Once again, the Longhorns proved that no lead of theirs is safe.
Texas led No. 4 Kansas for all but 31 seconds of the game's first 35 minutes and led by as many as 11 points in the second half. But the Longhorns managed to let another win slip away, falling to the Jayhawks, 64-59, on Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center.
"We get relaxed a lot when we have the lead," sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan admitted. "We feel like we can do things that we're not supposed to do and it not hurts, but it does."
The Longhorns never trailed in the first half. The Jayhawks briefly led after freshman guard Ben McLemore hit a three-pointer early in the second half to give Kansas a 31-30 advantage. But Jonathan Holmes scored seven of his 10 points during a 12-0 Longhorns run that emphatically erased that lead.
Kansas slowly chipped away at that lead and eventually pulled ahead, 54-53, following an alley-oop from senior guard Elijah Johnson to McLemore, who scored a team-high
16 points, with 4:29 remaining. McClellan's floater with 2:46 remaining put Texas back on top, 57-56, but it would be the last lead the Longhorns held.
"We just came and said we're better than this and we've got to come together," Kansas' senior center Jeff Withey, who scored 14 points and had three blocks, said. "We know
what to expect. We're a mature team and we got punched. We took the blows and then we punched back."
McClellan, who scored a game-high 18 points, hit a jumper with one minute left, trimming Kansas' lead to 62-59 and Texas got a stop on defense, giving it a chance to tie the game on its next possession. But Julien Lewis' three-pointer from the corner didn't fall and the Longhorns fell to a Rick Barnes-era worst 0-4 in Big 12 play while Kansas picked up its 15th straight victory, improving to 16-1 on the year.
"I felt comfortable shooting that shot," Lewis said. "We've got to execute a lot better than we have... We were very close out there and we keep losing close games. It hurts us a
lot but we have to keep going. We have to keep fighting each and every game"
The Longhorns were without Holmes for the last two minutes of the game. He scored 10 points and recorded three steals, but played only 14 minutes. He sat for most of the first half after committing two fouls in the game's first minute and fouled out with 1:58 left when he was called for a charge.
"He's got to stop putting himself on the bench," head coach Rick Barnes said. "When he picked up his second foul, he rotated over but he didn't have a chance. He should have somebody out of bounds. You have to understand where you are, in terms of fouls."
If Holmes was on the floor down the stretch, he may have prevented Texas from blowing yet another late lead. The Longhorns held an eight-point lead with less than three minutes to play in a loss to UCLA last month and were up 13 points on West Virginia in the second half Jan. 9 before falling to the Mountaineers in overtime.
"We've been close all year. We're just not closing the game out," Holmes said. "We just get stagnant on offense a lot and get out-rebounded some. It feels like we're giving up too many offensive rebounds on the defensive end."
The 26 points Kansas scored in the first half were the fewest it scored in any half this season. Coming into the game, the Longhorns held opponents to 34.3 percent shooting this season. They limited Kansas to 28 percent shooting in the first half, but the Jayhawks knocked down 50 percent of their shots from the floor in the second half.
Free throw shooting proved to be crucial. Texas made only two free throws, one in each half, on eight attempts while Kansas was 21-for-25 from the charity stripe, including a 10-for-11 clip in the second half.
Still in search of its first win in Big 12 play, the Longhorns face Oklahoma in Norman on Monday.