Horns can reverse Phog Allen fortunes

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Men's Basketball

Texas just can’t catch a break at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Longhorns have never beaten Kansas at home — not once in nine tries — and as the only Big 12 arena the team has never won in, it has a sort of mythic aura to it like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

Superstition is necessary to explain the defeats as well. At Kansas in 2009, Texas jumped out to a seven-point half-time lead. Former Longhorn Damion James scored 26 points, but the Jayhawks’ strong second half enabled them to come back and win by 10. James took just four shots in the second half, and the entire team looked like there was something in the Gatorade slowing them down.

The meeting before that, on March 3, 2007, saw Texas establish a double-digit lead at the break. Even with eventual Naismith winner Kevin Durant scoring 30, Texas was not able to withstand a late rally, in part because Durant went down with a mysterious ankle injury that greatly limited him in the second half.

The closest game in Allen Fieldhouse between the storied programs came on Jan. 27, 2003. T.J. Ford and Royal Ivey, two of the greatest guards in school history and current NBA veterans, combined for 31 points and 11 rebounds, while reserve Brian Boddicker exploded off the bench with six 3-pointers for the third-ranked Longhorns.

This push did not matter as Jayhawk Nick Collison totaled 24 points and 23 rebounds in the comeback victory for No. 13 Kansas. Roy Williams, then the Jayhawk’s head coach, called it one of the best games he ever saw.

In the Kansas-Texas series, there have certainly been some memorable matchups, but not once has Texas come out on top in Lawrence. The Longhorns have won at home (and big: see Feb. 25, 2006) and even in the Big 12 tournament but never inside the Phog.

That could all change, of course.

Yes, even without James, the Big 12’s all-time leader in double-doubles. Yes, even without Durant, a consensus player-of-the-year and one of the greatest talents in school history. Yes, even with two freshmen in the starting lineup and only one — maybe two — guaranteed NBA prospects on the team.

If you saw the way Jordan Hamilton scored from inside, outside and even flying under the basket against Pittsburgh — which boasts a comparable frontline, in both size and viciousness — you might agree.

If you witnessed freshman Tristan Thompson post up and slash through the Aggie defense, which is slightly better than Kansas in scoring defense and only slightly worse in field-goal defense, you might agree.

If you’re privy to the fact that Texas has bested every single conference opponent on the glass, including the rebounding-machine that is A&M, you might agree.

If you noticed how Texas has won three straight games by at least 20 points after losing a close game to Connecticut, instead of crumbling or underestimating lesser opponents, you might agree.

If you’re head coach Rick Barnes or players Gary Johnson, Dogus Balbay, Jai Lucas and Matt Hill, you might agree.

There really hasn’t been much separating these teams in the past. A half-dozen free throws, a pair of 3-pointers, a few layups — the Longhorns have lost by less. Don’t believe someone who tells you a game this early in the season does not matter.

Beating Kansas at home is one of the very few things these Texas seniors have never accomplished, and if there was ever a time to capitalize on the team’s momentum, this would be it.