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Kansas overcomes Durant to win Big 12 title

Mar 3, 2007 - 11:52 PM LAWRENCE, Kansas (Ticker) -- Julian Wright's second effort proved to be of championship quality.

Wright split a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left and recorded a key block moments later as third-ranked Kansas captured the Big 12 Conference regular-season title with a 90-86 victory over No. 15 Texas.

Also claiming their eighth straight win, the Jayhawks (27-4, 14-2 Big 12) overcame an impressive start by Texas freshman sensation Kevin Durant, who scored 25 of his 32 points and shot 5-of-5 on 3-pointers in the first half.

"I didn't think he was going to miss at all," Kansas guard Brandon Rush said about Durant's first half. "He's the best I've ever faced in my life. I wasn't really trying to be physical with him, I just was trying to not let him get the ball."

"We tried everything to guard Durant," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "We put Julian on him, we put (Darrell Arthur) on him, we put Brandon on him, we put Rod (Rodrick Stewart) on him. He's one of the best players that's ever played on this court and his performance today was incredible."

Although Durant shot 10-of-14 from the field in the opening half, the Jayhawks turned up the pressure in the second half en route to claiming the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament. Durant finished 13-of-22 from the field with six 3-pointers and also grabbed nine rebounds.

"It's huge, just knowing that we worked so hard," Wright said. "We still have to make a point to not look past anyone. We need to try to simulate how the NCAA Tournament is and get some different looks from teams and play through it. I think this is big in terms of our confidence. All these teams will be focused and are trying to play towards a Big 12 Championship."

"It was a high-level basketball game, the way it should be to decide the league," Self said.

Texas was slowed after intermission as Durant sprained his left ankle attempting a shot in the lane with 11:21 remaining, and Kansas pulled ahead for good.

"As I was going through the lane I twisted it," Durant said. "I twisted it in practice before."

The Jayhawks, who have never lost in eight home meetings with the Longhorns, held an 88-80 advantage with 37 seconds remaining before Durant and A.J. Abrams both hit 3-pointers to cut the deficit to two points with 23 seconds left.

Wright split two free throws for a 89-86 edge a second later.

Looking for the quick tie, Texas (22-8, 12-4) Justin Mason put up a quick 3-pointer that was off the mark. Fellow D.J. Augustin grabbed the offensive rebound and attempted to put another shot from the arc before Wright came from behind to block it.

"That was a key block because I think he would have hit that if he would have got it off," Kansas guard Mario Chalmers said. "Julian did an excellent job and he secured the ball and we hit some free throws."

Russell Robinson split two free throws with six seconds left to secure the final margin for Kansas, which won despite converting just 13-of-24 (54 percent) attempts from the stripe.

Chalmers scored 21 points and Robinson 17 for the Jayhawks, who turned around a 54-42 deficit at the half by starting the second with an 18-7 run.

Wright, who finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, capped the spurt with a layup for a 64-61 edge with 15:21 remaining.

"We did go out better in the second half," Self said. "We needed something good to happen early."

Fellow freshman Augustin scored 19 points and tied a season high with 13 assists for the Longhorns, who had a six-game winning streak snapped.

A.J. Abrams scored 18 points and first-year swingman Damion James added 12 and seven boards for Texas, which was beaten on the boards by a 42-32 margin.