Bill Self

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas hosted No. 11 Kansas on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center for the Big 12 opener, but the Jayhawks’ blistering 17 threes overpowered the Longhorns, 92-86, in front of a crowd of 15,802. Here are four thoughts from Friday night’s game:

Mo Bamba takes over

All that Kansas head coach Bill Self could do was scratch his head in bewilderment.

As he briefly reflected on the shot-blocking exhibition that Texas freshman forward Mo Bamba displayed on Friday night, Self sat at the podium incredulously during his postgame press conference.

“The guy could block the sun,” Self said of Bamba.

Bamba finished the night with a career-high 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks, but it wasn’t enough to lift Texas to a what would’ve been a mammoth home upset.

It must’ve felt like deja vu all over again for Self, who saw his Jayhawks come into Austin last season and topple the Longhorns 77-67 despite a huge effort from another Texas freshman big man, Jarrett Allen, who now plays in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets.

Bamba joined elite company with his block party on Friday night, setting the program's freshman single-game record for blocks.

Former Texas bigs Tristan Thompson and Chris Mihm previously held that record with seven blocks in a game (Thompson did it once, Mihm twice). Bamba was one block shy from tying the school record for most in a game. Cam Ridley holds that record with nine.

Bamba got off to a roaring start with multiple big dunks and rejections. He scored 11 of Texas’ first 13 points, and Kansas knew right away what it was dealing with for the rest of the night. Bamba, however, cooled down in the second half with only six points.

Bamba’s effort was his most impressive to date at Texas, but he knew after the game that the Longhorns still hadn’t made the statement that they desired.

“There’s no such thing as a statement game if you lose,” Bamba said. “But there’s definitely hope out of this.”

Kansas overwhelms Longhorns from beyond the arc

There were times on Friday night when the Longhorns may have felt like they were playing against the Golden State Warriors. But you could make the argument that the Kansas Jayhawks are already college basketball’s version of the NBA’s 3-point shooting powerhouse.

Just ask Texas freshman point guard Matt Coleman.

“It’s like playing the Warriors almost,” Coleman said after the game. “That’s what it looked like.”

The pure shooting talent of Kansas’ guards was on full display. The trio of Devonte’ Graham, Lagerald Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk led the way for the Jayhawks, combining for 64 points on 16-30 shooting from beyond the arc.

Self said afterward that he told his team before the game it needed to shoot 35 threes. The Jayhawks finished the night 17-35 from beyond the arc. It was ultimately the difference in the game, as the Longhorns just couldn’t keep pace in the second half with Kansas’ hot shooting. Texas was just 7-25 from the 3-point line.

“It definitely shifted the energy of the game,” Bamba said.

Kansas’ shooting proves gap between Texas

The Jayhawks have always been the Big 12’s perennial authority in the conference. Kansas has won 17 regular season conference titles since the Big 12’s inception in 1997. Kansas has won outright or shared every Big 12 regular season crown since 2005.

It’s a program that Texas has at times flirted with, but has never really been able to come close to matching.

Head coach Shaka Smart wasn’t necessarily hired away from Virginia Commonwealth to make Texas into Kansas. The Longhorns aren’t known historically for their basketball prominence. But Smart does know Texas is capable of beating a team like the Jayhawks on any given night.

Of course, year in and year out, the Jayhawks produce tremendous 3-point shooting — stuff that has been a foreign concept around the 40 Acres for a long time. J’Covan Brown and A.J. Abrams — two of Texas’ most recent and successful sharpshooters — have long been gone, and not having consistent shooting that those two players provided has likely held Texas back the past few seasons.

But Kansas seemingly possesses players like those every season. Texas just doesn’t.

Asked after the game how big the gap between Texas and Kansas is right now, Smart admitted that 3-point shooting was the outlier in all of this.

“Well, tonight (the gap) was six points,” Smart said. “Obviously they’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. Tonight was an extreme for them, but they make shots at a high level. It’s probably the biggest difference.”

Andrew Jones returns, but is limited

Sophomore guard Andrew Jones had missed Texas’ last four games with a wrist injury entering Friday night’s bout with Kansas. Smart said on Thursday that Jones was not going to start but that he could still possibly play.

Jones was a full-participant in pregame warmups on Friday night and didn’t appear to be bothered by his wrist when shooting the ball.

But he logged only nine minutes against Kansas, chipping in five points on 1-3 shooting. Jones will have to get back to full strength soon as the Longhorns are beginning their Big 12 schedule. It’s a conference that night in and night out is arguably the most demanding in the country.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With only three ranked Big 12 teams, it looked like the early rounds of the conference tournament might turn into blowouts.

So far, that scenario has not materialized. Of eight first- and second-round games, half came down to the last possession, and the average final score separating teams at the Sprint Center is nine points.

It all started on Wednesday. Oklahoma State, a No. 9 seed, held on for a last-second win when eight-seeded Nebraska couldn’t get off a final shot. Also in the first round, Colorado squeaked by Iowa State 77-75 while Missouri needed a defensive rebound and some late free throws to ensure its win over Texas Tech.

On Thursday, the higher seed trailed for at least a portion of the first two games, and the tournament’s No. 1 overall team, Kansas, escaped with a 63-62 win over Oklahoma State.

“Look at the games in the tournament so far,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “It’s been great.”

It’s hard to predict today’s games as well. Kansas faces Colorado, a team which it crushed three weeks ago but defeated by only four points in January. In addition, the Jayhawks are shooting 41.6 percent from the field over the last three contests — almost ten points lower than their season average.

Texas faces Texas A&M, a team which it beat twice this season, but the two schools share a heated rivalry that usually manifests itself in close games.

<strong> TEXAPATHY </strong>

Following Texas’ 74-54 win over Oklahoma, J’Covan Brown pulled up a chair right in front of the TV in the Longhorn locker room.

He wasn’t interested in checking out his next opponent, as the Missouri-Texas A&M game was about to begin. He was checking out the rematch of LeBron and the Heat against Kobe and the Lakers.

“It doesn’t matter who comes next,” said guard Dogus Balbay. “We have to stay focused. That’s the key.

The Longhorns eventually found out that they will play the Aggies for the third time this season. Texas swept the regular season series with ease, winning by an average of 20.5 points.

A&M crushed Missouri 82-71 on Thursday.

<strong> BUFFALO SOLDIERS </strong>

In their final season playing in the Big 12, the Buffaloes are still making firsts.

By beating Kansas State on Thursday, Colorado is heading to the third round of the conference tournament for the first time in program history. It will also be the last time the Buffs make it this far, as they depart for the Pac-10 after this season.

Before this, the closest they’ve ever gotten were second-round losses against Oklahoma in 2008 and Oklahoma State in 2005.
“It’s everything,” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle. “We came here with the goal to win the tournament and to do it with the guys around me… It means a lot to me.”

Colorado is also considered a lock for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, with a resume that includes wins over K-State (three times) and Texas plus nonconference opponents Indiana and Colorado State.

The Jayhawks locked up their 10th Big 12 regular season title over the weekend and ensured themselves a difficult road to the championship game of the conference tournament, which begins today in Kansas City.

Kansas, the No. 1 seed, sits in the top half of the bracket along with third-seeded Kansas State — one of only two teams to have beaten Kansas in 2010-11. In its first game, Kansas could also face Nebraska, a team that nearly knocked off KU in Lawrence.

The Jayhawks’ half of the bracket also includes Colorado, Oklahoma State and Iowa State. With their first-round bye, they face either Nebraska or OSU in the second round on Thursday.

“We are playing in Kansas City against rivals that would like nothing more than to beat us to enhance their situation,” said Kansas coach Bill Self on Monday. “Our goal is to go win the tournament.”

Fourth-seeded Kansas State may provide the most daunting obstacle to Kansas repeating as tourney champs. The Wildcats are on a six-game winning run, including victories over then-No. 7 Texas and then-No. 20 Missouri.

The Wildcats’ hot streak all started on Feb. 14, when they defeated top-ranked Kansas 84-86. It was a complete performance from the North division’s second-best team, and their top scorer, Jacob Pullen, put up a career-high 38 points against the Jayhawks, showing that the senior guard can step up in big games. They’re also entering the tournament riding a wave of national recognition, finally making it back it into the most recent Associated Press poll at No. 19.

Kansas State’s strength-of-schedule is one of the highest in the nation at No. 4, according to RealTime RPI. All of that experience against tough competition seems to be paying off as the team hits its stride at the end of the regular season and prepares for the postseason.

Nebraska is no joke, either. The Cornhuskers’ scoring defense is among the top in the Big 12, which Kansas found out when it eked out a close 63-60 victory on Jan. 15.

Still, Kansas is the odds-on favorite to win the tournament, not only because of its immense individual talent — junior Marcus Morris won conference player of the year honors on Sunday — but because Self has been there before, winning it all a record four times. Even with injuries, the Jayhawks look like the strongest team in the Big 12 and the most likely to garner a No. 1 seed.

“It’s a credit to Bill Self and it’s a credit to his assistants,” said Kansas State head coach Frank Martin. “It’s a credit to their efforts in recruiting, their consistency in handling young men, making them perform and getting people to coexist and put their egos aside and play for the unity of the team.”

Men's Basketball Notebook

Kansas State beat Oklahoma 77-62 on Saturday to move to .500 in Big 12 play. The win came after knocking in-state rival Kansas from its perch atop the college basketball rankings on Feb. 14. The Wildcats have finally started playing like the team many expected to see before the season started, thanks to the improved play of senior point guard Jacob Pullen.

Pullen started the week off scoring a season-high 38 points against Kansas. He followed with a 27-point effort against the Sooners to put the Wildcats back in the hunt for a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament. Pullen was the aggressor in both games, going to the free throw line 27 times, and found his stroke from distance, going eight-for-12 from
beyond the arch.

Kansas State will need Pullen to keep stepping up in big games as the toughest part of its schedule begins Wednesday when the team travels to Nebraska. The road doesn’t get any easier after that: No. 21 Missouri will visit the Wildcats in Manhattan on Saturday before the Wildcats’ pivotal matchup against No. 5 Texas on Monday in Austin.

<strong>Dunn closing in on milestone</strong>

Baylor senior shooting guard LaceDarius Dunn needs 40 points to become the Big 12’s all-time leading scorer. Dunn is the first player in Bears history to surpass 2,200 points (2,217) and has his sights set on former Red Raider Andre Emmett’s scoring mark. Emmett became the conference’s top scorer in 2004 after four years in Lubbock. Playing four years in the league certainly has its benefits and, unlike Dunn, few great scorers stay on campus for all four seasons.

“If [former Longhorn Kevin] Durant had stayed four years, there’d be a chance he could be the all-time leading scorer,” said Kansas head coach Bill Self. “But I don’t think that should discount the career that LaceDarius has. Guys that stay deserve to get rewarded.”

Dunn has caused numerous headaches for opposing coaches, which Self attributed to Dunn’s unorthodox style and ability to make mid-range jump shots and three-pointers.

“He may be the only guy I have coached against who can do that, he keeps you off balance and doesn’t need much space,” Self said. “At times he looks like he’s in slow motion but that’s part of his game plan.”

Dunn and the Bears face Missouri on the road Wednesday then return home Saturday for a matchup with Texas A&M, leaving the door open for the scoring record to be broken in front of the Baylor faithful.

<strong>Top teams take tumble</strong>

The previously top-ranked Jayhawks were not the only top-10 team from the Big 12 to lose on the road last week after Nebraska upset second-ranked Texas on Saturday. The fact that the conference’s two best teams stumbled didn’t surprise KU’s coaching staff.

“I think the home court [advantage] is worth ‘x’ amount of points, depending on who it is and the situation,” Self said. “The later you play in your season, with the way the conference schedules are usually set up, the tougher the games become.”

The Cornhuskers moved to 16-1 at home with their win over Texas, and Self said the Longhorns’ 70-67 loss was not a bad one. Self didn’t say the same for his team’s defeat to rival Kansas State — a 16-point loss on national television.

The road losses didn’t cost either program much in the rankings, with both teams staying in the top five in both polls.

Mens Basketball

Since falling for the first time this season on Jan. 22 at home against Texas — a loss that broke Kansas’ 69-game home winning streak — the Jayhawks have been on a tear. Bill Self’s squad claimed the top spot Monday in both the AP and ESPN polls.

But the Jayhawks won’t be perched at the top of the college basketball world for long. Kansas’ 84-68 loss to unranked rival Kansas State Monday night will almost certainly drop KU from the top spot in next week’s polls.

Prior to Monday’s loss, Kansas had won six in a row and rediscovered its scoring touch after the Longhorns held the nation’s No. 6 offense to just 63 points when the teams met in January. During that stretch Kansas put up over 90 points per contest and won by an average of 21 points. But the Jayhawks defense was also responsible for KU’s success—limiting opponents to only 66 points in four of the past seven outings.

Junior forward Marcus Morris received Big 12 Player of the Week honors Monday after averaging 19 points and 9.5 rebounds last week in victories over Missouri and Iowa State at home. Morris, the conference’s leader in field goal percentage, shot 66.7 percent from the field in the two wins and recorded his fifth double-double of the season.

<strong>Aggies pull out close wins</strong>

Texas A&M needed overtime to down Colorado on the road in Boulder on Thursday, then the Aggies went down to the wire Saturday against Texas Tech in Lubbock for their second-straight win to move into third place in the Big 12, behind Texas and Kansas. The Aggies won both games by only three points but showed the grit needed to get back on the winning track after dropping three games in a row.

“You have to be good and you have to be lucky, and we were a little bit of both,” said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. “We know we are going to be in a lot of close games.”

The Aggies will need a lot more of both if they hope to catch the rival Longhorns at the top of the conference, but they still had reason to celebrate Saturday. With the 70-67 victory over the Red Raiders, Turgeon tied Bob Rogers for second on the Aggies’ all-time victory list with 92. He will have a chance for the record Wednesday when Iowa State invades College Station, but it won’t come easy for Turgeon as his team has lost their last two at home, including a 20-point thrashing by Texas on Jan. 19.

<strong>Cyclones can’t buy a win</strong>

It’s been a rough start to 2011 for Iowa State. The Cyclones lost their sixth-straight game Saturday against Kansas and have just two wins since the New Year. ISU has been the victim of a few bad breaks — it has lost two games in overtime and four of its past eight losses have been by six or less points, including a pair of one-point defeats.

“You have to find a way to make the big play down the stretch, a couple games we win if we find a way to get a defensive rebound with under two minutes to play,” said head coach Fred Hoiberg. “When you have a six- or an eight-point lead, you’ve got to find a way to make those plays to allow your team win the game.”

The Cyclones will have a tough task ending their losing skid. ISU has an unfavorable schedule ahead featuring three-straight games against ranked opponents, starting with a road matchup against No. 21 Texas A&M on Wednesday.