years ago.

Self said, “It's pretty corny, but at halftime, I told the team in front of Danny (assistant coach Manning), I said, 'That's probably about as good a half of basketball played in Kansas City since the '88 championship game,' and then I said (to Manning), 'What happened the second half?' He said, 'The game slowed down and we guarded.' I told our team, we've got to make a conscious decision to guard better, because  in a horse contest, I don't know if you want to get in one of those with (Texas' A.J.) Abrams and (D.J.) Augustin. We defended and rebounded the ball much better the second half. We played about as complete a game as we've played.”

Abrams started the second half for Texas with a short one-hander near the basket. Then came what could have been a disastrous stretch for the Jayhawks: on the next five possessions, Brandon Rush missed on a drive to the basket; KU committed a turnover after a steal; Chalmers missed an open three;  Darnell Jackson missed in traffic under the basket; and Brandon Rush fouled driving to the lane.

In the meantime, Atchley made two free throws after being fouled by Chalmers. Arthur scored KU's first points of the second half over three minutes in when he made two free throws. Texas led 49-47.

KU had a terrific chance to tie the game. Sasha Kaun took a pass at the free throw lane and had a clear path. His short short missed, and Darrell Arthur grabbed the offensive rebound, only to miss a bunny of his own. At the 15 minute mark, though, Chalmers made yet another three to give KU a 50-49 lead. He made another 70 seconds later to expand KU's lead to four.

Abrams bounced back with a three for Texas, but Mario Chalmers promptly beat Texas down the floor for a layup.

Connor Atchley navigated two Texas screens and answered with an 18-footer to make it 55-54, KU.

Darnell Jackson was hacked in the act on the next trip down. He made both free throws to get the Jayhawks back to a three point advantage, and Brandon Rush made a three-point shot at the 11:42 mark to get the lead to six, 60-54.

Justin Mason narrowed the lead to four with two charities, but Sherron Collins drove the lane and dished to Darnell Jackson, who was fouled. Jackson made one of two.

After a Texas miss, Sherron Collins quickly brought the ball down and dished to Rush for a wide-open three. Kansas led by eight.

Enter another Texas run: on the ensuing inbounds pass, Augustin was fouled by Russell Robinson. He made both and Kansas led, 64-58. Two threes by Abrams and another by James gave Texas a 67-64 lead and capped an 11-0 Longhorn run. Self called timeout after Abrams' three at the 7:53 mark.

Out of the timeout, Russell Robinson fed Sasha Kaun, who was fouled as he drove to the basket on a play where he probably should have tried to dunk the ball. He made one, and KU was down two with 7:35 left.

Abrams made a running floater along the baseline to get the lead back to four, but once again, Kaun was fouled on the KU end. This time, he missed both.

Darrell Arthur took a feed from Mario Chalmers and found an open lane to the basket. His dunk made the score 69-67. Sherron Collins buried a three to put Kansas on top, 70-69 with 5:40 to play. Texas coach Rick Barnes decided to stop the run before it even had a chance to start by calling timeout.

Texas missed on their next possession, and Darnell Jackson was fouled. He missed the front end of the one-and-one. Augustin looked to travel on his next drive to the Texas hoop. No call was made, and his lay-up rolled in. Texas 71, Kansas 70, 4:42 left. That would be Texas' last made field goal of the afternoon.

The Jayhawks came right back, and Darrell Arthur scored on a short jumper to give KU a 72-71 lead.

Texas failed to score on their next trip. Mario Chalmers missed a three with the clock running down but KU grabbed the rebound. The couldn't take advantage of the second chance, however.

James missed a 16-footer. On Sherron Collins collected the ball and tried to push it upcourt. Considering KU was nursing a one-point lead, the normally-heady guard made maybe the dumbest play of his career: he attempted a long pass to Darnell Jackson near the KU bucket that nearly went over his outstretched arm and out of bounds. He got a hand on it, though, and the ball bounced toward the KU bench.

Collins then made the greatest hustle play of his career, running in front midcourt at warp factor 12 and somehow managing to catch up to his deflected errant pass. He dove and saved it from going out of bounds and managed to throw the ball off of D.J. Augustin before the ball went out of bounds giving possession back to KU. The game stopped shortly after, thanks to a media timeout.

Mario Chalmers hit a three on the next Jayhawks possession to stake KU to a 75-71 lead. Texas then missed an ill-advised, quick shot. Sherron Collins grabbed the long rebound and was fouled. His two free throws gave Kansas a six-point lead, 77-71, with just 1:26 left.

As expected, Augustin tried to take over for Texas. He missed a driving shot, but Darnell Jackson was called for a push on Atchley in the fight for the rebound. Atchley converted both free throws for a score of 77-73.

Brandon Rush tried to pass the ball inbounds but stepped on the line, turning it over to Texas. Augustin missed a three-pointer and Mario Chalmers took the rebound. Brandon Rush took the ball up the floor and was fouled. He made one, and Kansas again led by five.

On the Texas possession, Augustin tried to hit James in the corner for a three but his pass was picked off by Chalmers, who was fouled. He made both free throws. Kansas 80, Texas 73. Forty seconds left.

Inexplicably, Mario Chalmers was called for fouling Mason at the Texas end. Mason made the first but missed the second. Darrell Arthur was fouled on the rebound and made both charities. Kansas 82, Texas 74. Thirty-four seconds left.

Texas rushed the ball up the floor. Atchley took a jumper but missed, and Sherron Collins was fouled on the rebound. He added two more points to KU's lead, which stood at 84-74.

Atchley took a wild three with 25 seconds left and missed badly, finally allowing the Rock Chalk Chant to begin.

Kansas finished the game on a 14-3 run. Texas didn't score a field goal in the final 4:42. At the other end of the court, Kansas made nine of their last 10 free throws to put the game on ice.

It's also worth noting that D.J. Augustin, who had 18 points at halftime, finished with 20, thanks to a rotating group of KU defenders. Justin Mason finished with 17 after ringing up 12 in the first half. Finally, Damion James finished with 13, adding just three more to his total after halftime.

“It was a very well-played game that lost some pace in the second half, which usually happens. And then we just had guys step up and make unbelievable plays,” Self said.

The tournament title earned the Jayhawks the number one seed in the Midwest Regional, along with their third straight conference tournament title. They'll take on the Portland State Vikings (23-9) in their first round NCAA game. If they beat the Vikes, KU will take on the winner of the UNLV-Kent State game in the second round.

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