Texas tops Kansas in Big XII clash

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- As basketball's traditional rivalries go, Texas-Kansas still has a way to go to be considered among the nation's best.

It would be very difficult, however, to find two teams who have played more exciting games the last few years. Monday night was just the latest installment of what has quickly become the Big 12's marquee matchup.

Damion James scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the second half, giving No. 11 Texas the muscle it needed to bang with the bigger Jayhawks under the basket, lifting the Longhorns to a 72-69 win.

James finished with 14 points after playing only three minutes of the first half with foul trouble. Connor Atchley, who surprised No. 3 Kansas by hitting four 3-pointers, led Texas (20-4, 7-2) with 16 points and A.J. Abrams added 14 points.

"Seeing my team fight without me, it was hard because if it's a fight, I want to be out there," James said.

Darrell Arthur scored 22 to lead the Jayhawks (23-2, 8-2), who lost for just the second time in 33 regular season games dating back to last season.

Texas and Kansas have played some of the most exciting league games in recent years -- their two meetings last year decided the Big regular season and tournament titles -- and Monday night was no different.

This one wasn't as high scoring as when these teams usually get together, but it lived up to its expectations in terms of big plays and big shots.

"I liked last year's outcome better," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "It's a game in our mind that we circle."

Texas even rolled out some football mojo to fire up the sellout crowd: Vince Young, the quarterback of the 2005 national championship team sat a few seats down from iconic coach Darrell Royal. Aaron Ross, a rookie safety with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, was introduced to the crowd before the game and sat next to Mack Brown.

"We all could feel it. The crowd was there early in our shoot-around. I think that really helped us out," Texas guard Justin Mason said. Mason chipped in nine points and eight rebounds.

On the court, the Longhorns and Jayhawks bulled their way through a game dominated by the Jayhawks' physical front line and Texas' 3-point shooters.

Texas led most of the first half, its best weapon coming in the form of the lanky 6-foot-10 Atchley, who stepped out for his 3-pointers and had three big blocks on defense.

"It's a lot easier to make it when you dare him to shoot it," Self said of the Kansas defense that left Atchley open. "It surprises anybody when you go 4-4 from 3s."

Kansas kept throwing bodies at the basket, wearing down Texas with dunks and outrebounded the Longhorns 23-13 in the first half. The Jayhawks trailed until Brandon Rush tied it with a long 3-pointer and followed it with a layup. Consecutive baskets by Arthur helped put Kansas up 42-38 at halftime.

The fun was just getting started.

The Jayhawks started taking quick shots and the rail-thin Atchley, turning his shooting touch into a power game, twice went up for two-handed dunks.

James, who picked up two quick fouls in the first four minutes of the game, was a force in the second, grabbing two quick rebounds and hitting a 3-pointer as Texas regained the lead 50-48.

"He came out in the second half real hot," Arthur said. "He came out extra aggressive because he had to sit on the bench so long."

With James in the game, that rebounding edge Kansas enjoyed completely disappeared. Texas outrebounded Kansas 23-12 in the second half.

The teams were tied or traded the lead four times over the next six minutes before Abrams dropped in a soft floater. D.J. Augustin, who missed his first nine attempts, then dribbled through three defenders to beat the shot clock with a layup and a 62-57 Texas lead with 5:30 to play.

Augustin stripped Sherrod Collins on Kansas' ensuing possession and Mason's putback put Texas up by seven, the biggest lead of the game.

Everything went right for Texas to close it out: James soared over Arthur to slam home a rebound to make it 66-61 and stellar defensive play down the stretch won it.

The Longhorns led 67-64 when the Jayhawks set up Rush in the left corner for a 3-pointer. Abrams, who at 5-11 is seven inches shorter than rush, leaped to deflect the shot with 50 seconds left.

"He got some separation and I tried to contest it. I got three good fingers on it," Abrams said.

Kansas got within two on Mario Chalmers' 3-pointer with 32 seconds left and had one last chance to tie after Augustin missed a free throw with 8 seconds left. Chalmers' final desperation shot from the left wing bounced off the rim after the final buzzer.

"It was a bad possession because we had something we wanted to run and we took the ball to the wrong side and it killed the play," Self said.


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