But just barely.
Ben McLemore scored 16 points and the Jayhawks stormed back late in the second half from an 11-point deficit – nearly their biggest all season – to stun the Longhorns 64-59 on Saturday for their 15th straight victory.
Jeff Withey added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Jayhawks (16-1, 4-0 Big 12), who looked bound for their first loss since Nov. 13 against Michigan State before McLemore piloted a rally that thwarted the reeling Longhorns (8-9, 0-4) from seizing a badly needed victory in this troubled season.
”We just had to play through it,” McLemore said of the slow start. ”We talked in the huddle. Coach told us to be more aggressive, and that’s what we did.”
Sheldon McClellan led the Longhorns with 18 points. Texas has dropped four straight – its longest losing streak since coach Rick Barnes’ first season in 1998-99.
Like a handful of Longhorns losses this season, this was another that Texas let slip away after leading in the second half.
How old is this getting?
”Pretty old,” Barnes said. ”We do a lot of things well. But we don’t win because we don’t do it when the game is on the line.”
Texas’ Julien Lewis had a chance to force overtime but missed a corner 3-pointer with 13 seconds left. Lewis had made just three of his previous 12 from behind the arc before that shot, and McLemore said afterward that hoisting that one so early with plenty of time left on the shot clock even surprised him.
Travis Releford added 12 points and Kevin Young had 6 for Kansas. McLemore was 6 of 10 from the field and had six rebounds.
When Texas went up 42-31 with 15:22 remaining, it was the second-biggest deficit the Jayhawks faced all season. They had trailed by 12 against Chattanooga – two days after that loss to the Spartans -before roaring back to easily win that one and just about every game since.
”It looked to me that as experienced as we are, we looked like a bunch of inexperienced kids off the playground playing during that bad stretch,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. ”We were trying to catch up too fast, had no poise, their pressure bothered us. We turned the ball over just by kicking it to them.”
Lewis finished with 11 points while Jonathan Holmes had 10 for Texas.
”We were very close out there,” Lewis said. ”We keep losing these close games by possessions. It hurts us a lot. But we got to keep going.”
The Jayhawks played listless from the start before roaring back.
McLemore showed no hint of an injury after spraining his ankle in Monday night’s win over Baylor, but the Big 12’s second-leading scorer took just three shots in the first half while his teammates missed shot after shot.
Defense hasn’t been the problem for the Longhorns during this forgettable season – their offense takes the blame there. That showed while holding Kansas to a season-low 26 points in the first half on 28 percent shooting, which was easiest to notice as the Jayhawks went 1 for 7 from behind the arc.
That lone 3-pointer belonged to McLemore in the opening minutes to give Kansas the lead, something the Jayhawks wouldn’t get back until the second half when the star freshman made another 3. And even that didn’t last long: Texas answered with baskets on five straight possessions, stretching their lead to 11.
But then the Longhorns did what’s doomed them all season.
They gave away another late lead.
Up by eight against UCLA in December. A 13-point lead against West Virginia in the Big 12 home opener. Both went down as losses, and so did this one after Kansas shook off what Self called a ”miserable” start to the second half.
— Associated Press —