No. 9 Kansas is not used to looking up in the Big 12 Conference standings, but a historic run of uncharacteristic play has the Jayhawks searching for answers as No. 5 Texas comes charging into Lawrence, Kan., on Monday.
It's the first of two matchups between these teams over the final eight games of the conference regular season.
The Longhorns (19-4, 8-2 Big 12) travel the 85 miles east on I-70 from Manhattan after a gutsy 69-66 win at No. 7 Kansas State on Saturday that's staked Texas to one-game lead in the Big 12 standings and a two-game cushion over Kansas and Kansas State.
The Jayhawks return home after a 68-53 loss at No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday. It's the first time in Bill Self's 20 years at Kansas that the Jayhawks have lost four of five in conference play. The last time any Jayhawks team dropped four of five conference games was during the 1988-89 season.
Jalen Wilson poured in a game-high 26 points for Kansas (18-5, 6-4), which didn't have a lead in the game after the first minute and trailed 33-21 at halftime after committing 11 turnovers before the break.
"From the beginning, we gave (Iowa State) some easy buckets," said Wilson, who has scored 20 or more points in six straight games. "That's something we've struggled with, letting teams get comfortable early. It makes the game harder the rest of the time. We've got to get off to better starts on the road."
No other Kansas player scored more than eight points. Kevin McCullar grabbed 11 rebounds in the loss.
"That's not a formula for success for us," Self said afterward. "We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he's got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense. We'll have to practice and go over some stuff (Sunday). Obviously it's a short turnaround with Texas on Monday."
Texas' win over Kansas State avenged an earlier loss at home to the Wildcats. Sir'Jabari Rice and Christian Bishop each scored 14 points in the win with Tyrese Hunter, Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen adding 10 apiece for the Longhorns. Rice also had 10 rebounds for Texas, which has won two straight games.
The Longhorns were down 36-25 at halftime but cut their deficit to a point thanks to a 14-4 run over the first five minutes of the second half. Texas took a 46-45 lead on Bishop's three-point play at the 12:05 mark and did enough to hold on down the stretch.
"I felt like we were a more efficient team than we showed in the first half," Texas interim coach Rodney Terry said. "In the second half we kind of settled in a little bit and we didn't settle for some shots and we earned some baskets.
"We really wanted to try to get to the paint against (Kansas State) and we were able to get to the foul line, I think 21 times, which was huge for us."
Texas is now 12-3 since Terry took over the program. In that time it's 6-0 in games decided either in overtime or by five points or fewer in regulation. The Longhorns' 19-4 record marks its best 23-game start since 2010-11, when they began 20-3.
"This is one of the best wins I've ever been a part of in 30-plus years of coaching," Terry said. "Give our guys credit. They kept hanging tough. We don't have any bad teams in this league."
--Field Level Media