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Bricking From the Corner: Kansas 69, Texas 58

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NCAA Basketball: Texas at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas was never going to lose this game. Sure, there were wobbles, but they were wobbles we’ve seen before. Down at halftime? Kansas hasn’t led Texas at the half since 2018. Second half adjustments do enough to retake the lead within the first 5-6 minutes of the second half? Check. Does Kansas keep Texas at arm’s length long enough to win the game? Check and check. For as much as Texas fans like to think Texas should compete with the Jayhawks, Texas still has yet to notch their 10th victory against Kansas....ever. Texas has won in Lawrence exactly one time...ever. Kansas basketball is to Texas what Texas football is to Texas A&M, except more lopsided. Texas is 9-35 against Kansas, good for a 20.45% winning percentage. The Aggies did better than that in football and we still call them ‘little brother’, so what does that say about this “rivalry”? Kansas is a blue blood, Texas is not, and these are the nights which showcase the difference between the two programs. Maybe that changes down the road, but for now we’re served with yet another dose of reality.

The Good

Jericho Sims

Sims playing with confidence is a thing of beauty. He’s taking other bigs off the bounce, he’s facing them up and shooting over them, and he’s strong enough to defend against the strongest guys in the conference. How many guys can go toe to toe with Udoka Azubuike and not end up with a hole in their chest, three? Four? Sims is a monster and the Texas staff is trying to feed him. We talk about the threes (for better or worse) and that is the splashy part of the game, but Sims is putting in serious work. He has the 7th-highest offensive rating in the Big 12 in conference play and the 2nd-highest effective field goal percentage behind only Azubuike, and he still has room to grow. In an up & down season, I’m happy to see Sims showing out like this.

Team Defense

Kansas finally got loose in the second half, but it took them a long time and Texas was contesting things really well. They held Devon Dotson to two points in the first half by keeping him from going right, and they were playing the PnR really well so Dotson was never able to kickstart the offense by passing other players open. Any night you can hold Kansas to 2-12 from three and hold Dotson to one assist is a great defensive effort. Texas made it tough on Kansas on the defensive end.

Matt Coleman

Coleman was good tonight; he scored 20 points and was the only guard who seemed to be able to get into the paint against a set defense. He also played about as good a defense as you can ask on Dotson; Dotson only scored two in the first half and eventually got loose in the second half, but that happens when you’re facing an All-American. Some of his turnovers were problematic and he started to press late in the game when things were starting to fall out of reach, but I will take errors of aggression over errors of omission.

Turnovers

Texas turned the ball over on 12% of their possessions which was a vast improvement on the rest of the season. If they could control the ball that well all season, they would have at least two more wins than they do right now. Keeping the turnovers low helps widen the margin for error in games; if you’re turning the ball over on every fifth possession then you have to be that much more perfect in the rest of the game. In a 66-possession game, the difference between 12% and 20% is four more possessions to get a shot up. That’s significant.

Dunking on Brian Davis

Look, I like Brian. He’s a friendly guy and he goes out to these games while I sit at home on my couch with the advantage of replay, pause buttons, and easy access to drinks and bathrooms. Having said that, this tweet is hilarious:

Setting aside that it’s objectively wrong, Brian made himself the sacrificial lamb that all 8 Texas basketball fans feasted on for the remainder of the game.

Thank you, Brian Davis, for allowing us to pelt you with vegetables rather than watch this inevitable loss unfold.

It’s Complicated

Kai Jones and Royce Hamm

When Sims got his second foul four minutes into the game - in addition to the nightmare scenario unfolding for Texas fans - Shaka Smart had to start rotating in a laundry list of bigs to cover minutes at the 5. Both Jones and Hamm took turns dealing with Azubuike and David MacCormack down low and any time they ended in a stalemate it was a win for Texas. Hamm had the lower-body strength to make it difficult to be bullied but had some questionable shot selection, Jones was active on the boards but would allow post position to be established without a lot of resistance (which is understandable as he’s basically skin & bones compared to his Kansas counterparts). Jones would try to use his length to prevent entry passes with limited success. These two weren’t great, but they gave good effort and that deserves some praise.

Jase Febres

Kansas did a great job keeping Febres from getting open all night, they were on him from the opening whistle. He wasn’t able to contribute much offensively directly, but he was pretty easily the best low-post feeder tonight. There was an action Texas ran a few times in the first half to get him the ball at the free throw extended then dump the ball down to Sims that was successful enough Kansas focused on disrupting it. His defense was solid, he’s the reason guys like Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun didn’t have much impact on the game.

The Bad

Officiating

It was bad enough that I had a NCAA ref DM me and tell me how frustrating it was, so that’s probably a good sign they didn’t get it right. Kansas fans were probably livid because it was fairly evenly bad rather than 80/20 bad in their favor and they’re not used to playing on a level field, so I guess nobody was happy. They missed double dribble calls, gave possession to the wrong team, let a lot of contact go in the paint, etc. Just not a good night for the guys in black & white.

Things don’t get much easier for Texas; Texas Tech comes to Austin on Saturday and both teams need to win this game. Texas needs to win or they’re staring at a likely 4-7 conference record after Baylor comes to town on Monday; Tech needs to win this game to avoid being on the wrong side of the bubble again. Tip time is 3 PM CT on ESPN2.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Mladen Tomic.