Saturday, March 12, 2011
Texas advances to face Kansas in rematch
By David Ubben
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Texas and Kansas played a classic game on Jan. 22 that left those who witnessed the matchup wanting more.
Finally, a month and a half later, they'll get it.
Texas beat Texas A&M 70-58 on Friday in the Sprint Center to advance to the Big 12 Championship against the Jayhawks on Saturday night.
"I know it's going to be hard," said Texas guard J'Covan Brown. "Kansas is probably upset about what happened at their place, so they're going to come out and just try to fight a whole lot, try and out rebound us and everything."
Tristan Thompson and the Longhorns easily beat the Aggies and advanced to the title game.
Kansas raced to an 18-3 start in January’s game before a stunned Jayhawks crowd watched the Longhorns outscore Kansas 51-28 in the second half and win in Lawrence for the first time in program history.
“They're going to have their fans and they're going to come out hyped up,” Texas forward Jordan Hamilton said. “Like J'Covan said, they really thought they should have won that last game."
Texas reached a rematch with the top-seeded Jayhawks, Big 12 champions outright, on the backs of Brown, Hamilton and freshman Tristan Thompson, the team's three leading scorers on the night. Hamilton led the Longhorns with 17 and Brown added 15 off the bench. Thompson had 13 rebounds -- 10 offensive -- to go with his 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
"Coach [Rick Barnes] mentioned to us at the beginning of the game we've got to be really active on the glass and win the rebounding battle," Thompson said. "So I took the initiative upon myself to try to get the rebound and try to own the glass tonight."
Saturday night's title bout rematch will have plenty of intrigue.
After Kansas finished beating Colorado earlier in the day, junior forward Markieff Morris shared a few choice words with the Longhorns, who were waiting in the tunnel to take the floor.
"We exchanged a few words," Johnson said, leaving plenty of room for interpretation.
What were they?
"I can't really say," he said. "Let's just say it's going to be more than a basketball game tomorrow," said Texas senior forward Gary Johnson.
The Longhorns traded a few words of their own, but Johnson kept his teammate, Brown, from getting too heated with their future opponent.
"It was just Markieff, but I'm pretty sure it would have been Marcus [Morris] if he didn't have to do media after the game," he said. "They're known for being chippy, and we talk as well, so it's going to be a fun game."
Don't expect the Longhorns to complain. They know what they'll be facing on Saturday with a Big 12 title on the line. A title that eluded them after the Longhorns lost three of five games to close the regular season.
"Obviously it's a mental game when guys talk, but he's the type of guy that can back it up," Johnson said of the Big 12's player of the year, Marcus Morris. "When you can back up your talk, that makes things a little bit different."
Markieff Morris' message in the trash talk was simple: "He kind of walked in like, 'This is our game tomorrow,'" Johnson said.
And on paper, it looks like that's the case. A pro-Kansas crowd just 30 minutes east of the Jayhawks home arena will greet Texas on Saturday. Kansas is itching to get a second chance at the team that ended their 69-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse. But Texas doesn't see the motivation tilting toward the Jayhawks.
"It's a revenge game for them, I would say. It's a home game for them, it seems. Everything is in their favor, so right now, we feel like we're coming in as an underdog," Johnson said.
He later added. "At the end of the day, they're still Big 12 champions outright. It doesn't matter that we beat them or whatever. It's a revenge game for us as well."