LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Shaquille Cleare turned the ball over on Texas’ first two possessions. Not even 40 seconds had expired before Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham drained a 3-pointer in transition.
Thirty seconds later, Frank Mason III pulled up for a shot outside the arc to put Kansas up 6-0.
“I think that’s the best we started a game in the past few games that we’ve played in,” Mason said. “We have to do that every game moving forward.”
Graham scored 18 points, Mason added 17 and No. 2 Kansas beat Texas 79-67 on Saturday.
Freshman Josh Jackson chipped in 15 points for the Jayhawks while Svi Mykhailiuk added 12 points and Landen Lucas had 12 rebounds.
Kansas (18-1, 7-0 Big 12) hovered between a six- and eight-point lead for most of the second half. The Jayhawks only pulled away with 60 seconds remaining, as Graham and Mykhailiuk hit corner 3-pointers in front of the Kansas bench.
“We were so good early, you’re not going to keep playing that way,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Texas, we kind of staggered them early and then the law of averages prevailed. They fought back. I don’t think you should apologize for playing somebody even.”
Texas (7-12, 1-6) opened the game with five turnovers in the first 4 minutes, letting the Jayhawks run out to a quick 10-point lead. Texas managed to cut the deficit to three points with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half, but that was as close as the Longhorns would get.
Freshman Jarrett Allen posted season-highs with 22 points and 19 rebounds for Texas. Eric Davis Jr. added 12 points and Cleare scored 11.
The next three games for Kansas are going to be the biggest test the Jayhawks have had all season. In a span of nine days, the Jayhawks will play three top seven teams. Two of those games take place in hostile road environments.
Kansas goes to No. 7 West Virginia on Tuesday and remains on the road to play at No. 5 Kentucky on the following Saturday. Kansas returns home that following Wednesday to host No. 6 Baylor.
The big win over the Longhorns should give the Jayhawks confidence heading into their tough test, but the big question is: Will Kansas have enough energy to get through it?
“This is a stretch that is probably as tough as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Self said.
Villanova leapfrogged Kansas for the No. 1 spot on Monday. With the Wildcats’ definitive 30- and 10-point wins over Seton Hall and Providence this week, expect the top two spots to remain the same.
“It’s kind of like the ‘Twilight Zone’ because it feels like there’s nothing else going on here besides the game,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said of Lawrence and the University of Kansas. “Everybody’s locked in on the game. That’s a testament to the program and Coach Self and what they’ve built over the years.”
The win over Texas gave Kansas its 50th straight win in Allen Fieldhouse and its 36th straight at home in conference play.
Texas returns home to host Oklahoma on Monday.
Kansas hits the road to start its gauntlet, playing at West Virginia on Tuesday.