Kansas Wins Big 12 Championship

3-11-07 As coach Bill Self cut down the nets to commemorate Kansas' second straight Big 12 tournament title, a shout came from the crowd: "And now a national championship!"

After surviving another stellar effort by Texas' Kevin Durant, the second-ranked Jayhawks appear primed to make a run at another set of nets.

"Our confidence level is pretty high right now," Kansas guard Brandon Rush said. "Just making big plays at the right time."

Sherron Collins scored 20 points, and Rush and Julian Wright each added 19 points to help Kansas rally from a 22-point deficit to beat Texas 88-84 in the Big 12 championship game Sunday and earn a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

Durant, the Big 12 player of the year, matched his career high with 37 points but took only two shots and did not score in overtime.

"I don't want to play him again," Self said.

The only chance for another rematch would be in the NCAA championship game, with Kansas a No. 1 seed on one half of the bracket and Texas a No. 4 seed on the opposite side. The Jayhawks enter the tournament on a season-best 11-game winning streak. They've lost in the tournament's first round each of the past two seasons.

Russell Robinson hit a jumper from the left wing to put Kansas (30-4) on top 83-81 with 2:19 left in the extra period, and Wright added a free throw to push the lead to three. D.J. Augustin had a 3-point attempt and a runner in the lane blocked on consecutive Texas possessions, and Darnell Jackson's two free throws extended Kansas' lead to 86-81 with 13.2 seconds left.

A.J. Abrams hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to give No. 15 Texas (24-9) one last chance, but Robinson hit two foul shots with 5.3 seconds left to seal the win. Durant's final shot -- a 3-pointer from the right wing -- caromed away with 2 seconds left.

"That's one of the best games I've ever been a part of. That comeback in Lawrence paled in comparison," said Self, whose team erased a 16-point deficit to beat Texas a week earlier.

Mario Chalmers -- who hit the tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to force overtime -- contributed 17 points for Kansas, which has won five Big 12 tournament titles.

Abrams added 19 points for Texas. Two days after rallying from 20 points down against Baylor in the biggest comeback in Big 12 tournament history, the Longhorns gave up an even bigger lead.

"I thought a lot of good things happened here this week," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We're disappointed but it is over and done with, and we will move on to next week."

Durant set a Big 12 tournament record with 92 points in Texas' three games -- breaking the record Iowa State's Marcus Fizer set by scoring 79 in three games in the 2000 tourney. The 6-foot-9 freshman also had 10 rebounds to pass LaSalle Thompson's record for rebounds in a single season for Texas.

"It is a bigger week next week," Durant said. "We've just got to bounce back off this loss and get ready for the tournament."

As he did in the teams' regular-season meeting, Durant got off to a hot start and pushed the Longhorns to a huge lead.

Durant got his first shot swatted, then scored eight consecutive points to get Texas started on a 19-2 run. He followed a jumper in the lane with another falling away on the left side to give the Longhorns a 21-6 edge.

He had seven more points, the last on a 3-pointer from NBA range, before Augustin carved his way under the basket to make it 32-10.

"He is a joke," Self said of Durant. "You can plug him into any team in the country at any level and he can score. NBA, whatever, just plug him in and he can go get baskets."

"We are not going to see another one like this," Self added. "He is just different. He is the best I have ever seen."

The infinitely deep Jayhawks still weren't out of it, though. Only a week earlier, Kansas wiped out a 12-point halftime deficit in five minutes during a 90-86 win over Texas to claim the Big 12 regular-season title outright.

"Whether it was us getting off to a great start or them getting off to a great start, I felt it would be one of those games where both teams would go at each other and come down to the kind of game it was," Barnes said.

Rush nailed a 3-pointer to get Kansas on track after a 4-for-18 start, and Wright beat Durant for a dunk and a layup as the Jayhawks started picking up steam.

Durant appeared rattled as the Jayhawks outscored Texas 24-7 to close within 39-34 at the half. In the final 90 seconds, Durant stepped out of bounds, let a pass squirt through his hands and missed the rim on a driving runner.

Collins hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to cut the deficit to 55-54 with 11 1/2 minutes let, but then had his driving layup for the lead blocked by Durant. The Jayhawks finally got the lead when Chalmers hit two foul shots during a 9-0 run that gave Kansas a 65-60 lead.

Durant erased that deficit with a basket off an offensive rebound. Craig Winder's layup off a fast-break miss gave Texas a 73-71 lead.

After Winder missed one of two free throws to open the door for Kansas, Chalmers hit a 3-pointer from the right wing with 15 seconds left to make it 78-all.

Durant missed a turnaround jumper from the right side that would have given the Longhorns the win.


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