LAWRENCE, Kan. — Marcus Garrett has earned his spot in the Kansas starting lineup primarily with his defense.
His offense Monday night was merely a bonus.
The sophomore forward poured in a career-high 20 points, used his defensive instincts to produce a crucial tie-up in the closing seconds, and helped the seventh-ranked Jayhawks hold on for an 80-78 win over the Longhorns when Jase Febres’ 3-pointer at the buzzer never came close.
“He carried us in the first half when I was in foul trouble,” said the Jayhawks’ Dedric Lawson, who added 17 points and eight rebounds. “Sometimes when we play pickup and one-on-one and stuff like that, we see that he’s capable of making shots.’
Lagerald Vick also had 21 points for the Jayhawks (15-2, 4-1 Big 12), who blew a 10-point second-half lead before escaping with their 10th straight win over the Longhorns.
The game was tied at 73 when Lawson made a pair of foul shots. Garrett forced Texas big man Dylan Osetkowski into a jump ball at the other end to give Kansas possession again, and Vick knocked down a 3 from the wing with 1:31 left in the game to give the Jayhawks a cushion.
The teams swapped empty possessions and Texas (10-7, 2-3) was forced to foul Lawson, who missed the second of two free throws. The Longhorns pulled down the rebound and Courtney Ramey buried a 3-pointer to get them within 79-78 with 8.9 seconds left in the game.
They quickly fouled Garrett, a 64-percent foul shooter, and he made the second of two free throws to give the Longhorns a chance. But after racing up floor, their final play melted down, and Febres settled for a contested 3 that harmlessly clanked off the side of the rim.
“We were trying to run a ball-screen slip for Jase and our spacing wasn’t where it needed to be,” Longhorns coach Shaka Smart said, “so it ended up being jumbled up. The shot he got wasn’t clean.”
Or as Garrett put it, “He almost had to shoot the ball from the top of his head.”
Matt Coleman II had 16 point to lead five Texas players in double-figures scoring. Kerwin Roach II added 13, Febres had 12 and Osetkowski finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
“Our effort was very good most of the time,” Smart said. “One play away from being able to win.”
The Longhorns led 40-38 at halftime, but how the teams got there was wildly different.
Kansas played the first 20 minutes without committing a single turnover, got the ball in transition but struggled at the foul line, where the Jayhawks were just 2 of 7 in the half.
Texas knocked down eight 3-pointers and dominated on the glass.
But it was the Jayhawks who heated up beyond the arc to open the second half, hitting four in the opening minutes to retake the lead. Vick curled in a pair, one off a nifty feed in front of his bench, and Kansas eventually stretched its lead to 57-45 with 11 1/2 minutes to play.
Febres made it interesting in the closing minutes.
The Jayhawks still led 71-64 when the Longhorns’ sophomore sharpshooter knocked down a 3-pointer. He added another after a jump ball at the other end, then hit a third in succession to answer Lawson’s bucket and pull Texas into a 73-all tie with 2:16 remaining in the game.
Kansas had opportunities to put the game away with free throws, but Lawson and Garrett missed key attempts down the stretch, and the Jayhawks finished just 11 of 21 from the line.
“We were efficient everywhere,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said, “but free throws.”
STATS AND STREAKS
Coleman also had eight assists without a turnover, giving him 27 assists and three turnovers in the Longhorns’ first five Big 12 games. … Kansas improved to 17-1 against Texas in Lawrence, including 15-1 at Allen Fieldhouse. … The Jayhawks are 27-0 at home under Self on Big Monday.
Texas lost for the first time in seven games when it hit at least 10 3-pointers, going 13 of 34 from beyond the arc. The Longhorns also had an advantage on the glass, but they were unable to make defensive stops when they needed to in the closing minutes.
Kansas only committed four turnovers in the game, and an 11-of-22 clip from beyond the arc helped to mitigate the Longhorns’ long-range shooting. Freshman forward Ochai Agbaji, who had his redshirt removed a week ago, continued to contribute with four points in 25 minutes.
Texas returns home to face Oklahoma on Saturday night.
Kansas visits West Virginia on Saturday.