KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Dylan Disu overcame early foul trouble to score 18 points, Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice added 17 apiece, and seventh-ranked Texas silenced a heavily pro-Kansas crowd with a 76-56 romp over the third-ranked Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament title game Saturday night.
After going more than two decades without a Big 12 tourney championship, the Longhorns (26-8) have won two of the past three, and likely wrapped up a No. 2 seed in next week’s NCAA Tournament with their performance in Kansas City.
With interim coach Rodney Terry leading the way, the Longhorns built a 39-33 lead by halftime, extended it to 20 down the stretch and coasted toward a shower of confetti during a net-cutting celebration.
Jalen Wilson scored 24 points and Joseph Yesufu, pressed into the starting lineup due to injuries, finished with 11 for the Jayhawks (27-7), who had won 13 of their previous 16 trips to the Big 12 finals.
The question now is whether the defending national champs did enough before Saturday night to earn the overall No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament, and with it a favorable road through Kansas City in the regional round.
Kansas was once again without Hall of Fame coach Bill Self, who went to the emergency room on the eve of its quarterfinal for an undisclosed medical procedure. Self’s longtime assistant and acting coach, Norm Roberts, once again called the shots from the sideline for the championship game.
On the other side stood Terry, who certainly didn’t expect to be pulling the strings for Texas. But when Chris Beard was fired for an off-the-court incident early in the season, the former Fresno State and UTEP coach not only kept his talented team together but guided it to a second-place finish in the regular season.
Right behind the Jayhawks, who also happened to be defending Big 12 Tournament champs.
Both teams were missing starters Saturday night due to injuries — Kevin McCullar Jr. for the Jayhawks, Timmy Allen for the Longhorns — yet there was still plenty of star power on display inside the T-Mobile Center.
Wilson, the league’s player of the year, kept the Jayhawks afloat during a scattershot first half. He scored 17 points, more than half their total, while pounding the glass and even picking up a steal.
Texas, meanwhile, relied on depth and balance in forging a 39-33 halftime lead. It had to after losing Disu, who already had been a revelation the previous two rounds, to a pair of fouls less than eight minutes into the game.
When the big man returned, he went right to work. Disu had a couple of baskets in the opening minutes, and a nearly five-minute drought by Kansas allowed the Longhorns to extend their lead to 53-41 with 12 minutes to go.
By that point, about 500 Texas fans sounded like 15,000. And about 15,000 Kansas fans were dead silent.
The knockout blow came moments later, when Disu’s baskets bookended one by Rice, and Arterio Morris threw down an ally-oop dunk. That pushed the Longhorns’ lead to 70-50 with 4 1/2 minutes to go, and while Roberts finally called a timeout to slow the onslaught, it came far too late to make a difference.
McCullar, the Jayhawks’ defensive dynamo, has been dealing with back spasms that flared up again during a semifinal win over Iowa State; he watched from the bench in sweats. The Longhorns were without Allen all tournament while the veteran leader rested a lower leg injury ahead of the NCAA Tournament.
Texas shot 50% from the field but was especially good inside the arc — the Longhorns were just 4 of 17 on 3s. And rarely did they go more than a couple of minutes without a basket, preventing Kansas from getting its crowd into the game.
Kansas was forced to use some different lineups with McCullar out, playing freshman MJ Rice extended minutes. The Jayhawks rarely seemed in sync, and that was evident in Dajuan Harris Jr. turning the ball over four times while running the point.
The Longhorns and Jayhawks are headed to the NCAA Tournament. They’ll learn Sunday night who, when and where they will play in the first round.