In a rare tight game, KU holds on in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — Maybe it wasn't a spot Bill Self wanted to be in, down four and on the road, facing the leading scorer in the Big 12 who suddenly had a hot hand. And, oh yeah, there were just three minutes left.

But it was a spot the Kansas coach relished.

“We needed that,” Self said.

The Jayhawks hadn't been in a one-possession game since facing Georgetown in Maui in November. They won that one. The No. 7 Jayhawks (16-3, 6-0) won this one too, 69-66 over Texas (12-7, 2-4) in front of 16,734 fans at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday.

What Kansas needed to get the win was a five-point flurry by Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor, a dish by Thomas Robinson and a hold-your-breath miss by Texas' J'Covan Brown.

“He got a look that scared me,” Taylor said. “I thought it was going in.”

He may have thought that because seemingly everything Brown had shot down the stretch had gone in. Brown, who struggled through double teams in the first half, carried Texas back into the game, sandwiching two 3s with a layup.

“At the end of the game we go through him just like they go through Robinson,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said.

Robinson proved more effective at involving his teammates than Brown. Of course, Robinson has a few more options. Jeff Withey snagged a pass from Robinson, went up strong, made the bucket and followed it with a free throw. That gave Kansas a two-point lead and enough of a cushion to win.

“That is about as good as we can play down the stretch,” Self said.

It helps that they were playing a team which has not figured out who to play down the stretch. Texas, whose roster is littered with freshmen, is 0-5 in games decided by one or two possessions. This loss, which comes off the heels of a last possession miscue loss at Kansas State, was a chance for the Longhorns to at least make a slight ripple on the national scene.

Instead, it might be quiet around Austin on Selection Sunday for the first time in 14 years.

“I told the coaches January could be a tough month,” Barnes said. “But the whole deal is how do we finish?”

If the Kansas game is any indication -- watching one player try and carry the team would be the answer to that question.

“The way teams play [Brown], other players got to step up,” said freshman Sheldon McClellan, who had three straight 3-pointers in the first half and didn't hit another bucket. “We've got to take some pressure off him.”

On the other side, Taylor is relishing the pressure. The heavily-scrutinized guard finished with 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. It's that last number that drew the most praise from Self.

“I was just trying to be aggressive and make everybody play in a critical situation,” Taylor said. “Coach always said big-time players make big-time plays.”

For KU, many of those plays came in the paint. The bigger and faster Jayhawks were able to consistently get the ball into the paint and victimize Texas. Kansas finished with 32 points in the paint. Texas had just 20.

“It's the offense that really hurt us,” Barnes said. “Other guys have to realize how hard they have to work to get open. At some point and time guys on the inside have to get open. We don't need another jump shooter. We need another guy to go inside and score.”

Kansas, with Thomas and Taylor, have both. The Jayhawks also now have a tight game from which they can draw from as they go down the stretch in the what has become a difficult Big 12.

“Coach was saying how good this was for us when we were down four points in the timeout,” Taylor said. “We handled it well.”