Kansas forward Thomas Robinson led the Jayhawks with 25 points and 14 rebounds to a 73-63 win over the Longhorns on Saturday, effectively forcing Texas’ NCAA tournament hopes on the shoulders of its performance in the Big 12 tournament.
Kansas’ squad of pro-ready athletes put Texas away in the second half on the heels of Robinson’s 18 points that period. In his last regular season game at home, senior guard Tyshawn Taylor added 22 points, including 14 in the second half, and four assists that paced the Jayhawks.
J’Covan Brown did all he could to keep his team in the mix, notching 33 points on 9-18 shooting, but Texas couldn’t get its younger players in on the mix. The Longhorn freshmen combined for just 16 points.
“I felt like we were right there in the beginning,” Brown said. “In the second half, we just made some mistakes to break the lead open [for Kansas].”
Texas was only down 21-26 at the half, but the third-best team in the country had arguably the best player in the country to pace the Jayhawks.
“He’s the best player in the country,” Texas forward Clint Chapman said of Robinson. “He took advantage of every opportunity that we have him with offensive rebounds and driving by guys.”
Robinson wasn’t the only player bruising Texas in the paint. Kansas scored 30 points in the key, compared to 16 by Texas, and it outrebounded the Longhorns 36-29. Seven-footer Jeff Withey snagged six boards for Kansas and managed nine points.
Chapman was one of many Longhorns brutalized by the big-man inside, and it hurt that the Longhorns couldn’t rely on their interior defensive specialist, Alexis Wangmene.
Normally in-and-out of the rotation because of consistent foul trouble, Wangmene left this contest at the start of the second period after sustaining a left wrist injury. Wangmene attempted to secure a defensive rebound, but came down wrapped up with a teammate and extended his hand to break his fall. There is no official timetable for his return, but the senior is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
This is ominous news for the Longhorns as they prepare for the conference tournament. They are a young, undersized team that could have used all the help they could get in the coming week. Texas head coach Rick Barnes won’t say his team has a spot wrapped up for the NCAA tournament the following week, because he knows he’ll need a nice conference tournament showing to breathe easier.
However, he also believes that Texas’ showing in the nation’s second-best conference is enough to speak for itself.
“I always believed it’s your body of work,” Barnes said. “I also have confidence in our league — if we’re the second-best league in the country, that’s where we are, I don’t know how [the Big 12] shouldn’t have six teams in [the NCAA tournament].”
On Sunday, Texas was announced as the sixth seed in the Big 12 tournament where they will face No. 3 Iowa State. Texas faced Iowa State as a sixth seed as recently as 2010, when Brown was a freshman, but the Cyclones were the eleventh team in a field of twelve. Texas won that contest 82-75.