COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP)—Kansas coach Bill Self is OK with sharing the Big 12 title.
Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur both scored 16 points and No. 5 Kansas (28-3, 13-3) beat Texas A&M 72-55 on Saturday to clinch at least a share of its fourth straight regular-season title. Many of the Jayhawks held up four fingers as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Although Self graduated from Oklahoma State, he expects No. 9 Texas to beat the Cowboys on Sunday and tie his team for the title.
“I love my alma mater … (but) I think Texas will win,” Self said. “They don’t lose at home very often. It’s certainly not a slap in anyone’s face to share it with another team that I think has the chance to win a national championship, because I do think Texas could eventually be that good.”
It marks the sixth time in school history Kansas has won four straight conference titles and the first since 1995-98. The Jayhawks have been league champions eight times in the short history of the Big 12 and this extends their NCAA record of conference titles to 51.
Self said he thinks this span of four championships is more impressive than some of the others because this group didn’t have the blue chip recruits or surefire NBA lottery picks some in the past have.
“This was just a solid group of guys and they play to their talent level and they maximize their abilities,” he said. “To win four in a row in such a competitive league is remarkable.”
The Jayhawks led by 10 points at halftime and took advantage of poor second-half shooting by Texas A&M (22-9, 8-8) to stay on top throughout the second half and cruise to their fourth straight win.
Dominique Kirk and Donald Sloan had 15 points each for the Aggies.
Kansas was ahead by 12 points with about 2 1/2 minutes left when Brandon Rush sailed over Bryan Davis for a one-handed dunk that brought the Jayhawks bench to its feet and drew loud cheers from the handful of Kansas fans in the arena. He was fouled on the shot and his free throw made it 68-53 and put an exclamation point on the victory.
Arthur said they dedicated this win to their strength coach Andrea Hudy, whose mother Mary Hudy died of cancer Saturday morning.
“They adore our strength coach and she wasn’t with us because her mother died,” Self said. “I don’t know if that was motivation, but it certainly helped our energy level.”
Kansas led by 13 points early in the second half before A&M went on a 14-7 run, highlighted by 3-pointers by Josh Carter and Sloan, to make it 48-42 with about 13 minutes left.
A 3-pointer by Chalmers got the Jayhawks going again and Russell Robinson had two layups to put the Jayhawks ahead 55-44 about 4 minutes later and Texas A&M didn’t threaten again.
After their early second-half run, the Aggies didn’t make a basket for almost 7 1/2 minutes. Kansas extended its lead from six points to 14 in that span.
Texas A&M broke out of the shooting slump with a 3-pointer by Kirk that made it 60-49 with about 6 minutes left.
“We didn’t play well enough to beat a top five team in the country,” Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. “We had too many turnovers and a lot of those turnovers led to easy baskets for them.”
The Aggies had 15 turnovers which Kansas converted into 16 points.
The Jayhawks outscored A&M 44-12 in the paint, a season-low in that category for the Aggies.
“They did a very good job of coming in and disrupting what we do,” Texas A&M’s Joseph Jones said. “They double-teamed us and took us out of our rhythm and made our guards make plays.”
It was the first time Turgeon, who played and was an assistant coach at Kansas, faced his former school as coach at Texas A&M. The inconsistent Aggies could have used the win to bolster their NCAA tournament resume, but instead end the regular season with their fate unclear after losing five of their last seven games.
They hope to improve their standing in next week’s Big 12 tournament.
“I think we’ll go up there on a mission,” Jones said. “We’re not a lock in the NCAA tournament yet, so we’ve got to go up there and prove ourselves.”