KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the Longhorns were about to take the floor for their game against Texas A&M, Kansas’ Markieff Morris, fresh from an interview with the media following the Jayhawks’ win over Colorado, walked by.
Morris shared a few words that were not so kind. Whatever was said, Gary Johnson refused to share.
“It was not media like,” Johnson said after Texas’ 70-58 win over the Aggies.
Johnson and a few other players responded, but nothing got out of hand. That is, nothing got out of hand yet.
“Let’s just say it’s going to be more than a basketball game tomorrow,” Johnson said.
The Longhorns were able to clinch a spot in the finals of the Big 12 Championship for the sixth time after pulling away from the Aggies in the second half. Texas has never won a Big 12 Championship.
Texas A&M quickly erased a Longhorn six-point halftime lead by scoring the first seven points of the period. Both teams exchanged the lead six times over a two-minute span before the Longhorns went on a 13-3 run to grab a lead they would not lose.
The run was led by Tristan Thompson, who finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds — 10 of which were on offense.
But the streak was not started by a Thompson dunk. It was from an assist. The freshman center was double-teamed nearly every time he touched the ball and was forced to pass it. This time he found J’Covan Brown wide open for a 3-pointer for one of Thompson’s three assists.
“If they double him, he is going to make the right play,” Brown said.
Thompson is used to getting double-teamed. It’s happened to him for most of his life. If he is not able to split the defenders and find a way to dunk it, he has to pass it out. The recipient of most of those passes throughout his life has been Cory Joseph, who converted on a jump shot in the first half after his defender collapsed on Thompson.
“People have to double-team him because he is a beast,” Joseph said.
The beast that is Thompson left Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon baffled.
“Tristan Thompson, are you kidding me,” Turgeon said. “How good that kid is. We’re trying to box him out. He just jumps over you.”
Jordan Hamilton scored a team-high 17 points and Brown added 15 off the bench for the Longhorns.
The Aggies were able to narrow the Texas lead to four points with five minutes remaining, but back to back baskets by Hamilton and Thompson made the Longhorn lead more comfortable.
The Longhorns now run into the Jayhawks, who have revenge on their mind after the Longhorns won at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in January. Once again, it will be a very pro-Kansas atmosphere at the Sprint Center, but the Longhorns welcome it and the underdog role that they have.
“The great ones can play away,” Joseph said. “It’s going to be a great game.”