The Shaka Smart era of Texas basketball hit a new peak on Saturday when the No. 8 Longhorns snapped a nine-game road losing streak against Kansas by dispatching the No. 3 Jayhawks 84-59 with a dominant offensive performance at Allen Fieldhouse. Texas hit 8-of-13 3-pointers in the second half while ending Kansas' eight-game winning streak and proving it belongs in the Big 12 title conversation.
Jalen Wilson led Kansas with 20 points, scoring 14 of them in the second half. But his team's shoddy defense stymied Wilson's efforts to lead the Jayhawks back. The Longhorns hit six straight 3-pointers to begin the second half and had no trouble attacking the basket as they handed Kansas (8-2, 2-1 Big 12) its worst home loss under Bill Self.
Courtney Ramey led the way for Texas (8-1, 2-0) with 18 points, and fellow guards Andrew Jones and Matt Coleman III contributed 14 and 13, respectively. The Longhorns also looked better on the interior as senior forward Jericho Sims notched a double-double with 11 points points and 12 rebounds. Kansas shot just 30.8% from the field and made just 3-of-23 attempts from 3-point range.
Texas was already enjoying its highest ranking of Smart's six-year tenure, and the Longhorns will only climb higher after such a dominant victory over a top-five opponent. Unlike Smart's previous teams, which all finished outside the AP Top 25, this team has staying power. The back court trio of Ramey, Coleman and Jones provides Texas with the veteran guard play that is so often critical to postseason success. With Sims and five-star freshman forward Greg Brown in the front court, the Longhorns also have plenty of heft as well.
Detractors will note last season's team, comprised of a similar roster, cracked the top 25 as well and started 9-1 before struggling to a 9-9 record in league play. But this iteration of the Longhorns are a year wiser and look lightyears more comfortable offensively. Navigating the Big 12 will bring adversity, as quality foes like No. 9 West Virginia, No. 13 Texas Tech and No. 2 Baylor await. But this team proved on Saturday that it has the chops to withstand the grind and emerge as a contender in March.
Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett pulled off a disappearing act in the second half for Kansas, leaving Wilson as the only starter making offensive contributions in a lifeless comeback effort. After scoring 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first half, Agbaji missed all five of his shot attempts in the second half. Garrett missed all three of his shot attempts in the second half. In total, KU's four starters aside from Wilson combined to make just one shot from the field in the final 20 minutes of the game.
The lack of production from Kansas' big men was of particular concern Saturday. Though it's been a season-long struggle for the Jayhawks to extract meaningful contributions from their post players, the problem was particularly noticeable against Texas. Starting center David McCormack finished with eight points and five rebounds. But all eight of his points came at the free-throw line. Self played him for just four minutes in the second half, opting instead to go with redshirt senior Mitch Lightfoot in the post. But Lightfoot's only contributions of note were a pair of blocks as he did not attempt a shot and was credited with no rebounds.
Texas announced Saturday morning that junior forward Gerald Liddell plans to transfer. The former top-50 prospect was averaging 11.4 minutes per game in 11 appearances this season. The Longhorns were also without reserves Kamaka Hepa and Royce Hamm. The absences limited the rotation to eight players. But Texas avoided foul trouble and got 23 points from its trio of bench players, including 12 from sophomore forward Kai Jones.
Kansas was not at full strength, either. Five-star freshman guard Bryce Thompson did not play due to a back injury. Thompson was averaging 5.4 points in 17.4 minutes per game.