Longhorns and Jayhawks collide in Top 25 showdown
Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - With their sights set on a 10th straight Big 12 Conference crown, the eighth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks play host to the 19th-ranked Texas Longhorns in a key league matchup at the Allen Fieldhouse.
Bill Self's Jayhawks have won two straight and four of their last five games, including a hard-fought 64-63 victory at Texas Tech on Tuesday. With the win over the Red Raiders, Kansas moved to 20-6 overall and 11-2 in league play, two games ahead of second-place Texas.
Rick Barnes' Longhorns are also 20-6 on the year and had a opportunity to stay within a game of the Jayhawks in the Big 12 race, but faltered on the road at Iowa State, dropping an 85-76 decision to the Cyclones on Tuesday evening.
Kansas owns a 22-8 advantage in the all-time series with Texas, but the Longhorns are seeking the regular-season sweep after earning an 81-69 victory over the Jayhawks in Austin back on Feb. 1.
Texas struggled to find its range and against an offensive-minded squad like Iowa State, it cost the team a game in the league standings. The Longhorns shot a mere .329 from the floor, while the Cyclones connected at a .492 clip. The loss spoiled a strong performance by point guard Isaiah Taylor, who finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Fellow guard Javan Felix added 16 points and forward Jonathan Holmes finished with 14 in the loss. The Longhorns were an efficient 23-of-25 from the free-throw line and won the rebounding battle, 44-35, but still dropped a nine-point decision.
Texas is averaging a solid 76.9 ppg on the year, but does so on a modest .437 shooting. Where the Longhorns have had the most success is on the glass, averaging 42 rebounds per game, while holding a +8.1 rebounding margin. Four of the team's five starters are averaging double figures. Holmes (13.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and center Cameron Ridley (10.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg) are a quality duo in the frontcourt, while Taylor (13.1 ppg) and Felix (12.8 ppg) give the team backcourt balance.
The Jayhawks had to come from behind, but were able to do so in earning their 20th win of the season with the one-point victory over Texas Tech. It marked the 25th straight season with 20 or more wins for Kansas and the 20th straight year with at least 11 conference victories. Freshman Andrew Wiggins converted a layup with 1.7 seconds remaining to propel the Jayhawks to the win. Wiggins finished the game with a team-high 19 points. Fellow freshman Joel Embiid poured in 18 points and grabbed a team-best eight rebounds in the win.
Despite a very young lineup, Kansas gets it done with efficient shooting this season, ranking among the nation's best at .503 accuracy from the floor. The result is a hefty 79.5 ppg. KU also has benefited by a +7.5 rebounding margin. Wiggins leads a quartet of double-figure scorers with 16.2 ppg. Sophomore Perry Ellis (13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) and Embiid (11.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 62 blocks) are a formidable duo up front. Freshman Wayne Selden Jr. (10.2 ppg) and junior Naadir Tharpe (8.9 ppg, 5.2 apg) round out the starting five.