“The bench was going crazy. There were so many people talking to me at one time it was hard to comprehend,” Traylor said. “It’s good to get all those guys pumped up.
“I have to give all the credit to Devonté for throwing it to me,” Traylor added. “I just went up to get it and that’s it. We practice it every day. We break the press down and end it just the way we did it.”
At halftime, Ellis and Mason had combined for as many points as the entire Texas team, and if you had taken their points away, Kansas still would've been in front.
It was that kind of a performance.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self conveyed a simple message to his veteran players on the bus ride from the team hotel to Texas’ Frank Erwin Centeron Monday night.
“Coach told us we don’t want to share anything. We want to win it outright so we had to be focused coming down here. He told us to have fun out there (because) there wasn’t really any pressure on us,” KU senior forward Jamari Traylor said after the (26-4, 14-3) Jayhawks wrapped up the undisputed Big 12 title, courtesy of an 86-56 rout of (19-11, 10-7) Texas.
…“We played like a team proud of getting a piece of the Big 12 championship and wanted to validate that to everybody by playing well tonight,” Self said.
KU, which won its 12th straight league crown — eight of them undisputed, four in which KU tied with another league squad — also won big on a day the Jayhawks returned to No. 1 in the AP and USA Today polls.
“We were No. 1 before and it lasted all about a week or the next game,” Self said of a two-week stint at No. 1 in January. “The guys knew if we didn’t play well tonight that would not be the case next week. They were turned up tonight.”
Devonte’ Graham emerged from the Kansas locker room with his cell phone, sheepishly making his way up to the man in the dark ballcap and black Under Armour pullover.
“Big fan,” he said, walking up to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. “Can I get a Snapchat?”
After getting a few seconds of video selfie time, Graham started to walk away when Romo reached out and lightly punched him in the left shoulder.
“Hey,” he said in a serious tone. “Go do it in the tournament now.”
Romo, along with Dallas tight end Jason Witten, made sure to get outside the locker room to congratulate No. 1 KU following its 86-56 basketball victory over 23rd-ranked Texas on Monday night at Erwin Center.
“He was sitting right next to us courtside. I just told him, ‘You’re my boy!’ He pointed back at me,” Graham said with a smile. “I saw him after the game, and I just had to go get a video.”
It also was a thrill for KU coach Bill Self, who also grew up a Dallas Cowboys fans while living in Oklahoma. Romo shook his hand outside the locker room, ribbing the coach in the process: “Did you need to play the starters with a minute and a half left?”
“Those guys, they acted like they knew me,” Self said with a grin. “That was pretty cool. God, Witten’s big, isn’t he?”
“They do a really good job of playing to win,” Smart said. “I know that sounds simple, but you can play to win or you can play not to lose. And at Kansas, there is such a small margin of error because internally and externally the expectation is excellence. I would imagine at that type of place it would be easy to kind of have the mindset of, ‘We can’t mess this up,’ or, ‘We don’t want to end this streak.’ They don’t play like that.”
“The credit goes to their coach and their coaching staff and their players,” Smart said of Kansas staying in play-to-win mode. “They have what I call approach goals. They just go after it.”
The new normal for Kansas, winner of 10 consecutive games, is looking a lot like the old normal from special seasons past. Attentive, relentless help defense, terrific ball movement, smart shot selection, players chasing loose balls as if they were $100 bills, reliable bench.
But even by the standards of a program that has won 12 consecutive Big 12 championships, Monday’s 30-point slaughter of Texas was particularly jaw-dropping.
In its first game as the nation’s new top-ranked squad, the Kansas basketball team lived up to the billing … and then some. The No. 1 Jayhawks raced out to a 15-point lead in Monday night’s game at No. 23 Texas, held the Longhorns to 27-percent shooting in the first half, and finished the period with 47 points en route to a 86-56 victory at Frank Erwin Center.
“Our guys, they played tonight," KU coach Bill Self said. "For about 25 or 28 minutes, that was about as well as I think we can play.”
…Perry Ellis scored 15 points in the first half on 7-for-8 shooting, leading a Jayhawk attack that shot 63.3 percent in the period with six 3-pointers. The senior would finish with 20 points on 9-for-11 shooting, leading a KU offense that made 32 of 50 shots (64 percent) and 11 of 16 3-pointers (68.8 percent).
…Jamari Traylor added an emphatic exclamation point on the victory — and the Big 12 title — with 13:11 left. The senior threw down a thunderous dunk of the year candidate on a feed from Graham that knocked UT’s Eric Davis to the ground in a heap and sent the KU bench — and social media, for that matter — into a frenzy.
Self said Traylor, who gashed his elbow on the play and would need stitches, threw down "the best dunk we've had this year."
"He was up there. That was a big-time play," Self said. "Perfect pass, just big time.
"That was an awesome, athletic play. We looked quick tonight."
This night was far from normal.
Just for tonight, the lines to enter the Frank Erwin Center were so long that people had to enter in waves. Just for tonight, Colt McCoy, Tony Romo and Jason Witten sat courtside. And just for tonight, the numbers of six seniors hung in the rafters.
The only thing that was normal was the one thing that no one wanted — the outcome. No. 23 Texas had no answer for the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks, falling 86-56 on senior night, dropping to 8-27 all time against Kansas and 0-for-9 against AP No. 1 teams.
“I’ve seen senior nights go both ways; tonight it went the wrong way,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “And I’m not talking about the result — I’m talking about in terms of what it did for us psychologically.”
After the senior night pageantry and the pregame pyrotechnics were through, the sellout Erwin Center crowd had an electricity about it. But when the game tipped off, it wasn’t what the seniors, or anyone, hoped.
…In cruel irony, it was Kansas’ senior star that stole the show. Forward Perry Ellis, the man who has been the nemesis of Texas’ seniors for four years, had 20 points and consistently sucked the life out of the Erwin Center crowd.
Once the Jayhawks went up 65-34 with 13:08 remaining, the fans started making their way to the exits.
The seniors have a chance to make postseason noise, but the chance to beat Kansas on the Erwin Center floor on senior night won’t return.
Before the most wildly anticipated game of Texas basketball's new era, workers climbed to a catwalk almost 100 feet above the court at the Erwin Center, hauling boxes of pyrotechnics. For all of that work, the pregame fireworks display lasted all of 10 seconds.
Shaka Smart's team only wished it had been able to make its big moment last that long.Overmatched, outclassed and dominated from the opening tip, the No. 23 Longhorns endured their ugliest night of the season Monday in an 86-56 loss to No. 1 Kansas.
A UT team that had knocked off a nation-best four Top 10 teams this season never gave itself a chance against the Jayhawks, digging a 15-0 hole and then getting buried before it even could dream about a rally.
…"I don't think we were overwhelmed," UT guard Javan Felix said. "We didn't come out and guard. Plain and simple."
Nebraska and Kansas have signed a two-year agreement to begin a men’s basketball home-and-home series starting next December, the NU athletics department announced Tuesday.
“We are excited to revive a classic Big 12 matchup between Nebraska basketball and Kansas,” said Nebraska coach Tim Miles. “I believe this will be a very exciting event for our fans and student-athletes alike. This is something we look forward to as we continue and try and build a strong a schedule as possible to put us in a great position for Big Ten and postseason play.”
The Huskers will travel to Lawrence, Kan., to begin the series on Dec. 10, 2016, at historic Allen Fieldhouse, while the Jayhawks will make their first appearance at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Dec. 16, 2017.
When Andrew White first learned from the Journal Star that Nebraska and Kansas had agreed to a men’s basketball series, the Husker junior guard and former Jayhawk said he’d need to “take a chill pill before that one.”
He’s likely not the only one excited about two former Big Eight Conference foes renewing a rivalry, either.
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