Men's Basketball falls to Kansas, 90-86
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- Julian Wright figured Kevin Durant would slow down eventually if Kansas just kept doing what it was doing.
Wright had 17 points and 13 rebounds and the third-ranked Jayhawks overcame a 16-point deficit and another electrifying performance from Durant to beat No. 15 Texas 90-86 Saturday, claiming its fifth Big 12 championship.
Durant, a top candidate for national player of the year, made 10 of his first 14 shots and scored 25 in the first half. But the 6-foot-9 freshman crumpled to the floor with an ankle injury with about 11 minutes left in the second half and was not the same player when he returned from the locker room a few minutes later.
"Durant was on fire the first half," Wright said. "We just tried to keep playing defense the way we were taught to play it and tried to limit his easy points. But he was awesome."
Durant, the conference leader in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, was unstoppable as the Longhorns (22-8, 12-4) took a 51-35 lead late in the first half of the Big 12 title showdown. With Kansas double-teaming Durant, other Texas shooters got open looks and at one point the Longhorns hit 12 shots in a row.
Kansas put together a 24-7 run after he got hurt, taking a 59-58 lead on Wright's basket.
"I just wanted to suck it up and play for my team," said Durant, who limped noticeably much of the second half. "They picked me up while I was out, so I just took the pain and tried to suck it up for the team."
Hitting only 3-of-8 from the field in the second half, Durant finished with 32 points.
"They came out tough," Durant said. "And we came back at them. But they did a great job today and congratulations to them for winning the Big 12 championship."
Texas coach Rick Barnes said Durant actually turned the ankle in practice on Friday.
"But he felt like he could play," Barnes said. "It would have tightened up, so we wanted to get him back in there. You saw him. He was limping a little bit and couldn't move the way he normally does."
Mario Chalmers had 21 points, Russell Robinson a career-high 17 and Brandon Rush 15 for Kansas, which recorded its 1,900th victory as well as its 50th conference title in 100 years.
"There was no switch in defensive strategy the second half," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Just keep doing what you're doing."
With about a minute to play, Robinson's two free throws put Kansas up 88-80. But then Durant and A.J. Abrams drained quick 3-pointers.
Wright's free throw stretched the lead to 89-86, and then the 6-8 sophomore made the defensive play of the game. Seeming to come out of nowhere, he blocked D.J. Augustin's 3-point attempt with 5 seconds to go and Kansas raced back down the court with the ball.
"Mario got forced out and I saw I was close enough to get the block," Wright said. "I don't think he saw me."
Chalmers called it the key to the win.
"He would have hit that, I'm sure," he said.
Augustin had 19 points and Abrams had 18 for the Longhorns, who fell just short of a Big 12 title despite starting four freshmen and a sophomore all season long.
Durant and the other Texas shooters were brilliant the first 14 minutes or so. The Longhorns went up 51-35 when Augustin threw an alley-oop to Durant for the dunk.
"Sometimes when a guy's shooting like (Durant) was, it's bad defense," Wright said. "Sometimes a guy's just on fire. He was on fire."
After the Longhorns went up by 16, Rush, who's been fighting a four-game slump, hit two free throws and Chalmers made a 3 to start the 24-7 run.
Most of the second half, the Jayhawks alternated Wright, Rush and Darrell Arthur on Durant. The Longhorns, after hitting 57 percent in the first half, shot 36 percent in the second.
"We helped them by coming out and turning the ball over," Barnes said. "That and offensive rebounding. Those two things changed the complexion of the game."
Kansas was ahead 71-65 when Durant left the game, and held an 81-72 lead when he returned at the 7:19 mark.
Durant missed a 3-point attempt right after Darnell Jackson's dunk made it 83-74. Then, trapped by Arthur and Wright, he turned the ball over on a traveling call.