LAWRENCE, Kan. — For several seconds, the always-vociferous Allen Fieldhouse stood silent. All 16,300 spectators packed together with no breathing room locked eyes upon Texas point guard Matt Coleman. The clock’s life was limited to 8.6 seconds and Coleman, not satisfied with his look at the basket, veered right and dished it to the hot hand — shooting guard Jase Febres.
Febres had no time nor space to create his typical form jumper. Instead, his rapid heave from the right wing slightly tapped the backside of the rim, and then the ground. The audience’s roar at “The Phog” was restored. Texas (10–7, 2–3) fell one attempt short of shocking No. 7 Kansas (15–2, 4–1) in Lawrence for the first time in eight years, succumbing to an 80-78 road defeat.
“We were trying to run a ball screen slip for Jase,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “It ended up being jumbled up when we got the shot, but it was as clean as we wanted it to be. It was a matter of being able to attack the basket or some kind of pick and roll … and our spacing wasn’t what we wanted it to be.”
Febres’ final look was the ultimatum, but it was a game of streaks from the 3-point line for Smart’s Longhorns. In the first half, the team shot a lethal 42 percent, well above the season average. Texas charged into the half clinging onto a 40-38 lead. After a visit to the locker room, the Longhorns’ shooters came out colder than the January frost blanketing the plains in Lawrence. Texas missed its first eight triples of the second half, while Kansas drained four consecutive threes in the first five minutes after halftime.
“The way Kansas started the second half was big for them and I told the guys at one point in a timeout, ‘We gotta make them miss. They’re not gonna miss on their own,’” Smart said. “To our guys credit, we got down 10 a couple times and they fought to cut that lead down and bring us back.”
From 9:02 to 4:16 left in the game, every possession commenced with an 8- or 10-point margin separating the conference rivals on the scoreboard. After the elongated period of stability, Texas regained its shooting touch and unleashed a late 14-4 surge. Shooting guard Kerwin Roach II sparked the comeback with a three and handed the baton to Febres, who converted three triples in an 80-second span to knot the score at 73.
Texas responded to an ensuing 5-0 Kansas run with an immediate Courtney Ramey three, and Kansas’ struggles from the charity stripe kept the door ajar. Although the Jayhawks finished 11-of-22 beyond the arc, the perennial Big 12 champion cashed in 21 free throw attempts for a mere 11 points. As much as Kansas’ miscues kept Texas alive, the Longhorns failed to hit the punishing shot at the final buzzer.
“We defended that well and they didn’t get out a good look,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “That was one heck of a basketball game. That was well played by both teams, and both teams shot the ball (well).”
The Longhorns were able to hang with Self’s team in a challenging environment because of strong offensive execution throughout. With bigs Jericho Sims and Dylan Osetkowski holding firm on box outs, Texas outrebounded Kansas 14-6 on the offensive end. The burnt orange also left zero points at the free throw line and outscored Kansas on second chance points by 15.
Texas now rides a three-game losing streak after a short-lived undefeated start to Big 12 play. One shot away from earning a statement win against a ranked team, this loss may sting for a while. Coming one shot short has been a theme in losses this year, and Texas sports a 1–2 road record with the losses by a combined five points.
“When you go on the road, you have to dominate the details,” Smart said. “You have to own all the little things that go into it. Kansas is a good team, they’re not gonna let you get a good look at the end if you’re not aggressive enough.”