All the pieces were in place for the No. 25 Texas Longhorns to earn a massive statement victory over the No. 6 Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, and Rick Barnes’ squad did just that. Texas handled the Jayhawks 81-69 behind excellent offensive performances from junior combo forward Jon Holmes and true freshman Isaiah Taylor, as well as a dominating presence in the paint from sophomore big guys Cam Ridley and Prince Ibeh, who combined for 12 blocked shots between them.
Texas was in control from the get go, never allowing Kansas a run — in either half — that would have made it a close ball game. There are any number of factors which can be attributed to the dominating victory by Texas, but two were the most evident. The Longhorns won the lionshare of 50/50 balls throughout the afternoon– leading to a huge advantage in overall possessions– and also dominated in the blocks, an advantage believed to be Kansas’ given the outstanding play as of late from true freshman Joel Embiid.
Apart from freshman combo forward Wayne Selden who finished with 21 points on 8-16, Kansas was listless on offense, and their usual offensive weapons did little to contribute to the cause. Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins didn’t look himself after averaging 28 points a game over his past two contests, managed only seven points on 2 of 12 shooting on the afternoon. If Texas was supposed to be intimidated by the combo of Wiggins, Embiid and Naadir Tharpe, they certainly didn’t get the memo.
For the Longhorns it’s a statement victory that ensures the program’s return to the NCAA Tournament following an absence in 2013 due to the middling sub .500 squad, from whom there was a great deal of turnover. It’s now obvious that turnover was addition by subtraction, as the 2014 Longhorns have shown an impressive degree of team chemistry and overall increased intensity on both sides of the basketball.
Texas faces off against the TCU Horned Frogs in Tuesday in Fort Worth, before making another trip later in the week to Manhattan to take on the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday the 8th. If the Longhorns can put together a successful week on the road, moving to 19-4 overall and 7-2 conference play, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they play for a Big 12 Conference regular season championship in late February, something not even the most optimistic Texas fan would have thought possible prior to the season.
Any way you cut it, the Texas Longhorns are for real, and are earning more national attention by the game. They’re no longer sliding by in the background, and I’m sure, even though he wouldn’t admit it, Rick Barnes is perfectly content that’s the case.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer and the Hiring Manager for Rant Sports.