KANSAS , Mo. – Kansas claimed its eighth Big 12 Championship title behind a season-high 20 points from junior guard Tyshawn Taylor as it defeated Texas, 85-73, here on Saturday evening at the Sprint Center. The No. 2-ranked Jayhawks have now won five Big 12 Championship titles under head coach Bill Self and received the conference’s automatic bid to the 2011 Championship.
Kansas improved to 32-2 on the season, and won its fifth Big 12 Championship title in the last six seasons. The Jayhawks have defeated Texas in four of the five title games and avenged one of their two losses on the season as UT snapped KU’s 69-game home court winning streak on Jan. 22. The Longhorns dropped to 25-7 on the season.
Junior forward Marcus Morris was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, while his twin brother Markieff Morris earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Also named to the team were Colorado sophomore Alec Burks, Texas forwards freshman Tristan Thompson and sophomore Jordan Hamilton.
Taylor, who started for the first time since the Feb. 19 game versus Colorado, turned in his top performance of the season. The Hoboken, N.J., native made 7-of-10 shots from the field and 2-of-2 from beyond the arc. Taylor also finished with five assists and a steal in his 37 minutes.
It was a balanced effort across the board for KU as all five starters finished in double figures along with sixth-man sophomore forward Thomas Robinson. Marcus Morris had 17 points, six rebounds and a game-high six assists, while Markieff Morris added 14 points and a game-high nine boards. Senior guard Brady Morningstar had 13 points and senior guard Tyrel Reed finished with 11. Robinson added 10 points and nine boards in just 18 minutes of play.
Leading by 15 points at the half, KU and UT traded baskets for the first 10 minutes of the second half, before Texas closed the gap to eight with just under nine minutes to play off a bucket by freshman guard Cory Joseph, but Kansas got back-to-back threes from Taylor and Reed and a put back dunk by Markieff Morris to quickly push the lead by to 13 points.
UT would cut the lead back down to eight points again off a three by J’Covan Brown with four and half minutes to play, but another UT run was thwarted by a jumper from Morningstar and a hanging left-handed put back by Robinson to give KU a 12 point lead with three minutes left in the game. KU would go on to make 3-of-4 free throws in the final minute of the game to go on to the 85-73 win.
Kansas finished the game shooting 56.9 percent from the floor, knocking down 33-of-58, while holding UT to 40.9 percent. Kansas also out-rebounded the Longhorns 38-33 and out-scored UT 38-18 in the paint.
The Morris brothers scored Kansas’ first eight points of the game with both Marcus and Markieff netting four points for an 8-6 Jayhawk lead. Texas’ Thompson knocked down a bucket and got fouled for a 9-8 Longhorn lead before KU went on a quick 9-0 run off of three-point baskets from Reed, Marcus Morris and Taylor to claim a 17-9 lead with 14:50 remaining in the opening period.
Texas closed the lead to six points at 21-15 off a Hamilton jumper and then the Jayhawks were off and running again as Morningstar nailed a jumper and Taylor scored on back-to-back layups as Kansas took a 27-15 lead with 11:14 to play in the first half.
The Longhorns outscored Kansas 8-2 to close to within 29-23 off a layup by Alexis Wangmene four minutes later, but KU quickly regained control scoring 10-straight points capped by a dunk by Taylor for its largest lead of the opening period at 39-23 with just over four minutes in the opening frame.
The two teams traded baskets during the final four minutes of the first half with the Jayhawks taking a 48-33 lead into the break, marking the largest first half deficit of the season for UT at 15 points. The 48 points scored by the Jayhawks were the most scored by a Longhorn opponent this season.
Taylor led the Jayhawks with 13 points in the first period off of 6-of-8 shooting from the field. He also dished three assists, while Marcus Morris had 11 points and Markieff Morris turned in nine points and eight boards.
Kansas shot 58.8 percent from the field in the first half, knocking down 20-of-34 from the field, including 5-of-12 from beyond the arc. The Jayhawks out-rebounded UT 21-14, and outscored the Longhorns 10-0 in fast break points.
Kansas will now await its Tournament fate as the 2011 Championship bracket will be announced live on Sunday, March 13 at 5 p.m.