AUSTIN (AP) —Don’t crown sixth-ranked Kansas as Big 12 champions just yet. There’s another team with serious designs on winning the title.
And surprise, surprise: It’s the surging Texas Longhorns.
Isaiah Taylor scored 23 points, Jonathan Holmes had 22 and No. 25 Texas beat the Jayhawks 81-69 on Saturday for its sixth consecutive victory.
Texas, which lost its top four scorers from last year’s 16-18 squad, has been the surprise of the Big 12. The Longhorns have four consecutive wins over Top 25 opponents and now sit in second place after dominating a team that had been playing as well as anyone in the country in recent weeks.
“We’ve got pretty good momentum,” Holmes said. “We’ve got to keep it going.”
The Longhorns (17-4, 6-2) thumped the Jayhawks with suffocating defense that held the Big 12′s best shooting team to 39 percent from the floor. Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, who averaged 24 points over the previous three games, scored seven before fouling out late.
Texas put together one of its most impressive wins in years. The Longhorns outshot and outrebounded the Jayhawks, had 12 blocks, and once they built a double-digit lead, never left Kansas an opening to rally.
“I thought our big guys played pretty soft. We didn’t do a good job attacking the rim like we should,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Their speed offset our length.”
Wayne Selden Jr., scored 21 for the Jayhawks (16-5, 7-1).
Taylor, a freshman guard who scored 27 a week earlier against Baylor, continued to slash his way through the lane for layups and floating jumpers. Holmes hit from inside and outside and also went 9 for 10 from the free-throw line.
Cameron Ridley added nine points, 10 rebounds and four blocks for Texas, winning his battle under the basket with Joel Embiid, Kansas’ 7-foot center. Prince Ibeh also had four blocks for Texas.
The first half was pure frustration for the Jayhawks, who came in shooting 51 percent as a team. Nothing, not even the open shots, seemed to find their way in the basket.
Texas’ zone defense held the Jayhawks to 8-of-31 shooting in the half. Taylor and Holmes each scored 11 points and Ridley used his powerful body to push around the slender Embiid.
When Holmes blocked a shot, grabbed the loose ball and raced up the court for a layup, the Jayhawks’ Frank Mason met him at the basket with a hard foul and the two players had to be separated. Kansas’ Brannen Greene was then whistled for a technical foul. Holmes made three of four free throws and Texas led 38-23 at halftime.
Taylor said Longhorns coach Rick Barnes’ halftime speech urged them to keep up the pressure.
“He told us to keep our foot on their throat and don’t let up,” Taylor said.
Texas blew it open early in the second half with an emphatic basket by Ridley: a one-step, two-handed dunk over Embiid. Ridley converted the three-point play and Texas led 47-27.
Kansas finally answered with consecutive 3-pointers but the Jayhawks couldn’t piece together a run that could pull them close. Texas wouldn’t let them. Holmes had a key 3-pointer and followed it with another tough layup.
Demarcus Holland had the task of guarding Wiggins most of the game and despite giving up six inches, did a masterful job of frustrating the freshman into a rough shooting night. Wiggins fouled out with just over two minutes left, ending a 2-for-12 performance from the field.
“I tried to box him out every opportunity,” Holland said. “Cam and Prince were scaring him and he was settling for jump shots.”
After four straight games against ranked opponents, Texas next plays TCU, which is winless in the Big 12, before starting the second part of the conference schedule.
“We’re a good team,” Barnes said. “But it’s such a fine line between winning and losing. If you start drinking the poison, it will all get away from you.”